Making our roads safer for new drivers
From 1 January 2020, a range of changes were implemented for learner and provisional drivers in the ACT. The changes are not intended to make it more difficult to get a licence – the changes are designed to reduce the risk for our new and young drivers who are over-represented in road crashes and help them gain experience and confidence on the road in a staged way.
If your learner or provisional licence was issued prior to 1 January 2020, the new conditions don’t apply until you renew your licence.
Anyone who is issued with or renews a learner or provisional licence from 1 January 2020 is subject to the new scheme.
It is recommended that drivers issued with a provisional licence prior to 1 January 2020 display green P plates after 1 January 2020 in order to distinguish themselves from new provisional (P1) drivers.
If you have unanswered questions after reading everything below, please call Access Canberra at 13 22 81 or email our Road Safety inbox at email@example.com. If you have any questions about your specific individual circumstances, please contact Access Canberra.
Graduated Licensing Schemes (GLS) involve a staged approach to driver licensing, with restrictions and sanctions that are reduced as experience is gained. Research supports this approach in addressing major crash factors such as age, inexperience, and risk-taking behaviour.
Several changes to the ACT’s GLS commenced on 1 January 2020. These changes include:
- Required driving hours for learners:
- If you are under 25 when you are issued with your learner licence you must undertake a minimum of 100 supervised driving hours, including a minimum of 10 hours at night-time.
- If you are 25 or older when issued with your learner licence you must undertake a minimum of 50 supervised driving hours, including a minimum of five hours at night-time.
- Introduction of a mandatory Hazard Perception Test.
- Introduction of a two staged provisional licence:
- A red P plate for the first 12 months (P1) with late night peer passenger restrictions.
- A green P plate for the remaining two years (P2). If you are 25 or older when you are issued with your provisional licence, you will be a P2 for the entire three-year provisional licence period.
- Reduced demerit point threshold for learner drivers from 12 points to four points.
- A provisional driver will no longer be able to increase their demerit point threshold or be exempt from displaying P-Plates.
Q: If I travel interstate as a learner or provisional licence holder, what licence conditions will apply to me?
A: In most cases the conditions of your licence will travel with you into other jurisdictions. For example, the peer-passenger restrictions and requirements to display your P plates when driving will still apply to you if you cross the ACT border. However, other states and territories may have different road rules that specifically apply to learner and provisional drivers (such as reduced speed limits). It’s best to check ahead with the state or territory you’re planning to travel to.
Q: I already have a learner licence, what do the changes mean for me?
A: If you obtained your learner licence prior to 1 January 2020, you won’t need to adhere to the conditions of the new scheme for learner drivers (such as the minimum 100 hours of supervised driving). When you obtain your provisional licence, you will be in the new scheme (see section below on provisional drivers for information).
However, if you renew your learner licence after 1 January 2020 you will need to satisfy the new eligibility requirements in order to obtain a provisional licence. Any of those requirements that you satisfied on your earlier learner licence will be recognised.
Q: I already have a provisional license, what do the changes mean for me?
A: If you obtained your provisional licence before 1 January 2020, the new scheme does not apply to you. That said, if you renew your provisional licence after 1 January 2020 you will be held to the licence conditions of the new scheme.
Since 1 January 2020, a provisional driver has not been able to increase their demerit point threshold through attending a provisional driver training course (such as P-Off). If you completed the course prior to 1 January 2020, you will keep your incentives (even if you take your certificate of completion into a Service Centre now).
In order to be eligible for a learner licence in the ACT, you must be at least 15 years and 9 months of age, and have successfully completed the mandatory pre-learner licence training course and Road Rules Knowledge Test.
Q: Where can I undertake a pre-learner licence training course?
A: Pre-learner licence training courses are delivered by several organisations across the ACT, including schools, community groups, and small businesses. Contact Access Canberra for details of course providers.
Q: What if I have completed the course and Road Rules Knowledge Test but have yet applied for my learner licence? Will I be held to the new conditions for learner drivers?
A: Yes. Any person who is issued with or renews a learner licence after 1 January 2020 will be in the new scheme. The eligibility requirements to obtain a learner licence have not changed. Also, the course and road rules knowledge test are valid for two years from the date of completion.
From 1 January 2020, any person issued with a learner licence is required to meet the following in order to obtain a provisional licence:
- If you are under 25 when issued with your learner licence you must have held a learner licence for at least a year.
- If you are 25 or older when issued with your learner licence you must have held a learner licence for at least six months.
- You must have completed the minimum required hours.
- You must have successfully completed a hazard perception test.
