Calls To Scrap L And P-Plate Speed Limits To Stop Tailgating, Harassment
"Getting behind the wheel can be daunting enough. Please don’t make it worse"
Learner and provisional drivers are being targeted, tailgated and harassed behind the wheel because of their speed restrictions, with calls to alter the speed limits that make young drivers the slowest on the road.
A startling 93 per cent of L-plate and P-plate drivers say they have been tailgated and 94 per cent overtaken in a dangerous manner because they were travelling at their restricted speed limit, according to new research from the NRMA released on Sunday.
The survey found almost half of the nearly 1500 members surveyed said they were "always" tailgated.
Learner and provisional drivers are also targets for aggressive behaviour from other drivers, with 65 per cent reporting being honked at or flashed with headlights, and 50 per cent yelled at and abused.
In NSW, learner drivers are restricted to 80 km/h, with P1 drivers restricted to 90 km/h, while the signposted speed limit can be as high as 110 km/h.
NRMA driving instructor Noor Sheerazi said tailgating and aggressive behaviour occurs frequently as she teaches students.
"I have spent thousands of hours with young drivers as they develop their driving skills and some of the behavior I have seen by other drivers is out-and-out road rage - and all because the student wasn't moving fast enough to their liking," she said.
"It's really dangerous."
Brian Skennar, a driving instructor at Shoalhaven Driving School south of Sydney, said he often witnesses this kind of dangerous behaviour -- both in regional NSW and inner Sydney -- with the learner drivers he tutors.
This kind of behaviour often makes young drivers unsettled and on edge, he said.
“A lot of them are more nervous. A lot of them tell me that one of the things they hate is people travelling too closely to them," he ten daily.
"What I'm seeing with them in some cases they want to speed up and get away from the driver tailgating."
Jon Geraghty, a Sydney parent who is teaching his L-plater son how to drive, said he also experienced tailgating from other drivers when teaching his son to drive -- a behaviour that often makes his son nervous.
"They've already got so much to think about. They're teenagers, concentrating, trying to watch everything, they're keeping their eyes on the road, mirrors, listen to instructions," he said.
"Anytime somebody is hassling them it makes them more nervous, more likely to panic or slow down."
Not only is the problem occurring a lot for learner and provisional drivers, but it's getting worse, Geraghty says.
"More and more people are hanging tight behind cars in general, people are leaving less distance," he said.
Speed Restrictions Should Be Abolished, 48 Per Cent Say
It's this worsening dangerous behaviour that has prompted a call for the speed limit to be scrapped.
According to the research, almost half of those surveyed were in favour of allowing L and P-plate drivers to drive at the posted road speed limit, instead of to restrictions.
The main reasons cited for the change were to enable L- and P-plate drivers to keep up with traffic (at 56 per cent) and reducing the risk of unsafe overtaking by other drivers (at 52 per cent).
Meanwhile, 52 per cent were opposed to the speed restrictions being scrapped and thought the restrictions were necessary.
But Skennar says reform isn't needed, and full-licence drivers need to instead think about 'conditional' driving -- that is, changing their speed limit according to the conditions on the road.
"What people don’t realise is they should be driving to conditions which means drop your speed if conditions are bad," he said.
"People are still going to exceed the speed limit and tailgate and put themselves into situations that are dangerous. I don’t think dropping speed limits everywhere is going to make a huge difference unless you have the presence of more police on the road."
Skennar says that when L- and P-platers are being tailgated, and cannot be overtaken by full-licence cars, they should slow down.
"Drop your speed by 10 or 15 km/h. At least that way, if something is going to happen, you know it’s going to be safer," he said.
"A touch of your brake pedal nice and early might make them realise they need to slow down."
But full-license drivers also need to be conscious of keeping a safe distance where possible, Skennar says.
"People driving 60km/h should be 51 metres behind the car in front of you. Now that doesn’t happen in the city but for obvious reasons there’s too much traffic, especially in peak hour time. You can’t keep a safe distance from other traffic but you can drive to the conditions."
Sheerazi had a simple message.
"L and P plate drivers are our most inexperienced drivers. Getting behind the wheel can be daunting enough. Please don’t make it worse by tailgating, aggressively overtaking, beeping your horn or abusing them."