Learner drivers in NSW will be able to cut their compulsory supervised driving hours by one third and travel at higher speeds following a shake-up of the learner program announced by the State Government today.
Roads Minister Duncan Gay announced the introduction of the Safer Drivers Course, which, when combined with professional driving lessons, allows learners to reduce their number of compulsory supervised driving hours from 120 to 80.
From July 1, learners will also be allowed to travel at speeds up to 90km/h – 10km/h faster than before – which Minister Gay said was designed to give them more supervised driving experience at higher speeds in preparation for their graduation to P-plates.
“This is a first step in rewarding the state’s younger drivers for learning safer behaviour behind the wheel,” Gay said.
“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.”
The Safer Drivers Course has been developed by a board of road safety experts including representatives from NSW Police, Roads and Maritime Services and the Centre for Road Safety, as well as road safety researchers and education specialists.
Gay said the course had the support of an advisory panel comprising representatives from the NRMA, driver training associations and community-based road safety education providers.
“We’ve carried out market research with parents and learner drivers who believe the course will benefit them,” he said. “They have told us it tackles the very aspects beginners face when they first start driving.
“The course deals with different road conditions, understanding factors beyond a driver’s control and also helps identify risks on the road. This is a different approach to conventional driver training which focuses more on the mechanics of driving and road rules.
“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.”
Completing the Safer Drivers Course gives learners 20 hours credit towards their 120-hour logbook total. Completing 10 hours of professional lessons likewise gives learners 20 hours credit for their logbook (the 20 bonus hours are in addition to the 10 hours spent driving during the lessons).
The Government recommends that learners enrol in the course after completing 50 hours in their logbooks, by which stage they should have basic driving skills and understand and appreciate the lessons taught.
Gay confirmed the cost of the course would be capped at an “affordable price”, with any additional costs of delivering the course to be covered by the Community Road Safety Fund.
The Government also announced a pilot program aimed at helping young drivers from remote, lower socio-economic and Aboriginal communities meet the requirements to qualify for their P-plates.
Under the pilot program, under-25-year-olds will be able to obtain a provisional drivers licence for driving to work, education and medical appointments. They will only be given the restricted licence if they complete at least 50 supervised driving hours and pass a driving test.