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laws snare 88,000 P-platers

| 20.07,09. 01:15 AM |

laws snare 88,000 P-platers

 July 18, 2009 8:18PM

THE RTA has stripped almost 88,000 P-plate drivers of their licence for speeding and drink-driving in the two years since tough zero-tolerance laws were introduced.

Of 380,000 NSW P-plate drivers on the road over the past two years, almost one in four has had their licence cancelled or suspended as part of State Government's plans to curb the loss of teenage lives.

Drivers aged 17 to 20 were targeted by hard-line legislation in July, 2007, which ordered cancellation or suspension of licences for driving a high-powered car, carrying passengers at night, speeding or drink-driving.

Under the laws, red P-plate licences were immediately suspended for three months for driving 0-30km/h above the speed limit. Licences were automatically cancelled for drinking, street racing and driving at 30km/h above the limit, with courts determining the length of disqualification.

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Using a mobile phone and driving with more than one passenger at night costs three demerit points. Red P-plater licences are suspended once they lose four points.

Last November, 52,000 provisional licences reportedly had been suspended in the previous 16 months.

A further 36,000 P-platers have been disqualified since, but Transport Minister David Campbell said the new laws were effective and young fatalities were falling.

"Speeding is one of the biggest killers of young people on our roads and we need to get it through to young people that speeding is deadly,'' he said.

The road toll for drivers aged 17 to 20 has steadily declined since the new laws began, falling from 38 in 2006 to 20 last year.

The overall road toll, in contrast, has risen by 45 deaths this year.

NRMA Insurance spokesman John Hallal said its research has found teen drivers do not pay enough attention to emerging road conditions.

He criticised the Government's new demerit points system, introduced this month, saying it had failed to curb young drivers speeding.

"The penalties are higher and you would think that is a deterrent, but young drivers continue to bend the rules,'' he said.

"They seem to have better things to do than look at where they're going and it only takes a split second for something terrible to happen.''

RTA figures, compiled for The Sunday Telegraph, show 87,777 red and green P-plate licences were suspended over the past two years.

Federal Transport Department figures show 38 drivers aged 17 to 20 were killed on NSW roads in 2006. Since the new laws, that number has dropped by 48 per cent, with 20 young drivers killed in 2008 and 12 driver fatalities this year.

Opposition roads spokesman Andrew Stoner said young drivers were still over-represented in fatal crashes and needed to be aware of risks before being licensed.

"The Rees government must concede the road toll among young drivers is still far too high,'' he said.

"There should be a focus on young drivers before they get behind the wheel, including more driver education at school.''

NRMA Insurance found young drivers were often distracted while driving. A survey of 1000 drivers found 70 per cent of 17- to 29-year-olds ate or drank behind the wheel, 38 per cent sent texts and almost half checked their appearance.

Police traffic commander Dave Evans said licence suspensions were ``just one measure'' to curb P-platers.

The Sunday Telegraph

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