NRMA joins calls for tougher P-plater rules in the ACT

The NRMA has joined calls for tougher restrictions on Canberra’s P-platers ahead of an upcoming government review into the system.

Despite the continued over-representation of young drivers in road crash statistics, ACT provisional drivers are currently subject to the most relaxed laws in the country.

There are just two rules to remember: don’t have a drink and don’t tow a car or trailer heavier than 750kg.

In most other parts of , including just over the border in Queanbeyan, P-platers also face restrictions on passengers, high-powered cars, speed, or hands-free mobile phone use.

NRMA road safety expert Dimitra Vlahomitros said many of those measures had already been shown to work.

“The research tell us that the more hours you spend on the road, the safer you are, so things like restricting peer passengers, especially at times when we know young people are most at risk or bans on mobile phones, because we know they are most likely to use their phone and take that risk,” she said.

“We need to look towards NSW and what’s working there. This review is all important.”

NRMA has been advocating for the ACT to adopt NSW’s P-plater ban on hands-free and loudspeaker functions for mobile phones since 2016. But Ms Vlahomitros said she had yet to receive a direct response from the government.

Amid a horror holiday road toll, the n Medical Association has called for national action on road safety, including “zero tolerance” of learner and P-plate drivers caught using mobile phones or devices on the road.

An ACT government spokeswoman said proposed reforms to bring the ACT into line with other states, as well as the national framework, were being developed and a consultation process would be undertaken this year.

ACT opposition leader Alistair Coe said he supported P-plater restrictions as they currently stood in the ACT, and any change must be based on evidence.

“The Territory’s laws should not simply be changed for the sake of harmonisation with other jurisdictions,” Mr Coe said.

“If there is a view that P-plate drivers are not safe to carry passengers, then it would suggest that other drivers are also not safe to share the roads with them.”

Mr Coe said there was a “likelihood” that irresponsible drivers would float any changes anyway and “the only outcome will be that responsible drivers are significantly inconvenienced.”

Ms Vlahomitros also called for an evidence-based approach, but said research into tougher measures in Victoria and Queensland supported a change.

While there was no “silver bullet” to fix the road toll, the combination of restrictions in NSW appeared to be working well, she said.

President of the AMA’s ACT branch Professor Stephen Robson welcomed the government’s review, raising concerns about the current “baffling” state of Canberra’s P-plater laws.

When ACT P-platers travel interstate, they do not need to abide by the provisional driver rules of other jurisdictions, including NSW.

Almost 30 per cent of the 1644 ACT drivers who crashed over the border in the past five years were aged 25 years or younger, figures from NSW Transport reveal.

Canberra drivers aged between 30 and 39 were also involved in a high number of NSW crashes.

NRMA supported the ACT government’s 2017 initiative to encourage first-time drivers to buy safer cars.