Getting your P plates represents a new level of independence and freedom for many young people. But this rite of passage can also mean greater responsibility – especially when it comes to understanding the rules and limitations for P plate drivers. Since each state has its own set of road rules, we’ve written this guide with a specific focus on P plate restrictions in NSW.
Below, we break down rules for NSW drivers with their red or green P plates, to help give you a better understanding of what you can and can’t do at this stage of your driving journey.
What’s the rationale behind P plate restrictions in NSW?
Despite only representing around 14% of all licence holders, drivers under 26 represented almost a quarter of NSW road fatalities in 2021, according to data from Transport for NSW.1
As part of the Australian Government’s Growing Up in Australia study, it was reported in 2018 that close to 80% of P-platers had engaged in some form of risky driving on at least one of their 10 most recent trips.2
This overrepresentation of young and inexperienced drivers in crash statistics might go some way towards explaining why there are extra rules in place for P plate drivers.
Provisional licences in NSW
In NSW, a provisional P1 licence (or red Ps) is the next step after a learner licence and the first licence that allows you to drive a vehicle without a supervisor.3
To apply for red P plates, drivers must first pass both the Hazard Perception Test (HPT)4 and the Driving Test.5
After a driver has been on their red Ps for at least 12 months, they can apply for their green Ps (a provisional P2 licence), which they need to hold for at least two years before they can upgrade to a full licence.6
What are the NSW P plate restrictions?
A number of extra rules apply during both the P1 and P2 licence stages, including vehicle speed restrictions, limitations on the number of passengers P1 drivers can carry, as well as limitations on the type of car a P-plater is allowed to drive.
Speed limits for P plate drivers
P1 and P2 drivers in NSW have to adhere to different speed limits than drivers who have their full licence.7
- P1 drivers must not drive faster than 90km/h
- P2 drivers are restricted to 100km/h
- Provisional drivers who speed by more than 30km/h over the limit face immediate suspension and licence confiscation by police
- P1 drivers caught speeding will exceed their demerit point limit and lose their licence for at least three months
- P2 drivers will lose their licence for at least three months if they’re penalised twice for speeding7
How to display your P plates
P1 and P2 licence holders must display the correct P plates clearly on the front and back of the vehicle, on the outside. If towing a trailer (P1 licence holders can only tow up to 250kg of unloaded weight), a P plate must be on the back of the trailer.3,6
Mobile phone use for P-platers
Provisional drivers must not use a mobile phone at all while driving, including a phone in hands-free mode and/or with the loudspeaker on.7 The only instances when a P plate driver can legally use their phone are to show their digital driver licence to police, and to use the wallet functions (when stopped, and only on a road-related area such as in a car park, driveway or drive-through).7
Zero blood alcohol for P plate drivers
It should come as no surprise that all provisional drivers must have a zero blood alcohol concentration at all times when driving.7 Transport for NSW additionally cautions provisional licence holders to be careful the morning after a big night out, as alcohol might still be present in their system.7
What are the specific red P plate rules in NSW?
One of the restrictions specific to young drivers on their red P plates in NSW is the peer passenger restriction.3 This restriction states that if you’re on your P1 licence and under 25, you must not drive with more than one passenger who is under 21 between 11pm and 5am.3
Additionally, P1 licence holders must not:3
- Drive a high-performance vehicle (see details below)
- Supervise a learner driver3
If you’re a P1 driver who passed your driving test in an automatic vehicle (including vehicles with an automatic clutch actuator), you can only drive automatics – though you may drive a manual vehicle if you're being supervised by a person with an unrestricted (full) licence.7 This condition remains until a P1 licence holder driver is issued with a P2 or unrestricted licence.7
What are the specific green P plate rules in NSW?
Once a provisional licence holder moves to their P2 or green P plates, some restrictions – such as the peer passenger restriction – are lifted. The exception to this is if a P2 driver has been issued with a new licence after a period of being disqualified from driving. In that case, they’re not allowed to drive with more than one passenger for a period of 12 months.7
However, there are still a number of rules green P-platers should be aware of.
P2 drivers must not:6
- Supervise a learner driver
- Drive a high-performance vehicle (see details below)6
What vehicle restrictions apply to P plate drivers in NSW?
Certain high-performance vehicles are banned for both P1 and P2 drivers in NSW. This includes:7
- Cars that have a power to tare mass ratio of greater than 130kW per tonne
- Cars with modified engines that need to be approved by an engineer
- Other vehicles classified as high performance7
If you’re insuring a younger driver for a modified car, it might be a good idea to check whether they can legally drive it. To see if your vehicle complies, see Transport for NSW’s searchable database, which lists approved vehicles for P1 and P2 drivers.8
Are P-platers covered by insurance?
If you’re a provisional driver who regularly drives a car owned by a friend or family member, you’ll most likely need to be covered under that person’s car insurance. However, this could impact the cost of the car insurance premium, so it might be a good idea to check with your insurance provider before you get behind the wheel.
If you’re a NSW P-plater driving your own car, you’re required to have a Green Slip9. Here at Youi, we offer NSW CTP Green Slip insurance, so consider taking a look to see if it could suit you.
And no matter what level of licence you’re on, it could be a good idea to look around for cover that’s suited to you and your situation. Consider starting a quote with Youi for car insurance that’s a bit more you-shaped.
Note: Information in this article is relevant as of November 2023 and by its nature will change over time. Check relevant Government websites for updates if this information is important to you.
1 Source: NSW Government – Young drivers, 12 October 2023
2 Source: Growing Up in Australia – Chapter 6: Risky driving among Australian teens, 2018
3 Source: NSW Government – Provisional P1 licence
4 Source: NSW Government – Hazard Perception Test (HPT)
5 Source: NSW Government – The Driving Test
6 Source: NSW Government – Provisional P2 licence
7 Source: NSW Government – P1 & P2 drivers
8 Source: NSW Government – Vehicle restrictions
9 Source: NSW Government – What is a Green Slip?