New P-plate rules ?should go further

By MEL MARTIN

WITH 15 years experience as a driving instructor behind him, Julian Hamilton believes that while the State Government's new measures for P-platers are a good start, they have not gone far enough.

"It has to have a positive effect, but it isn't just the cars, it's the way they drive the cars," the Coffs Harbour Driving School instructor said.

From July 11, new P1 and P2 drivers will be banned from driving cars with eight or more cylinders or with performance modified, turbo-charged or super- charged engines.

There will be exemptions for employment purposes and to some P-platers in remote and regional areas who have no alternative but to use eight cylinder 4WDs.

Under the new rules, any P-plater who has their licence disqualified will be limited to carrying one passenger for the first 12 months after it is reinstated.

"The changes are good in that they don't discriminate against good P-platers, but they should have gone further," Mr Hamilton said.

He feels compulsory lessons before their driving test would equip learners with better defensive driving skills, that driving education should be compulsory in schools, and that good P-platers should be rewarded.

"I teach learners how not to get into trouble rather than how to get out of it. That's good defensive driving and that's what makes a good driver," Mr Hamilton said.

"The test should also be tougher. At the moment, learners can pass a test without being tested on their defensive driving capabilities simply because they might not come across situations that require them."

The sentiment is echoed by young P-platers, and Haylee Fuller is not sure the new rules will be much use.

"I drive a Hyundai and I'm pretty sure it can go quite fast. Stopping high-powered cars won't stop P-platers who speed from speeding, it'll just mean young drivers won't be able to borrow their parents' high-powered car," she said.

Claire Thomson agrees.

"It won't change people's attitudes. What they need is more education and a reward system like giving good drivers more points, or reducing the time you're on your Ps if you attend driver education," the L-plater said.

"The one passenger rule will certainly have a negative effect on families," P-plater Ebony Patterson added.

NSW Roads Minister Michael Costa said the measures were sensible and balanced a range of needs.

"It's a lethal cocktail once you get a novice driver, inexperienced driver, in a high-performance vehicle," Mr Costa said.

He added that the measures were aimed at curbing the disproportionately high road toll of P-plate drivers.

"People aged 16 to 20 represent only seven per cent of all drivers but are involved in 17 per cent of fatalities," Mr Costa said.

"A 17-year-old driver with a P1 licence is about four times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a driver aged 26 or older."

The changes have been met with resistance from the Opposition's spokesman for roads, Andrew Stoner, who said the Government had failed to address the core issue of education.

The NRMA and the NSW Farmers' Association have also criticised the move, saying many family cars would be off-limits, making it harder for young people who only have access to one car.

Mr Costa said additional changes to training and education were being developed and would be presented to state cabinet later this month.

The State Government will also introduce the standardisation of plate positioning and toughening up penalties for people who don't display their plates properly.

The Roads and Traffic Authority will review the operation of both schemes in 12 months.

A vehicle guide will be posted at www.rta.nsw.gov.au



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