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What L and P platers need to know

Learning to drive is still a rite of passage for some. Even though young people tend to delay the day they start driving lessons, most will get their drivers licence eventually. Find out how you move from Ls to P1s and P2s in the graduated licensing scheme and finally, to the freedom of an unrestricted licence.

Did you know today’s seniors over 80 are more likely to drive than 18-24 year olds?  It’s not clear whether young people are rejecting cars, or just ownership, in the same way they reject other commitments. But eventually, many do what people have always done – they buy cars, get married, have children.

How many are learning to drive?

Out of more than 6 million drivers in Australia, around 745,000 are just learning. According to NSW government data at 30 September 2020 :

  • 346,702 (5.5%) held Learner licences
  • 143,828 (2.3%) held P1 licences
  • 254,418 (4%) held P2 licences
  • 5,603,954 (88.3%) drivers were on a full, unrestricted licence
  • Of 6,348,902 total licence-holders, 81% were Class C (cars).

Under the graduated licensing scheme, novice drivers progress through stages from Learner to Provisional 1 (P1) to Provisional 2 (P2) and then to a full licence. Here is how to get your licence.

How to get your Learner licence

You must be at least 16 and pass the Driver Knowledge Test (DKT).  to get your Learner licence. It is valid for 5 years, but if it expires before you get your Ps, you must pay for and pass the DKT again.

How to get your P1 licence (Red P)

To get your P1 licence, you must be at least 17. You must hold a Learner licence for at least 10 months and complete 120 hours of driving practice, including 20 hours of night driving. You must also pass the Hazard Perception Test (HPT).  The P1 licence is valid for 18 months. If you don’t have a P2 licence after 15 months, you must renew your P1 licence and pass the HPT again.

How to get your P2 licence (Green P)

To get your P2 licence, you must hold your P1 licence for at least 12 months. It is valid for 36 months (3 years). If you got your P1 licence before 20 November 2017 but didn’t get a P2 licence, you may have to take the Hazard Perception Test (HPT) to get your P2.

How to get your full licence

To qualify for a full licence in NSW you must have held a P2 licence for at least 24 months (2 years). Once you have a full licence, many restrictions will be lifted. Here is what you can and can’t do on a Learner or Provisional licence in NSW.

What you can and can’t do on your licence

  Learner P1 P2
Display L and P plates Attach to outside of car front and back
Use mobile phone Not permitted at all
Drink alcohol None permitted at all
Wear seatbelts Always
Vehicles allowed Cars only Only cars with same transmission as test NA
Vehicles prohibited Prohibited Vehicles for full licences only
Areas prohibited Parramatta Park or Centennial Park None None
Tow vehicles Not permitted Up to 250kgs  
Carry passengers NA Under 25s carry 1 passenger under 21 from 11pm-5am NA
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

* P2 drivers must stay on their P2 licence for a further 6 months for each suspension for unsafe driving.

Learner green slips

If the Learner is fully supervised, insurers expect the supervised Learner will drive as safely as possible. If they learn in the parent’s car, the price of a greenslip is based on the parent’s car and details as well as the youngest driver’s details.

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

Safer Drivers Course

One way to improve driving is to do the Safer Drivers Course. The aim is to give Learners skills and knowledge to prepare them for P-Plates. It combines theory and practice for Learners under 25 who have completed 50 logbook hours including night driving. They must complete these two modules within one month:

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

The course gives you a bonus of 20 hours of logbook credit so you need only 100 more hours of supervised driving to progress to P1. Call 13 2213 or find the closest course provider.

P-plate greenslips

Once Learners get their P-plates, they are no longer supervised and their inexperienced driving can be risky to themselves and others. P1 drivers are only 2% of all drivers but represent 20% of deaths and die at twice the rate of all drivers. Sadly, the first month of driving with P-plates is the riskiest time.

It is common for P-platers to drive vehicles that are old and lack safety features, so the price of a greenslip can be high. Research has found P-platers who share their parents’ car tend to drive more safely and communicate more about where they are going.

Prohibited vehicles

There are certain vehicles Learners and P-platers cannot drive. Around 7,500 vehicles are prohibited for P-plate drivers in NSW. These include vehicles above 130 kilowatts per tonne and other models with performance characteristics seen as high risk for inexperienced drivers.

To check whether you are legally eligible to drive a certain vehicle, you can use the TfNSW tool here.

Learner drivers over 25

Not all Learners and P-platers are necessarily very young. The rules are slightly different for novice drivers who are 25 and over:

  • No need to complete the Learner logbook
  • They can attempt the HPT and driving test when ready
  • No need to comply with the P1 driver passenger restriction
  • If they live in Brewarrina, Walgett, Bourke, Broken Hill, Balranald or Hay, they can apply for a restricted P1 licence after only 50 hours driving experience (with at least 10 hours at night).

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 – simply the driver of the vehicle who is youngest.

How to reduce greenslip premiums

Once a P-plater has their own car, they discover how expensive it is to run a car. 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, rural, 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).

While young people cannot help being young, they should where possible be encouraged to drive a safer vehicle. They can take responsibility for creating a clean driving history with no offences, loss of points, or insurance claims.

Summary

Novice drivers who drive safely are more likely to get the best green slip prices as early as possible in their driving history. Just as you progress from Ls to P1s to P2s to a full licence, you become increasingly in control of what you drive, how you drive, and where you drive.

When it comes to your greenslip, the best way to keep prices down is to start as you mean to go on.

Corrina Baird

Writer and expert greenslips.com.au

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered first hand what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years of writing and research in financial services, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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