Thursday, 23 May 2013

Learning to Drive in Victoria, Australia

Learning to drive has changed since my day...
In my day, your Father took you out for a quick lesson down a quiet country lane. This inevitably lead to a three point turn, much graunching of the gears, lots of bunny hopping, a few words like "Not like that!" A row, and then days later your Mother would book you in for a few lessons with an AA driving instructor... When you were 17 years old you took and passed your test - easy, or so I recall!



Learning to drive in Australia is not that easy ...
In Victoria, Australia (each State has different rules) learner drivers under 21 years must complete 120 hours of recorded driving alongside an experienced driver....You can start learning at 16 years, but must be 18 years to take a driving test. Yep, that is a scary loooong time for any Parent, and especially if, as in our household, it takes FOREVER to accumulate a fully completed log book...




Every time the learner drives, even for a short trip, we record it in the Log Book...
There is a Keys Please course which we attended at our school which was a useful session, and full of tips for both the Learner Driver and the Supervising Parent. The Government also subsidise a free one hour driving lesson through this program.




In other families, kids rush to get their driving independence, clambering to drive at every opportunity... However our kids seem happy to be chauffeured for as long as possible...




So we offer each of our Kids on their L's the chance to do a road trip. 'Let's drive to Adelaide' is a 9 hour favourite, and often desperate attempt to get hours in the logbook, and driving independence on the radar! ...It's not that we don't spend a lot of time in the car, we do. If they drove every time they went to sport it would be completed in a 120 hour jiffy...




In Australia, land of big distances and easy driving, only about one third of drivers are learning in a manual car. Sales of automatic cars account for over 70% of all sales... The plan was for all our kids to get a manual licence. We even bought a manual car with this in mind...
You need to take and pass a manual driving test, otherwise you can't drive a manual car. Sensible sure, but not for the feint hearted! We live in a surprisingly hilly area, only remotely noticeable once you start studying gradients of hills... You would too, once you start getting to know them by rolling backwards...




Choosing to learn manual v's automatic is a tricky decision between some would say 'properly' learning to drive, and the reality that most driving in Australia is in an automatic car...
Our Driving Instructor advises giving the learner driver up to 30 hours road experience in an automatic car, before switching to learn manual. This gives them time to learn some road sense and how to steer before adding in changing gear...
You'd be surprised how 10,000 hours behind the wheel of the PSP game Grand Theft Auto does NOT give them any skills in this department...Just like being a champion Wii Fit tennis player does not mean they can hit a ball over a net, or indeed win a single point in a real match... That's poor I say....




Once you get out on the real road in Australia, you come up against a few different things, like trams, kangaroos and road trains...




Learner drivers also have to take and pass two computer tests. One is before they are given their Learner Permit which comprises of 32 questions scoring 78% or more, and the second is a Hazards Perception Test which must be passed before they attend their driving test...




Each learner driver must study the rules of the road and pass two computer driving tests...
Then once they are 18 years old, have 120 hours of recorded driving experience, have passed the Hazard Perception test then they can take their driving test. If successful, by no means a foregone conclusion, they are passed to drive as a Provisional driver...




Hooray, we've got our P's...!
They must drive for one year with red P plates on the car, and a further two years on green P plates.
Red P platers have the following restrictions:
- Only permitted to carry one passenger aged between 16 and 21.
- No mobile phone use, hands free or hand-held, or any messaging of any kind, is allowed.
- You can't have any alcohol or illicit drugs in your body.
- You must display your P-plates at all times when driving.
- You will lose your licence if you get five demerit points in a year.




Getting from L's to P's takes time, patience and a whole load of "not like that's!!" But it is a process which hopefully has the learner drivers better prepared to safely drive on the roads...
Enjoy your learner driver! You thought it was scary sitting beside them whilst they learnt to steer, park and do a hill start in a manual car... it gets a whole lot scarier when you wave them goodbye and they drive off into the sunset solo!!
Little Wandering Wren

Location:Somewhere on the roads in Victoria!

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