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!

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