I found out about the strict rules Australia has when it comes to getting a driving licence thanks to the farmer I am working for. One day he just said in a matter of fact way that his son had just got his driving license and was therefore not allowed to bring more than one person in the car with him.
What does it mean? I wonder.
In Italy, it works like that: when you turn 18, you can start joining a “driving school” where you will learn the street rules, a bit of technical things about the car and about first aid. You will have then to pass a multiple choices theory test about that. Only if you do not fail it, you will have to pass a practical driving test (after taking a minimum of 6 hours driving lessons with an instructor). You can (not mandatory though!) keep on the back of your car a “P” sign (which stands for “Principiante”, beginner), which makes it clear to other people that you are a novice. I remember creating my own one simply drawing a thick black P on a white piece of paper taken from my school’s notebook. From the moment you pass the second test, you are officially considered a proper driver and no particular restrictions apply (a part from the obvious ones about alcohol and speed limits).
You are considered a beginner for 3 years, so basically you pay a higher amount insurance during this time.
In the UK it works more or less the same, with the only difference you can start applying for your driving licence at the age of 17 and that, instead of joining a driving school, it is common to study privately and get a private instructor for the driving lessons.
In Australia, it is much more complicated. I had noticed cars around with different signs applied on them, L or P, with different colours… I was confused and curious so I decided to read into it.
First of all, each state has its own rules, which differ slightly among each other. An Australian from NT (Northern Territory) for example can get a driving licence at the age of 16 years and 6 months, while one born in Victoria will have to wait until the age of 18.
Let’s quickly examine Victoria, which is the state I am living in at the moment. There are 3 stages to get a full driving licence:
- LEARNERS PERMIT
A Learner’s Permit can be obtained at the age of 16 and for at least two years, a learner must be accompanied by a driver who holds a full Driver Licence. Yellow “L” plates must be displayed.
- P1 PROBATIONARY LICENCE
A P1 Licence holder must be over 18 years of age, pass a computerised Hazard Perception Test, a practical driving test and an eyesight test; must display white-on-red ‘P-plates’. If the driver was tested in an automatic vehicle, then they must not drive a manual vehicle (have I told you that almost all cars here in Australia are automatics??). P1 drivers can carry no more than one passenger aged between 16–21 years old.
- P2 PROBATIONARY LICENCE
The drivers’ licence status progresses automatically to P2 with a good driving record for at least 12 months while holding the P1 Licence. They must display the white-on-green ‘P-plates’. The passenger restriction does not apply to P2 drivers.
As the P2 licenses last for 3 years, that means that the minimum age of receiving a full licence is 22 years old!
If all this does not look complicated enough, you should know that in WA there are even 2 phases for the Learner’s permit!
So, compared to Italy and UK, the process of getting a driving licence Down Under seems way longer and more articulate. But it makes me wonder: does the longer process make Australians more responsible drivers?
Don’t know about the actual driving skills, but at least they have clear signage!
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