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Published: 2002-10-22 00:00:00

The number of young women aged between 15 and 19 who are driving has increased 76 percent in the past 10 years, this week’s Regional Road Safety Subcommittee heard.

Waikato University researcher Dr Samuel Charlton is completing several projects on human reaction and driver behaviour. New Zealanders drive 35 percent more kilometres than they did 10 years ago, and men still drive nearly twice as far as women, regardless of age, income, occupation or region.

Men’s driving has increased 4.6 percent, women by 16.5 percent and young men by 19 percent. The distance driven increases with income, and the region where drivers live also makes a difference. People in the Waikato drive further than any other region while Gisborne people drive the least.

Both under 20s and over 64s are over represented in multi-vehicle crashes on weekdays between 2pm and 4pm. While this is not the peak driving time for either group it is the point of greatest overlap in the two ages, Dr Charlton said.

Older drivers have more problems with crossing, turning and manoeuvring crashes while young drivers have trouble with crossing and manoeuvring and collisions with turning vehicles.

Women report more frequent “lapses”, young drivers more “errors” and males the most violations and “aggressive violations”. The most violations are committed by young, rural male drivers. New Zealanders in general had a problem with ‘racing’, he said.

Oversized road speed signs were considered the most effective in changing driver behaviour, but the effect is transitory. Without continued visual messages high speeds return within 250 metres, and could return to a level higher than before the sign.

Dr Charlton is also looking into overtaking behaviour in men and women, how drivers select speeds from warning signs, the use of shade cloth at difficult intersections to restrict visibility and prevent anticipated decision making and comparing the effectiveness of different interventions.