The New South Wales government has announced changes to the list of vehicles deemed safe enough for provisional drivers.
According to Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay, the new rules are designed to expand the range of options available for young drivers. The shift in legislation reflects the changing technology of many cars today, where added features may be designed to enhance performance other than speed.
Previously, the government prohibited P1 and P2 licence holders from driving certain high performance vehicles. These included cars with eight or more cylinders, a turbocharged or supercharged engine (excluding diesel), engine performance modifications requiring an engineer's certificate and some other models with a six cylinder engine.
P-plate drivers could only apply for an exemption from these restrictions in certain cases, such as when a prohibited vehicle needed to be driven for employment purposes. Country drivers were also eligible for an exemption if they had no other practical alternative to an eight or more cylinder 4WD vehicle.
The new rules will use a power-to-weight ratio scheme to evaluate whether a provisional driver can legally drive the vehicle and will come into effect from August 1 this year. The changed regulations will make it more convenient for many younger drivers to operate a previously prohibited family car or employer's vehicle and eliminate the need to apply for an exemption first.Mr Gay said the state's safety experts collaborated with other states and territories, the federal government and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) in order to re-evaluate the list of banned vehicles for provisional drivers.
The decision to reassess the current legislation was sparked by a desire to provide a more consistent approach to the issue around the country. Once the new rules are in place, Mr Gay says drivers with a P1 or P2 licence will have 6,500 additional options when it comes to purchasing their vehicle of choice.
"The previous blanket ban on P-platers driving supercharged or turbocharged vehicles was put in place when the features on these cars were only used to enhance speed and acceleration," Mr Gay said in a statement released June 25.
"These days, for many vehicles in this category it is about fuel efficiency not speed and acceleration, so it was appropriate we revisit the ban in light of the fact many of these vehicles are low performance with modern, effective safety features."
NSW's new rules on banned vehicles follow a recent similar change enacted by the state government of Victoria, which is scheduled to come into effect from July 1.
In total, around 7,500 vehicles will still be prohibited for P-plate drivers in NSW. These include vehicles above 130 kilowatts per tonne and several other models that have been deemed as 'high risk' for inexperienced drivers due to certain performance characteristics.
Mr Gay identifies the 2007 Subaru WRX as one example of this. While it has a power-to-weight ratio of 123 kilowatts per tonne, it has the capacity to go from 0-100 km/hour in a period of less than six seconds, making it potentially dangerous for provisional drivers.
P-plate drivers wishing to check whether they are legally eligible to drive a certain vehicle can do so easily on the NSW Centre for Road Safety website. This tool will launch next week for drivers and their families and/or employers to use as the rule changes are implemented throughout the state.
While the new rules will widen the scope of vehicles available for provisional drivers, it's important to remember the basics of safe driving habits at all times on the road. The changes are not expected to change the price of CTP greenslips for younger drivers.