Learner drivers in NSW won’t have to annoy their parents nearly as much, with the announcement that they can reduce their compulsory supervised logbook hours from 120 to 80 by taking part in professional driver training.
In a stunning move of common sense, Learner drivers will also be able to travel at a maximum speed of 90km/h, up from 80km/h, from July 1, according to NSW Minister for Roads, Duncan Gay.
Learners will still form dangerous moving chicanes on the road if they travel in 100 or 110km/h zones, but at least they’ll be slightly more prepared to drive at those speeds once they get their P Plates.
The move follows a recommendation from the Auditor General to review Learner speed limits.
A new Safer Drivers Course will be available to Learners from July and will involve both theoretical and practical coaching in driving habits. The five-hour course gives Learners 20 hours worth of credit to take off their 120-hour logbook total, a further 20 hours can be knocked off by taking 10 hours of professional driving lessons.
“Young drivers are tragically over-represented in the NSW road toll and we want to ensure they are all given the opportunity to learn about road safety while they are still learning the basics of driving,” Mr Gay said.
“The course deals with different road conditions, understanding factors beyond a driver’s control and also helps identify risks on the road.
“We recommend that learners enrol in the course when they have 50 hours completed in their logbook. By that stage they will have basic driving skills and will understand and appreciate the lessons they will be taught.”
Mr Gay said the cost of the course would be capped at “an affordable price”.
“The course will help those young drivers who struggle to log 120 hours behind the wheel while on their L-plates while at the same time addressing safety issues they will face when they first drive solo,” he added.
The editor ofWheels magazine, Stephen Corby, welcomed the two moves, but said he’d like to see the state government, and other states, go further.
“Road-safety advocates have been promoting the idea of driver training for many years, and this is a step in the right direction, but it is not compulsory and many Learners will still choose not to do the course and go out on the roads to repeat the bad habits their parents are handing down to them,” he said.
“Driver training should be compulsory, as it is for motorcyclists who go for their Learners’ permits. Even attitudinal and theoretical training can be extremely valuable.”
The move to a 90km/h limit was also a baby step towards good sense, Mr Corby added.
“Strangely, when I and many other adults got their L plates, we were allowed to drive at the national speed limit, so that we would learn how to do so. Now, we have a situation where Learners are forced to drive under the limit, causing dangerous tailbacks and unsafe overtaking manoeuvres by frustrated drivers.
“It must be extremely stressful to be a Learner, forced to drive at 20, or even 30km/h slower than the traffic around you. No wonder kids all drive automatics these days.”