Getting your P1 licence

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After you’ve had your learner licence for 10 months, you can move on to the next step – the Hazard Perception Test (HPT).

Changes to the Graduated Licensing Scheme from 20 November 2017

Changes apply to the testing you need to progress through the licensing stages. In addition, P2 drivers who get suspended for unsafe driving will end up adding an extra 6 months to the time they need to spend on their P2 licence. Find out more.

To get ready to progress to the driving test, you need to pass the Hazard Perception Test.

What is the Hazard Perception Test (HPT)?

Now that you've been practicing driving with a supervising driver for a while, you'll be well aware of the dodgy situations that can arise on the road: a pedestrian stepping out, a car cutting in front of you, or perhaps someone braking for no apparent reason.

These situations are known as 'hazards'. In other words, they are possible sources of danger that could lead to a crash. Safe drivers can spot these hazards with enough time to act and avoid a crash.

The HPT is a computer-based touch-screen test designed to measure your ability to recognise potentially dangerous situations on the road and respond appropriately. Film clips of real traffic situations are used and you're asked to touch the screen in response to what's going on. For example, you may have to slow down, overtake or turn at an intersection.

The main concepts of hazard perception include judging stopping and following distances, picking safe gaps in the traffic and scanning for hazards.

The HPT is based on thorough research – in fact the test questions focus on the five most common crash types in which P platers are involved. For more information, go to the common crashes and how to avoid them section on the Hazard Perception Test page.

Preparing for the HPT

Being able to remain calm and sensible behind the wheel is your best preparation. But you also need to get a copy of the Hazard perception handbook so you know what to expect. Hardcopies of the Hazard perception handbook are also available at registries. You can also try the interactive practice sessions for free.

You can sit the HPT at any Service NSW service centre or registry. Once again, bookings are essential. You can book online, or by calling 13 22 13, or in person at any service centre or registry.

When you go for your test you'll need a copy of your licence, proof of identity and a means to pay for your P1 licence.

The driving test

To move from your Ls to your Ps you also need to pass a practical driving test. During the test, a Service NSW testing officer will sit in the car with you as you drive. They will provide you with instructions about where to drive and ask you to perform specific driving tasks. At the end of the test, they will tell you whether you've passed or not.

A learner can have a go at the driving test after passing the HPT, logging at least 120 hours at the wheel and holding their learner licence for at least 12 months. You also have to be at least 17 years old.

All of your practice so far should have been preparing you for the driving test. Your log book contains the tasks and skills you need to complete to be confident in the big test. Of course, plenty of practice is essential. If you don't feel confident – rack up some more hours at the wheel.

Make sure you get a copy of A Guide to the Driving Test (PDF, 753Kb) which you can download online or pick one up from any registry or service centre. This useful booklet gives you info about what to expect during the test, as well as reminders about safe driving, driving skills and more.

Here are the key things to do to prepare for the big day to avoid any disappointment or delays:

Booking your test

  • If you're using a digital log book app to record your driving hours, submit your details via the app. You have to do this before you book your driving test. Also make sure you've passed your HPT before you book your driving test.
  • Book your driving test online, in person at a registry or service centre or by calling 13 22 13. This is essential.

On the day

When the day comes to take your driving test:

  • Prepare the car that you're going to be tested in: make sure it's registered, clean the windows, make sure there's enough air in the tyres, check that all your lights work, adjust the mirrors and seats and make sure there's enough petrol in the tank.
  • Make sure you've got all your paperwork - you'll need proof of your identity (your learner licence will do the trick), and if you've used a paper log book to record your driving experience, make sure you bring it with you to show the testing officer.
  • You'll also need a way to pay for your P1 licence.
  • Arrive early. If you're more than 5 minutes late you'll probably miss out.

When you've passed

After you've finished celebrating your new independence, you'll need to get your head around a few things. First, you need to realise that P1 drivers are at the highest risk of crashing. Go to the Driving section for heaps of tips on safe driving, including how to negotiate those first few weeks alone at the wheel.

Next, you need to grasp the list of special rules that P1 drivers have to follow when they're on the road. Get familiar with this list to avoid a hefty fine or losing your licence.

  • Have P plates (red P on white background) displayed clearly at the front and rear of the car when driving. You can't put them on the inside of the windows – they must be fixed to the exterior of the car. If towing a trailer, a P plate must be on the back of the trailer
  • P1 drivers will have their licence automatically suspended for at least three months for ANY speeding offence. The minimum penalty is 4 demerit points, a fine and three month licence suspension
  • ALL mobile phone use is banned for P1 drivers and provisional motorcycle or scooter riders – this applies to all use, including hands-free sets and phones set to speaker. The penalty is 3 demerit points and a fine. Double demerit points apply to mobile phone offences during all holiday periods such as long weekends, Christmas, New Year and Easter
  • P1 drivers will only be able to carry one passenger under the age of 21 between 11pm and 5am unless they apply for an exemption. The penalty is 3 demerit points and a fine
  • Not exceed zero blood alcohol concentration (in effect, this means you cannot drink before driving)
  • Observe a maximum speed limit of 90 km/h
  • Observe towing restrictions (you are only allowed to tow light trailers of up to 250 kilograms unloaded weight)
  • Not accumulate more than 3 demerit points
  • Be restricted to driving an automatic transmission car (if that is what you drove for the test)
  • Not supervise a learner driver
  • Not upgrade the licence to a higher class
  • Only carry the number of passengers that can be properly seated in seats and restrained by approved seatbelts or child restraints
  • Only drive a vehicle with a seatbelt fitted to the driver's position and wear the seatbelt
  • Not drive with any passengers in or on the boot of the vehicle.
  • Not use any type of mobile phone, including hands free, Bluetooth or an automated audio device while driving or when stationary but not parked. Touching a phone when driving (eg text or video functions) is against the law.

There are also restrictions on the kinds of vehicles that can be driven by P platers. See Prohibited vehicles for P1 drivers.

Ready to move on?

Your P1 licence is issued for 18 months. After 12 months you can progress to your P2 licence. See Getting your P2 licence.