Do Australian young drivers born overseas have more crashes than those born in Australia?

Recent research has explored the issue of whether young people who were born in other countries might be more vulnerable to road crashes in Australia. The study of over 20,000 newly-licensed (P1) drivers in New South Wales in particular explored differences between Australian-born drivers, those born in Asia and those born in all other countries (grouped together due to mostly small numbers).

Self-reported risky driving behaviours and involvement in police-recorded crashes were compared. The risky behaviours varied from speeding, playing music at high volumes and closely following the car ahead to carrying multiple passengers. Drivers were asked how frequently they engaged in these behaviours and their scores were combined and categorised into ‘high’, ‘moderate’ and ‘low’ risky driving.

Australian-born drivers were more likely to report a high level of risky driving behaviours than those born in Asia, with those born in ‘other’ countries reporting a level somewhat in-between the two. The most striking finding was that Asian-born young drivers had almost half the risk of a crash than those born in Australia.

Research in Sweden also reported similar findings for their young drivers but found the differences were no longer significant when adjusting for socioeconomic status. In the NSW study, however, the difference in crash risk persisted even after adjusting for socioeconomic status.

Further, when looking at how long the Asian-born drivers had been living in Australia, the NSW research found there was a trend towards them becoming more risky the longer they had lived in Australia. While the sample was too small (1,131 Asian-born) to determine if this was statistically significant, research in other countries has also found that those born overseas tend to adopt similar behaviours and have similar outcomes to the natives of the host country.

Potential issues

It is important to note that while more than 20,000 young drivers took part in the NSW study, they do not necessarily represent all young drivers in NSW (or Australia), but it is not possible to know how they might differ. Also, it is possible that there were differences among the drivers born in different Asian countries, but there were too few per country to look at those results separately. Likewise the research could not look at differences for other countries reliably.

Different cultural groups might also be more or less willing to report risky driving behaviours, but previous research has shown that young people, including different ethnic groups, can and do provide accurate and reliable information on risk-taking behaviour.

Factbase recommendation

Australian (NSW) research shows little indication that young drivers born overseas are more likely to take risks or be involved in crashes in Australia than those born locally. Rather, Asian-born young drivers are less likely to drive riskily and have a lower crash risk than their Australian-born counterparts. The balance of research in this field suggests there is no current need to have intervention programs to reduce risky driving among young drivers targeted at particular ethnic groups. Rather, more work is needed to understand the best interventions for the whole population of young drivers, particularly given it seems likely that the longer young people from other countries spend in Australia, the more they adopt certain risky driving behaviours.


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