Risky driving behaviour in young people: prevalence, personal characteristics and traffic accidents

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2003;27(3):337-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.2003.tb00404.x.


Objectives: This research aimed to examine the prevalence of risky driving behaviour among young people, the characteristics of those who engage in risky driving behaviour, and the association between risky driving behaviours and accident risk.

Methods: Data were gathered during the course of the Christchurch Health and Development Study. As part of this longitudinal study, data were gathered on self-reported risky driving behaviours (18-21 years), traffic accidents (18-21 years) and a variety of individual characteristics for 907 participants who reported having driven a motor vehicle.

Results: More than 90% of drivers engaged in some form of risky driving behaviour. Those most likely to engage in frequent risky driving behaviours were: males (p < 0.0001), who exhibited alcohol (p < 0.0001) or cannabis abuse (p < 0.001) in adolescence, who were involved in violent/property crime (p < 0.01) and who affiliated with delinquent or substance-using peers (p < 0.05). There was a strong (p < 0.0001) association between the extent of risky driving behaviour and traffic accident risk.

Conclusions: Risky driving behaviours are common among young people, particularly among young males prone to externalizing behaviours (substance abuse, crime and affiliations with deviant peers). Risky driving is strongly linked to traffic accident risk.

Implications: There is a continued need to target risky driving behaviours among young people. Efforts to reduce risky driving should be targeted in particular at the high-risk group of young males prone to externalizing behaviours. More generally, the results suggest the need for a multistrategy approach to the reduction of traffic accidents that focuses on the full spectrum of risky driving behaviours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic* / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires