Mike Stevens | Dec 10, 2009

YOUNG DRIVERS ON Provisional licences are being prevented from driving a range of safe cars because of unfair vehicle classification criteria, Queensland insurer RACQ says.

Current laws in Queensland prohibit P-platers under the age of 25 from driving certain types of vehicles, including those with eight-cylinder, turbo- or super-charged, or modified engines.

The RACQ believes existing methods for establishing a vehicle's suitability, which it says fails to consider a vehicle's actual performance capabilities and safety features, are flawed.

“While strongly supportive of Queensland’s graduated licensing system overall, we have reservations about the system currently used to determine which vehicles a new driver is allowed to operate,” RACQ Vehicle Technologies Manager, Steve Spalding said.

“In many cases vehicles deemed to be high powered actually have lower power outputs and offer less performance than similar models that a young licence-holder is allowed to drive.”

Mr Spalding said the Queensland Department of Transport's current system has "significant anomalies" that have resulted in P-platers being unable to drive cars with exceptional safety levels because of their turbo-charged engines.

“The selection process appears to be based on a perception of the vehicle’s risk rather than any objective measure of its actual risk,” Mr Spalding said.

“Increasingly, car makers are using turbo and super-chargers to achieve better fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions rather than to create a high-performance vehicle.”

Mr Spalding pointed to Volkswagen’s new petrol-powered Golf range, Saab’s petrol powered 9-3, Toyota’s RAV4 (V6) and Kluger as vehicles with relatively modest power-to-weight ratios and high levels of standard safety equipment that P-platers were currently banned from driving.

“These are the sorts of cars typically owned by ‘Mums and Dads’ and are common family vehicles,” Mr Spalding said.

“Clearly, these couldn’t be considered performance vehicles, yet they are currently off-limits to young drivers on P-platers.

Mr Spalding said a more accurate means of assessing the risk posed by a particular vehicle would be to consider its power-to-weight ratio and its safety credentials.

Similar methods for classifying vehicles suitable for P-platers are used in other states such as Victoria and NSW.

The South Australian Government is reviewing legislation that could see the introduction of similar laws, banning drivers under the age of 25 from driving a vehicle with eight cylinders or more, cars with supercharged or turbocharged engines and cars with performance-enhancing modifications.

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