An examination of the licensing status of drivers involved in fatal road crashes in Western Australia
Drivers who drive whilst unlicensed are a problematic issue for traffic enforcement authorities. As a group they represent several often conflicting elements with in the driver education, road safety, licensing, traffic enforcement and justice frameworks. Unlicensed drivers can simultaneously be seen as evidence of failure within the driver licensing process and as evidence of success for traffic enforcement, but as this examination shows this group represents a high risk group of road users.
This is occurring at the same time as the penalty of licence removal is being applied to an increasing number of drivers via demerit point structures, enforcement of fines payment through licence suspension, and suspension and disqualification of drivers via the courts.
Estimation of the number of drivers who drive whilst unlicensed is difficult. In Western Australia, the number of drivers whose licences are suspended and disqualified can be reasonably accurately estimated. The number of affected drivers who then choose to drive is more difficult to estimate. In the 1990?s research in WA suggested 20-40% of drivers would continue to drive. This research occurred prior to the introduction of a fines enforcement process via licence suspension. It has been suggested that this form of licence suspension has higher rates of non adherence.
Outside the suspended and disqualified cohort are the potentially highest risk group, those that reject the entire licensing framework by driving whilst never having held a license. This group is likely to also have avoided the driver training process.
In WA, the number of drivers who are prosecuted for a range of driving without a licence offences is increasing annually. There has been an average annual increase in the various Driving without a Licence charges of 19.6% in the period 2003 to 2007.