Background: Little has been published on changes in young driver fatality rates over time. This paper examines differences in Australian young driver fatality rates over the last decade, examining important risk factors including place of residence and socioeconomic status (SES).
Methods: Young driver (17-25years) police-recorded passenger vehicle crashes were extracted from New South Wales State records from 1997-2007. Rurality of residence and SES were classified into three levels based on drivers' residential postcode: urban, regional, or rural; and high, moderate, or low SES areas. Geographic and SES disparities in trends of fatality rates were examined by the generalized linear model. Chi-square trend test was used to examine the distributions of posted speed limits, drinking driving, fatigue, seatbelt use, vehicle age, night-time driving, and the time from crash to death across rurality and socioeconomic status.
Results: Young driver fatality rate significantly decreased 5% per year (p<0.05); however, stratified analyses (by rurality and by SES) showed that only the reduction among urban drivers was significant (average 5% decrease per year, p<0.01). The higher relative risk of fatality for rural versus urban drivers, and for drivers of low versus high SES remained unchanged over the last decade. High posted speed limits, fatigue, drink driving and seatbelt non-use were significantly associated with rural fatalities, whereas high posted speed limit, fatigue, and driving an older vehicle were significantly related to low SES fatality.
Conclusion: The constant geographic and SES disparities in young driver fatality rates highlight safety inequities for those living in rural areas and those of low SES. Better targeted interventions are needed, including attention to behavioral risk factors and vehicle age.
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