- You must have either: successfully completed a one-off driver assessment; or the CBT&A modules administered by an ACT accredited driving instructor to the required assessment standards.
Anyone issued with a learner licence is provided with a logbook that will help you keep a record of the new requirements, including driving hours and assessments.
The period for which a learner licence is valid increased from two years to five years on 1 January 2020, in consideration of the new requirements.
Q: What if I already hold a learner licence?
A: If you were issued with your learner licence prior to 1 January 2020, you will be subject to the previous requirements and will not have to wait 12 months to apply for your provisional licence, nor complete the required driving hours or the Hazard Perception Test. However, if you renew your learner licence after 1 January 2020, you will under the new scheme.
Q: My learner licence is about to expire, will I be subject to the changes when I renew it?
A: If you renewed your learner licence prior to 1 January 2020, you will be under the previous scheme. If you renew your learner licence after 1 January 2020, you will be subject to the new scheme with recognition of any competencies achieved on your current learner licence and associated hours of driving experience.
Required Driving Hours
Without an extensive amount of supervised driving, it is possible that learners will not experience driving under more challenging and complex situations until after obtaining a provisional licence. Evidence supports setting minimum driving hours, including at night.
If you are under 25 when you are issued with your learner licence you must undertake a minimum of 100 supervised driving hours, including a minimum of 10 hours at night-time.
If you are 25 or older when issued with your learner licence you must undertake a minimum of 50 supervised driving hours, including a minimum of five hours at night-time.
Q: Are there any options to assist in completing the number of required driving hours?
A: The requirement for learner drivers to complete a minimum number of supervised driving hours has been put in place in order to develop your confidence behind the wheel and build your ability to identify and navigate risks before you drive solo. There will be a few options to assist you in achieving your required hours.
The first 10 hours of driving with an ACT accredited driving instructor will count as 30 hours towards your required driving hours. After that each hour with a driving instructor counts as an hour of driving. From the 1st of April 2020, two optional courses will also be available to assist you in achieving your required driving hours.
Safer Driver Course
The Safer Driver Course includes both theory and practical components with an aim to reduce risky driving behaviours prior to driving solo. The course is limited to learner drivers who were aged under 25 at the time their learner licence was issued. You must also have held your learner licence for at least three months before applying. Successfully completing this course will count as 20 hours towards your required supervised driving hours.
Vulnerable Road User Program
The Vulnerable Road User Program focuses on safely sharing the road with cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. This course can be completed by all learner drivers after you have held your learner licence for three months. Successfully completing this course will count as 10 hours towards your required supervised driving hours. This course is available to all learner drivers irrelevant of age.
More details about when and where these courses will be delivered will be provided in the coming months.
Hazard Perception Test
The Hazard Perception Test (HPT) is an online computerised test that measures a person’s ability to detect and respond to potentially dangerous situations on the road. Research shows the value of HPT in predicting subsequent crash risk, including some evidence that found those drivers who failed HPT at least twice were more likely to be involved in a crash compared to those who passed on their first attempt.
Persons issued with a learner licence after 1 January 2020 must successfully complete the HPT to be eligible for a provisional licence. You will not be able to complete the HPT until you have held a learner licence for three months.
Q: How do I complete the Hazard Perception Test?
A: The Hazard Perception Test will be delivered online, and the first attempt will be free. If you fail the HPT, the online system will tell you when you can next attempt the test. Any subsequent attempt will incur a nominal fee. More information about the HPT, including practice tests, will be available in the coming months.
Q: When do I need to do the hazard perception test?
A: You may do the HPT at any time once you become eligible and once successfully completed it does not expire.
If you are issued with a learner licence after 1 January 2020, in order to be eligible for a provisional licence in the ACT, you must:
- be at least 17 years old;
- have held your learner licence for at least 12 months (or six months if you were 25 or older when it was issued);
- have completed the minimum number of required driving hours;
- have successfully completed the Hazard Perception Test (HPT);
- have successfully completed either a one-off driver assessment or the Competency Based Training and Assessment (CBT&A) modules administered by an ACT accredited driving instructor to the required assessment standards.
The reforms that commenced on 1 January 2020 do not apply if you were issued with a provisional licence before that date. However, if you renew your provisional licence now, you will be subject to the new conditions (with recognition of time your previous provisional licence was held).
Provisional Licence Stages
If you are under 25 when you are issued with a provisional licence you will be subject to the following two provisional licence stages:
- Stage 1 – P1 – 12 months – red P plates and late-night peer passenger restrictions
- Stage 2 – P2 – 2 years – green P plates
Provisional licences issued continue to be issued for 3 years.
