Licensing authorities around the country are progressively narrowing the selection of cars P platers can legally drive.
In Victoria, the existing system of black-listing cars by power-to-weight ratio has given way to a new system introduced by the state authority, Vic Roads. This new system, as with the old one, seeks to keep apart inexperienced drivers and high-performance cars.
Vic Roads took inspiration from the new regime implemented by the NSW Road Traffic Authority (RTA), in which P platers are banned from driving any type of vehicle with eight cylinders or more, as well as vehicles with forced induction engines, barring a handful of cars granted dispensation.
The new P plate rules also disallow a number of high-performance naturally aspirated six-cylinder cars.
The 'no-turbochargers' rule is put aside if the engine is a diesel, unless it has more than six cylinders. This means P platers are not allowed to drive vehicles such as Toyota's new LandCruiser V8 turbodiesel, or the Audi A8 turbodiesel V8.
Cars with engines modified to "increase performance" are also banned.
Because the new regulations are simpler and more specific than previously, they are easier to police, but that doesn't mean there aren't complications.
For example exemptions can be applied on an individual basis if a P plater wishes to drive a non-complying family car.
And P platers licensed before the new rules came into effect are also able to continue driving cars that were legal under the old rules, even if they don't comply with the new ones.
The new system sweeps cars that are obviously not high performance into the banned lists. These include many of Saab's turbocharged 9-3 and 9-5 models, Mercedes-Benz Kompressor (supercharged) C-Class models, and Toyota's turbodiesel V8 LandCruisers.
On top of the list of cars that fall outside the legal P plate criteria is a specific list compiled by the RTA that must not be driven by P platers licensed after July 1 2007
|MAKE ||MODEL ||RELEASE YEAR/S ||CYLINDERS|
|BMW ||M ||1998 ||6|
|BMW ||M3 ||1994 - 2004 ||6|
|BMW ||M5 ||1990 ||6|
|BMW ||Z4 ||2006 onwards ||6|
|Nissan ||350Z ||2002 onwards ||V6|
|Honda ||NSX 2 Door Coupe ||1991 - 2002 ||V6|
|Porsche ||911 ||1993 - 2006 ||6|
|Porsche ||Boxster ||1999 - 2006 ||6|
|Porsche ||Cayman ||2006 onwards ||6|
|Mercedes Benz ||SLK 350 ||2004 onwards ||V6|
|Mercedes Benz ||C350 ||2005 onwards ||V6|
|Mercedes Benz ||C36 ||1995 ||6|
Cars that don't match the criteria but can be legally driven by P platers licensed after July 1 2007 are:
|MAKE ||MODEL ||RELEASE YEAR/S|
|Smart ||All models ||1998 onwards|
|Suzuki ||Cappucino ||1992 - 1997|
|Daihatsu ||Copen ||2003 onwards|
STATE BY STATE
Restrictions on P platers vary from state to state, although New South Wales and Queensland impose rules similar to Victoria's Road Traffic Authority.
Exceptions are the Australian Capital Territory, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, which impose no restrictions on the type of car that may be driven by a P plater.
State-by-state, P plater rules are structured thus:
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT imposes no restrictions on the type of car that may be driven by a P plater -- P platers can even participate in an optional Road Ready provisional licence "P off" course that allows proven responsible drivers to remove P plates within six months of gaining a licence.
New South Wales
New South Wales applies rules very similar to those in Victoria, with a ban on engines with eight or more cylinders, turbocharged or supercharged engines, or a specified list of high-performance vehicles.
The Northern Territory, like the Australian Capital Territory, does not impose any restrictions on the type of car that can be driven by a P plater.
In Queensland, P-plate drivers are restricted similarly to those in NSW and Victoria -- no V8s or bigger, no turbos or superchargers unless they are diesels with six cylinders or less -- with a couple of more specific bans covering rotary-engined vehicles with a capacity of more than 1.146 litres, or engines producing more than 200kW.
South Australia does not impose any limits on power or capacity of cars driven by P-plate holders. The South Australian Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure says that a "comprehensive range of new measures applying to learner's permit and provisional licence car drivers was introduced from 2005. These measures will be evaluated in the coming months and any further measures, such as power-weight restrictions for car drivers, will be considered as part of that evaluation process."
Tasmania is presently in the process of reforming the conditions applying to P platers with a stepped P1 (zero alcohol, P plates displayed and an 80km/h speed limit for one year) and P2 (speed restriction lifted, no P plate display, zero alcohol for two years) system, although it appears there will continue to be no restrictions on the types of cars that may be driven by P platers. The new regulations will come into effect from June 2008.
P-plate drivers in Western Australia are not restricted in the type of car that can be driven. The Western Australian Department for Planning and Infrastructure has a "Safe Driver Rewards Scheme" that offers "a free licence for all P platers who get through their probationary period without any penalties, rewarding their responsible and safe driving."
To comment on this article click here