Teenagers stuck without cars want driving age lowered to 17

BIG MEETINGS: Beechworth Secondary College students visited Canberra last week to meet with Indi MP Cathy McGowan.
BIG MEETINGS: Beechworth Secondary College students visited Canberra last week to meet with Indi MP Cathy McGowan.

It is not easy for 17-year-old students to get a job when they live in a small town and are not legally allowed to drive a car by themselves.

A group of Beechworth Secondary College teenagers believe it is finally time for the Victorian government to change the rules.

They want the legal driving age lowered from 18 to 17, in line with the law in NSW.

Year 11 student Noah Grayling-Turnbull is one of the lucky students to have a job as a kitchenhand at the pub, but those roles were hard to come by.

“Kids out in the country need transport … We find our opportunities really limited,” he said.

“A lot of jobs require transport and a lot of apprentices need a car.”

The Wodonga Venturers were also pushing for a change in law – both they and the Beechworth students travelled to Canberra last week to meet with Indi MP Cathy McGowan.

The students with friends across the border in NSW saw the difference as those young people had more freedom to choose their part-time job or work throughout a gap year.

In contrast, Victorian teenagers in towns such as Beechworth were dependent on their parents.

“If there’s not a bus, which only runs on weekdays, it falls completely on them,” Mr Grayling-Turnbull said.

He and other students were planning to write letters to Victorian MPs asking for support.

A Victorian parliamentary inquiry released in March recommended the driving age be lowered to 17, saying other states with that rule had not experienced the rise in fatalities some people had feared.

“A key concern for the committee was the long-term impact on young people who do not have viable strategies to help them grow as individuals and who feel ‘stuck’ with no real choices or opportunities,” the report stated.

A response from the Victorian government was due to be handed down this week – within the required six months of the report being handed down on March 22.

The Beechworth students were grateful to find an ally in Ms McGowan.

“I am so proud to say that these young people are now involved in lobbying the Victorian government to lower the standard age for probationary licences to 17 so that across the border we can work with NSW to make sure our kids can access jobs,” she told the Parliament.