Young drivers in remote NSW will soon be getting behind the wheel much earlier than the rest of the State’s L-platers as part of a pilot program in selected towns.
Member for Murray-Darling John Williams last week announced a provisional drivers licence pilot program to help young drivers in remote areas get a restricted licence after 50 hours experience, instead of the usual 120, so they could travel to health appointments, education and work.
The restricted P1 licence will be piloted in Brewarrina, Walgett, Bourke, Broken Hill, Balranald and Hay from July 1.
“We have developed the restricted P1 licence to help learner drivers in remote areas who have met certain requirements to progress to their provisional licence,” Mr Williams said.
“Importantly, we hope it reduces the risk of unlicensed driving and the safety implications of that as well as supporting young people in remote areas who don’t have access to alternative transport.”
Learner drivers must have completed 50 hours of supervised on-road driving experience, have held their learner licence for at least 12 months and passed the driving test to get the restricted P1 licence.
Learner drivers would also be allowed to travel up to 90 kilometres an hour instead of 80km/h.
Volunteer Rescue Association member Craig Barlow visits schools in rural and remote NSW to teach students about the importance of driving safely, with “shock factor”.
He said he had seen horrific accidents in rural areas involving young drivers, and worried that those partaking in the pilot program would not have done enough “quality” practice during their compulsory 50 hours.
He agreed the program could prevent unlicensed driving, but said more needed to be included before young drivers had sole responsibility of a vehicle.
“A program that scares them a little bit is what they need before they pass the 50 hours.
“I can see a huge problem for young drivers getting their hours up with isolation, but then there is the fact they might have to drive hours for these health appointments, and they won’t be experienced enough to take on those roads.”
Mr Barlow said the number of hours required to be spent with an instructor needed to be increased.
“Young people pick up bad habits from their parents who are teaching them to drive.
They are not always the best drivers themselves.
“It’s all about quality over quantity.”
But Broken Hill’s youngest councillor (at 25) Jim Richards disagreed.
He said as long as learner drivers were taught by a responsible driver, they were well equipped to hit the shire’s roads.
Mr Richards said if instructor lessons were made a compulsory component of the pilot program this would be too restrictive for young people.
“As long as the person they learn with is a licensed driver, there shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.
Mr Barlow said a high number of learner drivers were employed in the town and a reasonable proportion were carers for family members.
“Having a job and a drivers licence is a right of passage,” he said.
“I think a lot more will find employment thanks to the pilot.
“There are also a great number here who have to care for their parents and grandparents.
“This is just another way they can support their families.”
A spokesperson for NSW Transport said the two-year pilot would be monitored on an ongoing basis in terms of administrative and licensing processes, the take-up rate, the road safety impact and compliance with pilot licensing conditions.
“In identifying pilot areas, Transport for NSW carried out extensive analysis across the State and considered factors such as the number of learner licence holders, the young drivers licensing rate and the rate of unauthorised driving,” the spokesperson said.
“These areas also represent a good cross-section of communities in remote NSW with varying social and economic profiles.”