TOUGHER DRIVING TESTS FOR TEENS
by Jane Gardner
A TOUGHER new driving test to get a P-plate licence was welcomed by Goonellabah learner driver Matt Wingfield yesterday.
Like most Kadina High School kids, 16-year-old Matt was shaken by the death of his friend Bryce Wells and three other Lismore teens last October in a P-plate car accident.
He says the Road and Traffic Authority's more difficult P-plate test, which will be trialled late this year, is a positive step in keeping his peers safe.
"It should be harder so not just anyone can get a licence," he said. "Drivers need to be more aware of how dangerous it is.
I've seen the crashes on the news, and stuff like that has made me think."
The new test will be tougher, much longer and take place on busier roads.
It will go for more than 30 minutes, compared with 18 minutes under current conditions.
The RTA claims it will focus much more on safety, making sure new drivers are able to identify and avoid dangerous situations on the road.
The new test will become compulsory early next year. Meanwhile, other changes to learners' licences after July will mean they will need to have 120 driving hours before they can take a test, including 20 hours of night driving.
The changed driving test conditions were announced by Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal on Saturday to quash bad publicity alleging the State Government planned to 'dumb down' the licensing requirements.
Mr Roozendaal said he did not care if more learner drivers failed under the new rules.
"Learner drivers who fail their tests are clearly not ready to be on our roads," he said.
That sentiment is shared by Goonellabah P-plate reform campaigner and Bryce Wells' father, Rob Wells, who has been highly critical of the State Government's attitude to driving restrictions on young drivers in the past.
"It's a good start," he said. "Those tests put more emphasis on three-point turns than how kids handle cars.
"That licence is not a right. These kids need to know that it doesn't just come out of a Kellogg's Cornflake packet but it's fair dinkum stuff."
However, the laws needed to go a lot further than just tougher tests and increased driving hours, he said.
"Now we need to get rid of all distractions, like passengers, for the first year of driving," he said. Matt has been on his learner's permit 10 months and will do the test on July 14.