Is NSW’s Decision To Ban Hands-Free Phones For P-Platers Clever Or Dumb?

Is NSW’s Decision To Ban Hands-Free Phones For P-Platers Clever Or Dumb?

From December 1, all provisional licence holders in NSW will be banned from using their phones in any way while driving. This includes accessing GPS applications while the phone is secured in a hands-free cradle. The state government is hoping this blanket ban will reduce fatalities among new drivers who are statistically eight times more likely to have a car accident than fully licenced drivers. Is this a win for road safety or will it just lead to even more problems?

Update: A previous version of this story claimed that phone GPS use was permitted for provisional drivers if the co-ordinates were added before taking to the road. In fact, phone GPS has been banned entirely.

In theory, banning P platers from using their phones while driving makes a lot of sense. They’re the number one distraction for most young drivers and remain a dangerous diversion even when placed in a hands-free cradle. As everyone knows, you only need to take your eyes off the road for a few seconds to cause an accident that would have otherwise been avoidable.

On the other hand, the decision to ban mobile GPS apps seems a bit stupid, particularly as it’s still legal for P platers to use dedicated GPS devices while driving. Ironically, most phones have far better touch sensitivity than GPS units, which arguably makes them less distracting and time-consuming to use on the road.

We can also see the ban causing more problems than it solves. For example, let’s say a provisional driver is looking for a turnoff on an unfamiliar freeway. Instead of receiving guided directions — which allows them to keep their full attention on the road — the driver is now required to frantically check exits. Either that, or they’ll then need to pull over in a 100km/h zone to consult their phone’s GPS. Which do you think is more likely to cause an accident?

We also suspect many young drivers will simply tuck their phones into the drink holder or somewhere else out of sight. This will make them far more dangerous to use as they’ll need to take their eyes completely off the road whenever they need to make an adjustment.

Look, we do understand why a blanket ban was implemented. If you made an exception for mobile GPS, the police would then need to identify the application a driver was using. So they just tossed it in the “too hard basket” and banned everything. Tch.

For many P platers, this is going to make driving frustrating and potentially more dangerous. Inexperienced drivers should not be pulling off the road and then attempting to merge with traffic every time they want to press a button on their phone. It’s a recipe for disaster.

We’re keen to hear what you guys think. Is NSW’s ban on all phone use for P platers a step in the right direction, or should allowances be made for legitimate uses such as GPS? Cast your vote in the poll below!

[polldaddy poll=9483197]


  • messages still pop up on the screen, and they will take their eyes off the road to read them – that’s why there needs to be a blanket ban for P platers.

  • Is it just me or do I see an opportunity here to have an approved NSW’s roads app that will lock the phone out to run in GPS mode only, preventing use of other applications?

    And a bit like how you can’t Poke and GO properly when doing more then 20Km/hr, you’ll need to pull over to use any other application on the phone, such as make and receive calls/SMS’s etc…

    • It would be a complete waste of money.
      Very few P-Platers would condone the installation of such a thing on their phone, and there’s no way to force them.

  • There is an assumption here that operating a GPS is a necessary part of driving a car – not only that, but entering information into that GPS while the car is moving is a net benefit.
    I’m all for legislating against distractions for P1 drivers – talk to a vast majority of men, most of us have at least one story where we escaped death by shear luck rather than anything else. I think many drivers are better equipped to handle distractions once they’re on their P2s, but without having more time to do some reading, I’m not sure if that’s supported by the research.
    Also, and shit it makes me feel old to say this (and I’m not even 30) – when I started driving, I had a street directory. Check where you’re going, drive nearby, pull over or into a sidestreet, check the map again, drive some more, park, check that you’re close enough to where you’re headed, we got there in the end.

    • Also, and shit it makes me feel old to say this (and I’m not even 30) – when I started driving, I had a street directory.

      Funnily enough, I’m planning a ‘skills from the 1950s that everyone should still master’ article and knowing how to read a street directory is on there.

      • Open Yellow Pages, find business name, find address, cross-reference address with street directory, find appropriate map, use grid coordinates to find street on map, plan route, drive, get lost, check street directory, repeat until at destination.
        Today: Open browser on my phone, that is also a computer, that can access the internet wirelessly; type business name in, click on the the button that says “get directions”, phone has computerised voice that gives me driving instructions. Yeah, fuck pre-’06 driving right off.

