The ACT Government is radically overhauling the ACT’s Learner and Provisional driving laws with plans to introduce a minimum of 100 supervised driving hours for learner drivers, the creation of a new ‘P1 plate’ stage with extra restrictions for the first 12 months, and the banning of all mobile phones – including ‘hands free’ – for both L and P platers.
Under the changes, P platers will be limited to one passenger aged between 16 and 24 for the first 12 months and will not be able to drive between midnight and 5 am during this time.
Demerit points for P platers will also be reduced to a maximum of four points for three years and learner drivers will need to pass a hazard perception test before receiving a licence.
However, the changes do not reduce speed limits for new drivers or affect existing P platers.
ACT Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury said the changes are aimed at saving lives, with 15 young drivers (aged 17-24) killed while driving on ACT roads between 2006 and 2017 – and five of those deaths occurring between midnight and 5 am.
In the same period, cars driven by young drivers killed 23 other drivers, cyclists, passengers or pedestrians, with 10 of those deaths between midnight and 5 am.
Canberrans have until May 28 this year to have their say on the reforms but the Government is clearly planning to forge ahead, with input limited to the timing of the changes, the staging of P plate restrictions and any needed exemptions.
“I recognise some of these changes may affect the independence of young drivers, their families and friends,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“However, it is important that we keep in mind that these initiatives are about saving lives and reducing the far longer lasting impacts of car crashes.”
Mr Rattenbury said the community has a responsibility to provide greater protection for young drivers while they are at their most vulnerable stage of driving.
“We know that drivers are most likely to have a crash in the first year of the P licence,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“The main causes of young driver crashes are inexperience, inattention, distracted driving and speeding. All of these things we can do something about.
“There is no one solution, which is why we are looking at a range of approaches that work together to reduce the risk for young and new drivers.”
Mr Rattenbury said the Government wants to minimise ‘undue hardship’ on the community but only where it doesn’t compromise improving road safety.
“Feedback from the community will inform the timing of introduction of reforms, the appropriate staging of restrictions to P drivers and the design and application of any exemptions,” he said.
According to Mr Rattenbury, research shows introducing a range of measures can lead to a 50 per cent reduction in fatal and serious injury crashes.
In the decade since Victoria introduced a graduated licensing scheme, there has been a 42.5 per cent reduction in the number of drivers aged 18-23 years who have been involved in fatal or serious injury crashes.
In NSW, fatal crashes for young drivers under 26 declined by 52 per cent from 1999-2000 to 2009-10.
Asked why there were no plans to introduce speed restrictions for L and P platers – as occurs in some other states – Mr Rattenbury said that the national framework does not include this measure as part of the recommended components.
“Obliging only some vehicles to drive at a reduced speed limit could risk aggressive driving and unsafe overtaking by other drivers able to travel at higher speeds,” Mr Rattenbury said.
The Government has released a discussion paper on the changes entitled Your PLates: Reviewing the process from L plates to no plates.
The seven main changes include:
Supervised driving hours: Learner drivers must hold their licence for at least a year and complete a minimum of 100 supervised driving hours, including 10 hours at night time.
P1 and P2 stages: Introducing a new P1 plate with extra restrictions for the first 12 months to help new drivers safely gain more experience. No change to licence length, it will remain at three years.
Night time driving: No driving between midnight and 5 am for P1 drivers.
Peer passenger restrictions: P1 drivers will be limited to one passenger aged between 16 and 24 in the car.
Demerit Points: A maximum of four points for three years. The rationale is that swift and severe penalties will deter high-risk driving.
Mobile phones: No mobile phones, including hands-free, for L, P1 and P2 drivers.
Hazard Perception Test: Learner drivers must successfully complete a computer-based test to recognise dangerous situations and react safely before being eligible for their Ps.
Anyone who would like to give feedback on the reforms should go to the Government’s Your Say website by clicking here. At the website, you can download the discussion paper, participate in a survey and take part in a ‘Kitchen Table Discussion’.
What do you think of the reforms? Do they go too far or are they long overdue? What will be the impact on Canberra’s young people? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and participate in The RiotACT’s poll.