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Young regional Victorians being paid to trade in their old clunkers

The Victorian State Government is paying cash-strapped young drivers, based in regional areas, $5000 to ditch their unsafe old car and replace it with something newer. 

Minister for Roads Ben Carroll recently announced the plan to expand a taxpayer-funded trial program that kicked off last year in the regional centres of Ballarat and Bendigo. 

The program is rather strangely called ‘unsafe2safe’, and is now taking applications across all of country Victoria, meaning areas that aren’t in Greater Melbourne.

This latest phase of the trial program will give a $5000 subsidy to 150 young drivers aged 18 to 25 with VicRoads accounts, helping them ditch their old clunker aged 16 years or over for something newer – and in all probability safer. The cutoff this time is September 4.

The fine print stipulates applicable clunker vehicles must not only date to 2006 or earlier, but must also have a crash rating of one or two stars – or be unrated.

The replacement newer vehicle must in turn be less than 10 years old, cost less than $30,000, not be a repaired write-off, and carry a top ANCAP score or a used car safety rating of at least four stars.

The used car rating program is a product of the Monash University Accident Research Centre.

The 150 participants will be chosen at random – rather than means tested – from the list of applicants, at which point they can take their applicable car to a participating dealer and trade it for a newer model. 

Those chosen will then pay the difference between the dealer price and the $5000 subsidy, with the old car taken away and scrapped.

This means if said older vehicle is worth more than $5000, the young driver in question would be better off selling it themselves and side-stepping the program. 

“Scrapping removes the car from the fleet meaning we don’t transfer the safety risk to another person,” an explainer video embedded above claims. 

The full $6.9 million trial’s ultimate aim, says the State Government, is to replace up to 1000 cars that are more than 16 years old, and have poor safety ratings.

Victoria’s Road Safety Strategy 2021- 2030 focuses on groups that are over-represented in road trauma: groups such as young drivers, who are statistically at the greatest risk of being involved in a crash in their first few years of solo driving.

The rationale for the rural focus? Crash stats show young regional Victorians driving older cars are 15 times more likely to be killed in crashes compared with the overall State average. 

“We know that cost is a real barrier for many young Victorians when it comes to choosing a safe and modern car – that is why this program is critical in ensuring they pick a vehicle with features that could ultimately save their life,” argued Minister Carroll. 

“Around 70 per cent of people who have lost their lives on our roads were in vehicles more than ten years old and being in a safer vehicle can make the difference between ending up in hospital or avoiding a crash altogether.”

Adding to this was the head of Victoria’s Regional Transport Department Paul Northey, who said “From Bannockburn and Buloke across to Gippsland and Shepparton, young regional Victorians can now apply to take part in the unsafe2safe trial and head out on the roads more safely.”

“We have a world-class Graduated Licensing System that ensures drivers progressively build the skills needed to drive safely, combining this with modern vehicle safety features means we can lower the risk of young people being hurt or killed on our roads,” he added.

While this is not typically the place for editorialising, it’s our view that Australia’s licensing system is flawed. You can read our look into the need for greater focus on driver training programs for young drivers here, in our talk with driver trainer and media personality Steve Pizzati. 

Even with cars getting safer with every passing year, Victoria’s road toll is tragically up this year to 148 deaths so far in 2022, compared to 130 people at the same time in 2021. 

You can read all the FAQs and apply here.

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