    • Man, I still use my street directory 😛

      It’s got a WAY bigger field of view than a tiny little phone screen, and is far easier to navigate (especially when you have cursed fingers that never seem to work properly with touch screens). Plus it’s so much better for getting an overview of a general area, and you don’t have to try and zoom in to have the street names pop up. So many times spent frantically poring over it in the passenger seat while sitting at the lights…

      • The problem with old street directories these days is the myriad of changes that happen between publication, as well as having a GPS that gets traffic updates.
        Looking at the Sydney CBD now, there’s tonnes of changes that your street directory wouldnt have, those changes happen daily too.
        Plus there’s the new suburbs that spring up.

        • I can’t remember if my one’s an 05 or 06 edition, but so far it hasn’t led to any troubles!

        • In Melbourne my mates been in his new house for 6 months now. Still ain’t on Google maps.

  • A regular GPS doesnt have facebook and message feeds to distract you from the GPS portion of the device.
    Phone operation should be banned Full stop for P plate drivers IMHO, they are still at the stage where knowledge gained is a drop in the bucket compared to knowledge they still need to gain so distracting them with flashy lights and sounds will only hinder their ability to learn PROPERLY.

  • To me it seems like a big problem for young drivers is that they’re not allowed to learn to how to drive while distracted. We’re in denial. Pretending that by banning common distractions we’re forcing young drivers to focus entirely on the road 100% of the time.
    The truth is that drivers are bombarded with distractions and learning to manage them is a vital part of learning to drive. Eventually a friend is going to be in the car with them or they’re going to need to pee and they need to start preparing for that the second they start learning to drive.
    The importance of learning to use a Navman goes beyond learning to push a few buttons while watching the road. It’s about having the range of experience to be able to properly judge when you need to pull over and the skills to properly split your attention when you don’t need to pull over. Whether that’s entering in an address or stopping to take a nap on a long drive.

    When viewed as a single, one off action using a calculator while driving is reckless, but when you accept that rapidly moving through environments for large segments of time is inherently distracting suddenly teaching people to operate calculators while driving is a safety precaution.
    Just talk to anyone who knows how to drive manual and they’ll tell you that their confidence, skills and ability to deal with distractions are above where they would be if they only knew how to drive automatic.

    • Completely agree, other than having self driving cars, there’s no way to not have distracted drivers. Humans aren’t made to focus that hard for that long, that’s why we go in to auto pilot. And that’s fine for familiar stretches of road where not a lot is happening. The key is knowing when to focus and when to not focus so hard. What is important to pay attention to, where the risks are and where you can zone out but still be able to react to something

  • The issue here is they need to ban all interfaces in the car. In dash GPS, Mounted GPS, mounted phones etc. Even remove the Radio as they are all distractions, for all drivers. In fact there shouldn’t be anything in the car but the instrument dash! You shouldn’t even be allowed to talk to your passengers. Infact they should also ban passengers!

    • I did like when they propsed banning hands-free that the argument was by talking you are distracted, yet you can have passesngers.
      Infact they should also ban passengers!
      Yep, they did that too. L platers are no longer allowed to have more than the instructor in the car with them. I did a significant amount of highway learning on family trips. So there goes that
      P platers arent allowed to have passengers after certain hours, so don’t think of being a p-plate designated driver at all either.

  • We also suspect many young drivers will simply tuck their phones into the drink holder or somewhere else out of sight. This will make them far more dangerous to use as they’ll need to take their eyes completely off the road whenever they need to make an adjustment.

    Except they’re not supposed to use their phones at all. So this is an offense. You’re saying discouraging them from committing one offense will make them commit another offense.

    I think the use of mobiles for GPS is no worse than using a regular GPS. I’m also not really sure why they would be touching the GPS while driving in the first place? Every system I’ve used has voice “please turn left in 300 metres” and even if you miss your street it autocorrects and tells you to turn at another street or U-turn or whatever. I’d have thought if there is any need to adjust your GPS then you should be pulling over and doing it.

    The only reason I can see behind this is that Police are catching people using their phones and they keep using the “I was adjusting the GPS” excuse to get out of fines.

    • He didn’t mean making an adjustment on the phone, he means looking at the map to see ahead and make a driving adjustment to your course (knowing where you’re going). Plenty of people don’t use voice navigation, either because it’s annoying, or other reasons, personally I find the instructions confusing and inaccurate, growing up with mini-maps displayed in open world video games, I need to see the map.

    • Yes.
      SMH – “All P-plate drivers will be banned from using their mobile phones for at least three years, even hands-free or in speaker mode”

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