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Coping with the curfew

Mick Bolognese's picture

The new P-plate regulations for South Australia came into force yesterday

My brother is 22. He’s an electrical engineer, doesn’t drink and drives a maroon Toyota Corolla. He was also a little late to the table and only passed his driving test at 21. And around 1 o’clock last night, after a late session on the Playstation, he turned to me and said “hey, can you go get me a Maxibon? I’m not allowed any more.”

As of yesterday, in fact, South Australian drivers up to the age of 25 on a P1 licence have a curfew which stops them from driving between midnight and 5 am. They can also carry no more than one passenger aged 16-20 (other than immediate family), need to pass a hazard perception test to step up from Ls to P1s rather than from P1s to P2s, and will spend an extra year on their Ps all-up (3 rather than 2, with the new minimum age for a full unrestricted licence being 20). That’s on top of current restrictions: P1 holders can’t exceed 100 km/h nor accrue any demerit points (P2 holders may accrue 4), all P-plate holders must have 0 alcohol in their blood at all times, and only those over 25 may drive high powered vehicles [that’s just South Australia – all Australian states have different and confusing rules which are nicely explained here].

The new rules haven’t been welcomed enthusiastically by all. I certainly couldn’t see the harm in my fairly responsible 22-year-old brother nipping out to the servo for an ice cream at 1 am, other than the obvious health concerns. On the other hand, I realise there is a very good reason that new regulations have come in for young drivers. Over a million people between 15 and 29 die on the world’s roads each year – it is in fact the most likely cause of death for people our age. Giving up a few late night snacks to reduce the number of road deaths would be acceptable, but are the new rules the only way to reduce the road toll?

Certainly, the ‘graduated licensing system’ has had success when adopted in places like Canada. The idea is that young drivers are introduced gradually to riskier situations as they gain experience on the road. Night driving with multiple passengers is indeed a higher risk scenario, so eliminating that scenario altogether is likely to reduce fatal crashes. The new rules in South Australia are designed to avoid situations like a young, inexperienced driver having a car full of drunken friends after a late night out. They are driven by the principle of trying to avoid situations in which young drivers are likely to make mistakes.

An alternative solution is provided by Sweden, which (surprise, surprise) is a world leader in road safety and has a much lower young driver mortality rate than Australia. Sweden’s approach is based on their ambitious ‘Vision Zero’ project which aims to completely eliminate road deaths by 2020 and is based on the principle that ‘people make mistakes’: we are not designed to travel at high speeds, so it makes more sense to change the road environment rather than attempting to stop people from making errors. Their measures focus more on improving the road environment: getting safer cars on the road, reducing speeds when cars are likely to come into contact with pedestrians or each other and having better designed roads. Their P plates have no restrictions (just don’t break any road rules while you’re on probation) but, while you can get your Ls at 16, you must wait until you’re 18 to get your Ps. That’s two years of learning to drive with someone experienced in the car with you.

Both sides clearly have pros and cons: the Swedish approach is costlier and speed limits are lower, for instance, while ours places more restrictions on young drivers but lets them drive alone sooner. What do you think? Do you have other suggestions or opinions on the new licensing laws?


Great read and being 20 myself and not having any form of licence I think the new laws are a pointless act. I believe the answer lies in proper education and road maintenance as when I was in school we attended one educational lesson to do with road saftey and that was it. The fact is Ex-prisoners don't get as many restrictions as what under 25 L,P1 and P2's get and to me most of what is happening is both revenue raising and looking for someone to blame for the excessive hoon problem(It's not just young drivers). But maybe I just don't understand the governments view on the whole thing.... Thanks Tom 
Mick Bolognese's picture
You're spot on with the education Tom - I agree that more could be done in that area. Regardless of the restrictions, though, I hope you haven't been put off getting your licence. Driving is an amazing feeling, and you don't have to be a petrolhead or go any faster than the speed limit to appreciate the freedom that comes with having a car. Trust me, I just lived two years without one in London and was getting itchy feet...


It is totally unrealistic and it seems like the government are just looking to blame road deaths on teenagers. Which is really unfair as they are generalising all teenagers as hoons. Not a happy camper. My poor grandson is now not able to go out with his friends into the city anymore. :( 

The bottomline here is don't drink and drive. This law should apply to all age group. Meaning when you apply for drivers license, you are capable to drive with your car. That is why before isuing drivers license, you learn to be responsible driver. The new P-plate regulations for South Australiais very pampering, generalising young drivers. On the other hand, follow the law, it's good for you. Eat ice cream before the curfew started.

Courtesy car

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