This report is an exploratory study of vehicle choices amongst young drivers, their access to safer vehicle  technologies and the role that motor vehicle insurance has in shaping those choices. There is a brief review of the literature on vehicle choices made by young drivers, an analysis of the relationship between driver age and access to safer vehicle technology, a survey of young drivers and their parents (examining vehicle choices, knowledge about safety, and the influence of vehicle insurance on vehicle choice), and a summary of discussions with Australian motor vehicle insurance underwriters.

Findings:

In respect of their level of safety, cars that young drivers crash tend to lag the vehicles at risk of crashing by more  mature drivers; this persists for a long time after a technology first becomes available. Previous literature and the present survey
indicate that the safety level of a young driver’s vehicle is not the first priority of the young driver or their parents. The motor  vehicle insurance industry in Australia prices risk mainly in line with crash frequency and average claim costs. Vehicle safety
systems are often not viewed as positively by the motor vehicle insurance industry as they are by other safety-related  organisations, as these systems can lead to high repair costs after a crash. However, technologies that do lead to lower claim
frequencies and costs are recognised, and some efforts are made to identify these as early as is possible.

Recommendations.

  1. In promoting safer vehicle access care should be taken not to also encourage motor vehicle use or greater primary access to vehicles.
  2. Modifying insurance costs may not be an appropriate means of effecting changes in vehicle choice.
  3. Better information, more tailored to the purchasing power and needs of young drivers, is likely to be of help.
  4. Changes to family thinking about vehicle allocation and sharing access to vehicles should be encouraged, and information provided to increase
    understanding about the importance of specific vehicle safety features.
  5. Insurance companies might be able to use their  claims data to assist their customers to obtain the lowest risk vehicle for their circumstances.
  6. Macro-scale interventions (e.g. rapid introduction of new technologies) may be the best long-term solution to maximise the safety of vehicles and the  prevalence of safer vehicle technologies for young drivers.