Young drivers in Australia who took part in a resilience program while at school were much less likely to have a car crash during their early years behind the wheel, according to a new study.

The 13-year study followed almost 21,000 drivers aged 17-24 who received their licence in New South Wales between 2003-2004.

Led by researchers at QUT, George Institute for Global Health, and UNSW Sydney, the study aimed to determine if participation in the “Reduce Risk – Increase Student Knowledge” (RRISK) resilience program run by NSW Health for year 11 pupils had a long-term effect on reducing motor vehicle crash risk and severity.

The resilience program addressed common youth risks including alcohol and drugs, and how to minimise risk through forward planning and back-up strategies like having a face-saving excuse ready to leave a party or refuse a ride with an impaired driver.

Lead author Professor Teresa Senserrick from the Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q) and the QUT Faculty of Health said the study used baseline survey data and ongoing access to participants’ police recorded motor vehicle crash records.

“While at-fault status was unknown, data showed program participants were 24 per cent less likely to have had any crash and 42 per cent less likely to crash in darkness than non-participants,” Professor Senserrick said.

“What this shows us is that setting up youth to be safer, responsible drivers early has real potential to reduce their lifetime risk of a crash that is significant enough to warrant police attendance.”