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More on what L and P platers need to know

Do you want to learn to drive? Driving a car is still seen as a symbol of freedom and independence, even though there are good alternatives. Our guide helps you understand how to progress through the graduated licensing scheme. You go from Learner to red Provisional 1 to green Provisional 2 and then to the freedom of a full, unrestricted licence.

Learning to drive

Out of 6.735 million licence holders in NSW, only 9.2% were young drivers on their Ls or Ps. As at April 2023:

  • Around 282,000 young Australians, 16-29, were learning to drive in NSW.
  • A further 337,000 were P platers on Provisional P1 (red) or P2 (green) licences.
  • Some 697,000 of 16-29 year olds already had unrestricted drivers licences.

It can be a daunting prospect to go through the process of learning to drive and taking a practical driving test. However, most people pass their driving test the first time. It seems to depend partly on whether you learn to drive in an automatic or a manual car. Some 82% of learners in manual cars passed first time, compared to 74% of learners in automatics.

Of course, wanting to learn to drive is not the same as wanting to own a car. A recent study found 43% of 18-25 year olds are not interested in owning a car. They prefer to have accessibility to someone else’s car, taxi, Uber or public transport. Even so, 53% said they were looking forward to owning a car one day.

How to get your Learner licence

To get your Learner licence, you must be at least 16. The very first stage is the Driver Knowledge Test (DKT). To practise for the DKT, you can download a document with possible questions, watch a demonstration, or practise online using an app. You have to pass the Driver Knowledge Test (DKT) to get your Learner licence.

A Learner licence is valid for 5 years. If it expires before you get your P1, you have to pass the DKT again.

Learner drivers over 25

The rules are slightly different for novice drivers who are 25 and over:

  • There is no need to complete the Learner logbook.
  • You can attempt the HPT and driving test when you are ready.
  • You do not have to comply with the P1 driver passenger restriction.
  • If you live in Brewarrina, Walgett, Bourke, Broken Hill, Balranald or Hay, you can apply for a restricted P1 licence after only 50 hours driving experience (with at least 10 hours at night).

Safer Drivers Course

One way to improve driving and get bonus driving hours is to take the Safer Drivers Course.This course is for Learners under 25 who have completed 50 logbook hours including night driving. It combines theory and practice to give Learners the skills and knowledge to prepare them to be P Platers.

You have to complete these two modules within one month:

  1. 3-hour group discussion with other L-platers about managing risks on the road
  2. 2-hour in-vehicle session with a coach and another L-plater to learn practical, safe driving.

The course also gives you bonus hours:

  • 20 hours of logbook credit so you need only 100 more hours of supervised driving to progress to P1.
  • If you also have 10 structured lessons with a licensed driving instructor, you need only 70 hours of supervised driving.

Call 13 2213 or find the closest course to you.

How to get your P1 licence (red)

Your red P1 licence allows you to drive without a supervisor. To get your P1 licence, you must be at least 17. You must have held your Learner licence for at least 12 months and completed 120 hours of driving practice, including 20 hours of night driving. You must also pass the Hazard Perception Test (HPT). This is a computer-based test that measures how well you recognise potentially dangerous situations on the road.

Next, you must pass your driving test.

The P1 licence is valid for 18 months. If you don’t have a P2 licence after 15 months, you have to pass the HPT again and renew your P1 licence.

How to get your P2 licence (green)

To get your P2 licence, you must have held your P1 licence for at least 12 months. It is valid for 36 months (3 years). Note, anyone who had a P1 licence before 20 November 2017 but didn’t get a P2 licence, may have to take the HPT to get a P2.

There are restrictions for Learner and P platers on P1 and P2 licences.

What you must and must not do on your L or P licences

  Learner P1 P2
Display L and P plates Attach to front and back of car on the outside
Use mobile phone Not allowed
Drink alcohol Not allowed
Wear seatbelts Always
Vehicles allowed Light car, ute or van Only cars with the same transmission as test Not stated
Vehicles prohibited Prohibited vehicles* are for full driver licences only
Areas prohibited Parramatta Park, Moore Park or Centennial Park None None
Tow vehicles Not allowed Up to 250kgs Allowed
Carry passengers Allowed Under 25s can carry 1 passenger under 21 from 11pm-5am Allowed
Supervision Must be supervised and cannot supervise Learner Cannot supervise Learner Cannot supervise Learner
Maximum speed 90kmh 90kmh 100kmh
Maximum demerits 4 in 3 years 4 in 3 years 7 in 3 years
Speeding 4 demerits = licence suspension 4 demerits = licence suspension At least 4 demerits** = licence suspension

* Prohibited vehicles – around 17,060 vehicles are banned, including 320 electric vehicles. These are vehicles above 130 kW per tonne and other performance vehicles seen as high risk. Find out what they are here.
** For each suspension, P2 drivers must stay on their P2 for a further 6 months.

How to get your unrestricted licence

To qualify for an unrestricted licence in NSW, you must have held a P2 licence for at least 24 months (2 years). Any suspension time for demerits or risky driving does not count towards this period.

Once you have a full driving licence, restrictions for novice drivers are lifted.

All drivers must be covered by a green slip, whether they are on their Ls, Ps or have a full licence.

Green slips for Learners

Learners are always fully supervised, so insurers expect they will drive more safely than unsupervised drivers. If they learn in the parent’s car, the price of a greenslip is based on the parent’s car and details.

The greenslips.com.au Calculator always asks for the age of the owner and the youngest driver. The youngest driver does not have to be young or the Learner – simply the driver of that vehicle who is youngest.

In the greenslips.com.au Calculator, one question asks how long the least experienced driver has held a licence (not including L plate). The parent or someone other than the Learner would count as the least experienced driver. Once the Learner gets their P plates, they may become the least experienced driver.

How to reduce greenslip premiums for P platers

Once Learners get their P-plates, they are no longer supervised and their lack of experience can be risky to themselves and others. You are particularly at risk during the first month of your P1s. While P1 drivers are only 2% of all drivers, they represent 20% of deaths and die at twice the rate of all drivers.

Owning a car is expensive. Many P platers have to drive vehicles that are old and lack safety features, so the price of your greenslip can be high. P platers will want to reduce their greenslip premiums as much as possible.

Primary factors used by insurers that affect greenslip prices are:

  • Where you live (Metro, Outer metro, Country, Wollongong, Newcastle and Central Coast)
  • Type and age of vehicle
  • Age and gender of vehicle owner and youngest driver
  • Driving history (offences, demerit points, years licensed)
  • Claims history (other insurance held, at-fault claims).

Parents where possible can encourage young drivers to drive a safer vehicle. Research has found P-platers who share their parents’ car tend to drive more safely and communicate more about where they are going.

When it comes to your green slip, the best way to keep prices down is to start as you mean to go on. This is the time to take responsibility for creating a clean driving history with no offences, loss of points, or insurance claims.

See an earlier version of this blog.

author image

Corrina Baird

Writer and Researcher, greenslips.com.au

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years in financial services and over 8 years with greenslips.com.au, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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