Until now, only learner and P1 provisional licence-holders were barred from using mobile phones in any capacity while driving, as P2 drivers faced the same restrictions as other licence-holders.
In the face of a rising road toll in NSW, Roads Minister Duncan Gay has seen fit to extend this restriction to any driver holding a learner or provisional licence.
From December 1, L- and P-plate drivers in NSW will not be permitted to use a phone in any way behind the wheel.
This includes making or receiving calls, even if the phone is used via a hands-free method such as Bluetooth, or is stored in a ‘cradle’ which allows full licence holders to use phones while driving.
Drivers who breach these rules will lose four demerit points - the total number of points afforded to P1 and learner drivers resulting in a minimum three-month driving ban for those licence-holders.
The mobile ban joins a growing list of restrictions faced by young drivers in NSW (and other states), including the restrictions on passengers between 23:00 and 05:00 (P1 drivers under 25 can carry only one passenger younger than 21).
Mobile phone laws have also been toughened for full licence-holders in recent times, with penalties in Victoria having steadily risen to four demerit points and $466.
But Victoria’s crown as the punishment ‘leader’ - with the highest monitory penalties in Australia in place for many road offences - has been stolen by the ACT in this instance, with a special penalty topping half-a-grand at $511 for drivers using their phones to access the internet, social media and other functions while driving.
NSW has also lifted the demerit point penalty this year from three to four points, with the associated fine being $325 or $433 if the offence was committed in a school zone.
Young drivers will face further adjustments to licence conditions from November 1 next year.
Previously, P1 licence-holders were required to pass a hazard perception test before progressing to a P2 licence. This test will now be taken by learner drivers before graduating to P1.
Also from November next year, young drivers slapped with bans for speeding or unsafe driving offences will be forced to spend more time driving under P-plate restrictions.
Six-month ‘extensions’ to provisional licences will apply for drivers who do not maintain a good driving record while on their P1 and P2 licence.
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