Unlicensed drivers prone to risky behaviour

13.13 | 26 April 2011 | | 5 comments

People who drive without a license have a tendency towards other high risk behaviour, claims Barry Watson, a leading Australian academic and road safety expert (The Vancouver Sun).

Unlicensed drivers are involved in roughly 10% of fatal crashes in Australia, and 20% in the US, and are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes compared with licensed drivers.

Mr Watson, a researcher with the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety, was speaking at the Edmonton International Conference on Urban Traffic Safety, which opened 25 April in Canada.

His research examines the ‘disqualified driver effect’, the widely held belief that those who have lost their licence – or never got one – either drive more cautiously to avoid detection, or are simply better at not being caught.

His study of accident files between 2003 and 2008, plus interviews with hundreds of drivers charged with illegal driving, paints a picture of drivers ‘outside the system’ who are banned from driving yet continue to do so because they can get away with it.

Mr Watson found that the unlicensed drivers most likely involved in serious crashes tended to be males under 24 riding motorcycles, most likely at night or on weekends. And the majority were single vehicle crashes.

Mr Watson also found that about 40% of unlicensed or disqualified drivers had prior criminal convictions, and one in four admitted to driving when they thought they might be over the alcohol limit.

Mr Watson recommended that governments should consider ‘enhancing the punishment process’ with more rehabilitation, alcohol ignition interlocks and more vehicle impoundment. Electronic licenses that you would need to start your car, or even buy fuel, might be a solution to deal with drivers who refuse to play by the rules, he added.

Click here to read The Vancouver Sun report in full.


Comment on this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Report a reader comment

Order by Latest first | Oldest first | Highest rated | Lowest rated

    Roy, I cannot agree with you more. I have had personal experience of the criminal element. Many years ago, a driver was stopped in my home town for driving through a no entry sign. He failed the attitude test and was accompanied to the local Police station. His car was searched and apart from the drugs in the glove box, they also found a video camera that had been taken from my house some weeks earlier, in a burglary. Oh and he was a disqualified driver. Thankfully the Traffic Police chaps were there to spot the offence in the first place, and they also solved a crime for the CID. I got my camera back.

    All this research is very good, and confirms what many of us have thought for years, however, the research is only as good as the actions that will come out of it, and I am doubtful that we will see any changes.

    Alan Kennedy, Durham
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Roy Buchanan has said it all. Academic theories and talking to people in a controlled research environment are all very well but you have to have experienced the scant regard for human life that most criminals have, yes it is a crime to drive without a licence and thus without insurance. You have to experienced the lack of intelligence that most possess to understand that the only remedy is to make being caught a real prospect. Yes they may see that as a risk worth taking but ultimately one day the law might take a turn for the better and lock more people up. No it will not stop it necessarily but at least the community is safe from that individual for the length of his sentence, of course that relates to all crimes.

    Alan Hale, South Gloucestershire.
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I cannot agree with you more, Roy. Our “no excuse” initiative which couples additional overt and covert traffic policing with targeted publicity/advertising/education is paying dividends. We are evaluating as we go and there is anecdotal evidence to suggest drivers here are aware of the additional enforcement and perceive the chance of being “caught” is greater than it was. If we can show this attitude change influences behaviour change, as we believe it does, then the powers that be should take note.

    Robert Smith
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    An interesting follow up to my previous contribution. Mr Watson, an Australian, is in Canada attending an international conference.

    “Criminal organisations use Canada’s roadways…….officers of our Traffic Services are essential in detecting this criminal activity.” (Royal Canadian Mounted Police Road Safety Vision 2010)

    No matter which country, the answer is the same.

    Roy Buchanan, Sutton
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I am delighted to read that a leading academic and road safety expert has put forward these results of his research. My delight is riddled with hope that someone who can move and shake the moribund attitude to roads policing may sit up and take notice. No one listens to an old Traffic Patrol Officer who is passsed his sell-by date despite the fact that he has been there, done it and can back up his statement with years of his own research and experience. I can go back over forty years and tell you why Traffic Division Officers had more crime arrests than the more glamourous CID. People who show scant regard for traffic offences usually show scant regard for more serious crimes. Stop a speeding motorist and you sometimes find a bank robber, burglar, a man wanted for GBH (grievous bodily harm) or a terrorist on the move. Remember; how did the 4X4 get to Edinburgh Airport? It was driven.

    Mr Watson discovered “that about 40% of disqualified drivers had prior criminal convictions.” Now there’s a surprise; and it is no good “enhancing punishment” if you do not have police officers patrolling the roads catching the criminals in the first place. Roads policing is the answer to so many prayers. I don’t mind who says it, but will someone please hear it and take action. At times I feel like Martin Luther King preaching from the mountain top. I hope I don’t suffer the same demise but enjoy the same ultimate success. But hurry up, I am already nearly 70!

    Roy Buchanan, Sutton
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.