A spike in fatal road accidents this year has prompted the New South Wales government to introduce several changes to the Graduated Licensing Scheme for learner, P1 and P2 drivers.
Described as an effort to better prepare young drivers for real-world road hazards and reducing the NSW road toll, particularly among P-platers, the changes will gradually take effect between December 2016 and November 2017.
First to change will be the use of mobile phones. From this December, all P-platers will be banned from using mobile phones, by any means, while driving. P2 drivers previously were able to use hands-free phone systems.
From 1 November 2017, three more changes will be implemented to alter the licence process; the driver qualification test will be scrapped, P2 license extensions will be introduced for demerit and high-risk driving offences, and the hazard perception test will be moved from P1 drivers to learner drivers.
Though currently a requirement for P2 drivers to progress to a full licence, the driver qualification test will be deleted from November 2017.
P2 drivers will now be required to maintain a safe driving record to graduate to an unrestricted licence after the minimum P2 period.
P2 licence extensions will be introduced from November 2017, with six months added to the minimum tenure period each time the driver receives a licence suspension for demerit-point or higher-risk offences.
The extension, however, will not apply if the suspension is not related to a road offence, such as defaulting on a fine or on medical grounds.
Finally, the Hazard Perception Test will now be a requirement for learner drivers to progress to a P1 licence, as opposed to the current scheme where P1 drivers must successfully complete the test to graduate to the P2 level.
CarAdvice has contacted road authorities from other states for word on whether similar steps are under consideration elsewhere.
Update: Kyle Loades, president of the National Roads and Motorists' Association (NRMA), said: "We know that young people are more at risk on our roads, so the introduction of programs to improve their skills is a smart move".
"As is the requirement for P-platers to not interact with their phones at all," "driving requires 100 per cent driver attention at all times - especially when learning".
Loades also voiced the NRMA's support for the six-month extensions for each license suspension, along with the inclusion of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) as standard equipment on all new vehicles.
"Ultimately, as humans we make mistakes behind the wheel but it shouldn't cost our lives or cause serious injury," he said.