If you are 25 or older when you are issued with your provisional licence you will go directly to the P2 stage. That is, you are not subject to the late-night peer passenger restrictions and are required to display green P plates for the duration of your provisional licence (three years).
It is recommended that drivers issued with a provisional licence prior to 1 January 2020 display green P plates from 1 January 2020 in order to distinguish themselves from new provisional (P1) drivers.
Late-night peer passenger restrictions
During the P1 stage of a provisional licence, you will be limited to one peer aged passenger between the hours of 11pm and 5am. A peer aged passenger is someone (that is not a family member) who is aged between 16 and 22 years old.
Research supports the effectiveness of night-time driving restrictions for young drivers. Young drivers are at a heightened risk of crashing as the dangers of distraction, challenging driving conditions and fatigue are enhanced at night. Research also indicates that transporting peer aged passengers has also been shown in many studies to significantly increase crash risk for young drivers, given the opportunity for distraction and encouragement for risk taking behaviour.
Risks reduce with age and cognitive development, therefore provisional drivers aged 25 and older at the time they are issued with a provisional licence will go immediately to P2 conditions and are therefore not subject to the late-night peer passenger restriction.
Q: Are there any exemptions to the late-night peer passenger restrictions?
A: Exemptions apply for: employment (paid or voluntary) and education purposes; police trainees undertaking recruit training or assessment or while driving a police vehicle; Exemptions do not apply for designated driving.
Q: What is the penalty for not complying with late-night peer passenger restrictions?
A: The penalty is three demerit points and either an infringement notice penalty of $480 or a maximum court fine of 20 penalty units.
Safer First Car
There is a lot to consider when purchasing your first car and it is important that you are making safe vehicle choices. To make this a little easier, you can find a list of safe and affordable vehicles in the Safer First Car fact sheet that all hold a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
If you are an ACT accredited driving instructor, you are able to assess and sign off any learner driver against the Competency Based Training and Assessment (CBT&A) modules, whether they were issued with a learner licence before or after 1 January 2020.
A learner who obtained their licence before 1 January 2020 will be required to satisfy the previous provisional licence eligibility requirements to obtain a provisional licence. When they obtain their provisional licence now they are subject to the new conditions that apply to provisional licence holders, for example, late night peer passenger restrictions.
A learner who is issued with their learner licences after 1 January 2020 will need to complete the new provisional licence eligibility requirements, such as the Hazard Perception Test.
In the new system you will also be able to sign off on required hours as either a driving instructor or driver supervisor: 10 hours with an ACT accredited driving instructor will count for a maximum of 30 driving hours. Every hour after that with a driving instructor, including one from another jurisdiction, will count as one hour. The new logbook includes relevant spaces for recording these hours. Further information is available in the following attachments, including the detailed checklist of competencies:
Learner and provisional drivers have been subject to a full mobile device ban. So, when you’re driving – it is illegal to text, use social media, use blue-tooth, handsfree or speaker mode. If you even touch your mobile device - to skip a song or talk-type message - you could lose up to $600, four demerit points and maybe even lose your licence.
Operating a vehicle requires your full attention. Using mobile devices while driving is distracting and can cause crashes that could result in injury or death. Any activity that distracts a driver while operating a vehicle is dangerous, and can result in lane deviations, greater fluctuations in speed and delays in driver reaction time. Studies also suggest that hands-free phone use is no safer to use while driving than hand-held devices. This is because cognitive distraction has the most significant impact on driving performance.
Q: What are the penalties for using a mobile device while driving?
A: The penalty for using a mobile device for messaging, social media use, accessing applications and internet is four demerit points and either a maximum court fine of 20 penalty units or an infringement notice penalty of $589. The penalty for otherwise using a mobile device (for example, making or receiving a call) is three demerit points and either a maximum court fine of 20 penalty units or an infringement notice penalty of $480.
Q: Can I still listen to music from my phone while driving as a learner or provisional driver?
A: There is an exception for listening to music and podcast type audio, provided the device is not being held by the driver and does not require interaction by any means, including by voice, while driving. We encourage drivers to put the device into Do Not Disturb mode to remove the temptation to touch it to skip songs or change apps.
Q: Can I listen to music with headphones or a portable speaker in the car?
A: The mobile device ban extends to any other wireless hand-held or wearable devices designed or capable of being used for telecommunication. This means you cannot touch the headphones or speaker while driving.
Q: Can I use my mobile device for GPS while driving as a learner or provisional driver?
A: There is an exception for using a mobile device for GPS, provided the device is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle (eg. mobile phone holder, blue-toothed) and does not require interaction by any means, including by voice, while driving. You should set up your GPS instructions before you drive.