P-plate drivers getting caught out every day by 'one of the craziest road rules'

Did you know it was illegal to do this behind the wheel?

A P-plate on a car (left) and Jahan Kalantar (right).
The Aussie lawyer says that the road rule catches out a lot of young drivers. Source: Getty/TikTok/@Jahankalantarofficial

An Aussie lawyer has struck out at one of the nation's most "unfair" road rules that targets P platers, saying it leads to “catastrophic consequences”. “The purpose of the road laws, of course, is to protect people and make sure that the roads are safe, but sometimes they can go a little bit too far,” Jahan Kalantar told Yahoo News Australia.

The Sydney based lawyer, who is a managing partner of Executive Law Group, said it is one of Australia's "craziest road rules".

He said each and every week he’s receiving calls from almost a dozen panicked drivers caught out for listening to music or using Google Maps while behind the wheel, because they didn’t know it was illegal.

“I think a majority of young drivers are not informed that they cannot use their phones in any way, shape or form, even as a driving aid,” Kalantar explained.

“I can tell you that I see it in volume, with three to 10 people in a week, and I think that there needs to be more knowledge and awareness of this.”

According to the NSW Department of Transport, drivers who hold a Learner, P1 or P2 licence must not use a mobile phone while driving in any form, even if their mobile is in a phone holder or connected to their car through Bluetooth or ApplePlay.

This doesn’t just include sending a text, making a call, using social media and taking a photo, but listening to music and using any map or navigation system.

Which Kalantar said is confusing. “So it's perfectly okay to have a GPS unit in your car but not okay to use your phone for that functionality?” the lawyer asked. “It just doesn't make a lot of sense.”

In NSW there is a two tiered system for those on their provisional licence. If you’re on your P2 licence —your green Ps — you have seven demerit points, so using a mobile phone, which is a penalty of five points, would leave you with two left.

Woman's hand reaching for mobile phone in a hands-free holder.
Jahan Kalantar said many young people are being caught out because they didn't know they couldn't use their mobile's maps system. Source: Getty

While if you’re on your P1 licence — your red Ps — you only have four points so you would lose your licence for three months immediately. Plus there is the fine for anyone using a mobile behind the wheel which is $387 or $514 in a school zone.

“The penalty is devastating for young people,” Kalantar said, “particularly those who rely on their licence as a form of income or to get to uni or training. It's full on.”

While around the country, the same ban exists for P plate drivers in Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT, with provisional licence holders not allowed to use their mobiles behind the wheel, even if they have hands-free, Bluetooth or loudspeaker options.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Peter Khoury from the NRMA denied that the rule was unfair.

“It can be a complicated policy, but we understand why these specific restrictions would be applied to young drivers as they’re still building their experience on the roads, and the last thing we want is for them to be distracted with their phones,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

He said the rule was designed to make sure that there’s a “complete disconnect” between young people behind the wheel and their mobile phone. “There’s enough distractions in the car without mobile phones and we just want to make sure that they're focused on what's in front of them,” Koury explained.

“And the penalties are really strict because what legislators are trying to do is get in early and stop this from being a risk at the same level that drink driving is or speeding is.”

A person using their mobile while driving.
Peter Khoury from the NRMA argues that young drivers should have a good understanding of the road rules. Source: NSW Department of Transport

While Koury argued that there was no excuse for P-platers not knowing the rules.

“They're probably more exposed to the intricacies of the road rules then the rest of us because they would have just been through the whole licencing scheme, which you think would all be still very much fresh in their mind,” he explained.

“And certainly something that we teach young people as they're getting their licence is around what they can and can't do.”

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