Graduated licences: saving lives

Mike Stapleton
Mike Stapleton

It has long been recognised that young drivers are one of our most at-risk road user groups, due to the combination of age, inexperience and risk-taking behaviour.

Statistics show that crashes during the learner (supervised) stage are low, but this immediately increases after the transition to unsupervised/solo driving once a provisional licence is gained.

One of the best-researched interventions to reduce this increased crash risk is graduated driver licensing (GDL).

It works by restricting the novice driver’s exposure to risky situations, allowing them to develop their skills in relatively low-risk conditions through licence restrictions. It progressively lifts these restrictions as the young driver becomes older and their experience increases.

Key aspects of the graduated licensing system (GLS) for drivers in Queensland, introduced in 2007, are:

Learner phase

This includes:

  • a zero BAC
  • must be supervised when driving
  • no hands-free mobile use (if under 25)
  • a requirement to undertake a minimum 100 hours of on-road driving, including a minimum of 10 hours at night under appropriate supervision (if under 25) recorded in the Queensland Learner Logbook, followed by a practical driving test
  • Must display L plates and must produce driver licence on request.

Two-stage Provisional (P1/P2) phase

P1 phase

This includes:

  • a zero blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
  • a ‘peer passenger’ restriction for drivers under 25 that limits drivers to one passenger under 21 between 11pm and 5am (with exemptions for family members)
  • a restriction on driving high-powered vehicles
  • no hands-free mobile phone use
  • late night (11pm-5am) driving restrictions may also apply to drivers if their licence is suspended or cancelled or they are serving a good driving behaviour period
  • a hazard perception test is required to progress to a P2 licence
  • must display red P plates and must produce driver licence on request.

P2 phase

This includes:

  • a zero BAC
  • a restriction on driving high-powered vehicles for drivers under 25
  • late night (11pm-5am) driving restrictions may also apply to drivers if their licence is suspended or cancelled or they are serving a good driving behaviour period
  • must display green P plates and must produce driver licence on request

Open phase

This phase occurs after successfully completing earlier phases.

Research and data

The requirement for a minimum number of supervised hours is based on European research showing drivers who attained on average 100 -120 hours of driving experience during the Learner licence phase were significantly less likely to be involved in a crash.

The requirement for 100 hours of supervised on-road driving practice in Queensland is comparable to the requirements in NSW (120 hours), SA (75 hours) and VIC (120 hours).

Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) undertook an evaluation of the Queensland GLS in 2014.

It found that implementation of the GLS was associated with a 31 percent reduction in fatal crashes involving novice drivers.

Now that more crash data is available, TMR has commissioned a follow-up evaluation, which is expected to conclude in mid-2016.

The Road Safety Unit in the Department of Transport and Main Roads will use the findings to investigate enhancements to the GLS to further improve safety for our young drivers.

Mike Stapleton
Deputy Director General, Customer Services, Safety and Regulation
Department of Transport and Main Roads