The Ridiculousness of Probationary Driving in Australia

Why is it all so confusing?

5w ago

It's common practice in most countries to have a probationary license system of a kind before you get to fully enjoy the freedom and comfort of just you and your car. In Australia, it's no different.

When you Turn 16, you are able to obtain your learners permit or your "L's". Once you have obtained 120 hours (including 20 night hours) in a range of different driving environments accompanied by a fully licensed adult and have turned 18, you can apply for your probationary license or "P's" as they are more commonly known as.

Once you have your P-plates, you are subjected to a new more relaxed set of rules... Or are you?

Confusingly, only a few regulations apply across all states, these are:

• Drivers with a provisional license are not permitted to have any alcohol or drugs in their system while operating a car.

• Provisional drivers may not use a mobile phone or device of any kind when behind the wheel.

• Of course, seat belt use is mandatory, as is displaying a P-plate whilst you’re a provisionary driver

Pretty standard stuff. But this is where it gets confusing.

See, Australia - like America - is a country composed of states, however instead of having 50 of them, we have just 6 (and 3 territories but we'll only focus on NT and ACT). Each of these states has a different set of rules as to which cars you can and can't drive, and the parameters around that.


In Victoria, there is a two stage provisional process, P1 & P2 (or red and green P's to keep things simple). Red P's last for 1 year and green P's last for 3. On your red P's, you are only allowed to carry 1 passenger between the ages of 16 and 21, unless it's an immediate family member. Oh and I forgot to mention the most important rule: You're not allowed to tow anything... (Yeah I don't know why either)

Thankfully after the 12 month red P period, the passenger rule and towing rule is lifted, however you are still restricted on which cars you can drive. All P-platers aren't allowed to drive V8's... except for the ones the government say you can. Your vehicle must be less than 130kw per tonne, and you are allowed to drive a car with a V8, supercharger or turbocharger, so long as it was built in or after 2010.

New South Wales

NSW is the most restrictive on P-plate drivers. Just see for yourself:

• P1 license holders must not exceed 90 km/h (even on roads with a 100km/h speed limit).

• With a P1 license, maximum towing allowed is 250kg . - more so than Victoria's 0.

• If the P1 licensee is under 25, only one passenger under the age of 21 is allowed between 11pm and 5am

• P1 licenses in NSW are only permitted up to four demerit points

• P-platers under 21 years of age cannot operate a high-powered car

• After 12 months, P1 drivers graduate to P2

• P2 license holders see their speed limit increased to 100km/h and up to seven demerits are allowed

Those rules seem either overly specific or stupidly ambiguous. By "high powered car" do they mean Bugatti Chiron or turbo'd Civic?


The rules here aren't overly difficult, as you would expect from a very laid back part of the country. It goes as follows:

A P1 provisional license allows for only one passenger under the age of 21 who is not an immediate family member between 11 pm and 5 am. After 12 months, a P1 license can be upgraded to a P2 license, lifting that restriction. If you're under 25, you'll need to stay on your P2 license for 2 years.

P1 license holders are not allowed to use hands-free mobile kits, wireless handsets or loudspeaker functions with their mobile phones. P2 holders, however, can.

High-powered vehicle restrictions apply to P1 and P2 licenses in QLD. A high-powered vehicle is a car that has been manufactured on or after January 1st 2010 and has a power-to-weight ratio of more than 130kW/t (kilowatts per ton). If the car was made before that date, it's considered high-powered if it has 8 or more cylinders, has a turbocharged or supercharged engine that isn't diesel, has an engine power output of more than 210kW, or is a rotary engine with a capacity of 1146cc.

Bit less confusing. 10/10 Queensland.

South Australia

Back to ridiculously harsh again.

The following P1 license conditions will result in losing your license:

• Exceeding the speed limit by 10km/h

• Accumulate four or more demerit points during the provisional license period

• Driving over 100 km/h, even if the speed limit exceeds 100km/h

Some other strangely strict rules in SA include:

• You cannot drive between 12am and 5am (applicable to P1 drivers under the age of 25)

• If you're under the age of 25, no more than one passenger aged 16-20 (excluding immediate family members)

• You can't use any mobile function while driving, including Bluetooth, loud speaker mode or hands-free

Western Australia

Head out west to WA and the rules are different again. P1 drivers cannot operate a car between midnight and 5 am unless an exemption is granted for work or study. After six months, P1 licensees graduate to P2, and the curfew is lifted. Again, four demerits are allowed.


P1 drivers in Tasmania are restricted to a measly 80 km/h or less. After one year with a P1 permit, the speed limit is lifted when a P2 license is granted. No car class restrictions here and P-platers are can only receive four demerit points before losing their license.

Northern Territory

P-platers in the NT aren’t restricted in their class of cars at all. While they can drive a performance car if they wish, they cannot exceed 100 km/h, even if the sign-posted limit is higher. The two-stage provisional license is NOT in effect here, but you'll have your provisional license for two years. Provisional drivers are subject to a points action trigger of 5 demerit points in one year.

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT is the least restrictive zone for P-platers. There’s only one level of provisional license and it’s straightforward to understand. Apart from the nationwide regulations, ACT P-plate holders, who must be at least 17 years old and have held a learner license for a minimum of 6 months, can only receive four demerits for infractions while a full license allows for 12 demerits. Provisional licenses in the ACT are issued for three years, and there aren’t any speed restrictions imposed (aside from those signed). P-platers can also drive any type of car they wish. For the 12 months, Provisional license holders are not allowed to tow another vehicle, unless it is a trailer with a GVM of 750kg or less. In addition, provisional drivers over the age of 26 only need to display the P-plate for six months.


This information makes me wonder what car I would drive if I wasn't restricted by Victorian regulations.

Enough about me. I want to know which state you would most want to drive in, and if you're Australian, which state are you from?

Join In

Comments (36)

  • Looking back, me being let loose on public roads in a ‘75 V8 Impala at age 16 was probably not a great idea. But hey, that’s the good ole US of A!

      1 month ago
  • Those rules are so disjointed its almost funny...

    In the UK the only thing stopping you is your wallet (or how much of it you are willing to let insurers take)

    And what they'll insure is not consistent, but it is possible, hence I am able to drive the Rover

      1 month ago
    • I totally agree, I drive a Corsa 1.2 and the insurance is over £8000 on a single car policy. Lucky under the family policy it drops to £1650. I had a 1990 JDM mx5 for a while, it was highly modified and had over triple the bhp of the Corsa with 160 at...

      Read more
        1 month ago
    • That is crazy, I insured my Volvo 480ES (1.7 N/A) for £1800 on a single car policy, the Rover is named driver policy which I can get away with as I have another car in my name, it really is odd

        1 month ago
  • Well you voted these nannying c***s into office, so now enjoy!

      1 month ago
  • I always felt hard done by in the U.K. now I’m glad I don’t have to put up with the rules in Australia. Insurance is ludicrous in the U.K. they’re all out to make a quick buck from young people who are desperate to get their own independence. What I’d like to know is, if you drive from one state to another do you abide by the rules of the state your car and license is registered in or do you have to follow the rules of the state you are currently driving in? Because that would make everything so complicated

      1 month ago
    • I know when I ventured into NSW from the ACT on my P-plates, I went by my ACT licence - 100 km/h all the way then. I think that’s how it works...

        1 month ago
  • Well... I for sure know I'm not living in Australia seeing how confusing this is... In spain we simply hand over the L as soon they pass the Test, drive a bit for a year or two and then you can take off the green L from your car and be like everybody else, no restrictions but alcohol ones.

      1 month ago