Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Living in America: Getting Your Driver's License In Oz

Getting a driver's license is pretty much the same process in America as it is in Australia right? Most people would probably answer yes, but that is not the case. So just how do you get your driver's license in Australia? I'm so glad you asked!

Step 1: Getting your Learner's Permit.
The journey to getting a driver license in Australia normally starts around your 16th birthday. This is when you can go to the RTA (the Aussie equivalent to the DMV) and take the multiple choice test to get your learner's permit. The test costs $41AUD/$36USD for each time you attempt the test so it's important to read the book before you take the test. Once you pass the test you will receive a learners permit which is an additional $22AUD/$19USD. Along with your permit you will receive a few L plates which are pictured to the left. These plates need to be displayed on the front and the rear of the car so other vehicles know you are learning and can give you more room. Drivers who hold a learner's permit must be supervised by a holder of a full Australian license (whoops, I taught my sister Shellie for a few weeks and only had a Virginia license but luckily no one ever pulled us over), fill out a logbook to record the number of hours they have driven, and not exceed 80kph/50mph. There are also a couple of places in Sydney that L platers are not allowed to drive and the use of mobile phones/cell phones are forbidden when driving.

Provisional Licenses:
When I was younger and got my license you had your provisional (known as your P's) for one year and then you got your full license but now it's a little different as there are two different provisional licenses that you must hold before getting a full/unrestricted license. 

Step 2: P1 License - Finally able to drive by yourself!
Once you have held your learner's permit for at least 12 months and have logged at least 120 hours on your logbook, you can take your driving test to get your provisional license. The driving test will take you out onto the streets and will see if you are competent in obeying traffic laws, turning, parking and driving in a safe and controlled manner. Each attempt for the driving test is $51AUD/$44USD so it's important not to blow the stop sign at the exit of the RTA office or speed on the main roads unless you want to pay the fee again for a second attempt a week or so later. Once you pass the test, you pay an additional $52AUD/$45USD for your Provisional 1 license. With a Provisional 1 license you are limited to 90kph/56mph and have certain limitations like not being able to use your mobile/cell phone when driving, being restricted from driving certain high performance vehicles, and must display your P plates on the front and rear of the vehicle. You also have a reduced number of points on your license so it's important to obey the rules of the road. You are not allowed to have any alcohol in your system and must blow a 0.00 reading on a breathalyzer.

Step 3: P2 Provisional License - Two more years of P Plates.
After holding a P1 license for at least 12 months you can apply for a P2 license. In order to get a P2 license you need to complete a Hazard Perception test. Each attempt of the test is $41AUD/$36USD so once again it's important that you study the printed material prior to taking the test. The test is a computer based test that gives drivers different scenarios and questions how they would avoid a bad situation or crash. Upon successful completion of the test you get a P2 license (cost $82AUD/$72USD) which you will hold for a period of at least 2 years. Once again you are still banned from using a cell phone, having alcohol in your system or supervising a learner driver. The big perk of having P2 plates is being able to drive at up to 100kph/61mph. After holding your P2 license for two years, you can take one final test and get your full license.

Step 4: Getting your full license - FINALLY!
 After holding your P2 license for at least two years you can take the last test before being issued your full license. The test is known as a Driver Qualification Test and is a mix between the learner's knowledge test and the Hazard Perception Test. Since the questions are harder than in previous tests it is recommended that you study the materials prior to the test. The cost for the test is $41AUD/$36USD per attempt. Upon successful completion you are issued your full license and you are finally done with test and having to display L or P plates on your vehicle. The cost for your full license for 5 years is $166AUD/$145USD which isn't cheap but at least you aren't forking cash out for any more exams (at least until you are 80 or so). The restrictions that were in place (like no cell/mobile phone use, speed limit reductions, no alcohol in your system etc) are now lifted and you are subject to the regular rules of the road. 

Thoughts about the process of getting a license in Australia:
It was far easier getting a license in Australia when I was younger as we just had the Learner's permit, then a 12 month P1 license before getting a full license. The new system has drivers on their provisional license for a total of 3 years and two additional tests for drivers. Having the additional two years on your provisional license and the extra tests probably aren't a bad thing, but I do have one issue that has always been a concern to me. Restricting L and P platers to lower speed limits on highways can be dangerous as they are often driving much slower than other traffic. In areas where there are multiple lanes per direction this is not a big issue but many of the highways in Australia are just one lane in each direction and you can get stuck behind someone for many miles. This can lead to the following driver to get impatient and potentially trying to pass when it isn't safe. I believe that it would be safer to allow L and P platers to drive at the regular speed limit on open highways (if they feel comfortable doing so) to minimize the disruption to traffic flow. 

So that is the process of getting a license in Australia. It's a long journey but the end reward is worth it as you finally receive the gold coloured license. What are your thoughts on the process?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...