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L-Plate rules and restrictions for learner drivers in Australia

It’s funny how well we all tend to remember the golden glory of getting our driver’s licences, but the day we got our Learner’s permits, and stuck that slightly embarrassing L-plate on the back of a car for the first time, seems more vague. 

The learning part of getting your driver’s licence is the hard part, of course, while achieving the goal feels like one of the biggest victories of your youth.

Australian driving licences have been a requirement ever since the first motor car was driven in Adelaide on 10 September 1906, but the Aussie rite of passage that is going for your L plates has only been a thing since 1952. 

The Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system we all know and love - where we progress from a Learner’s permit to a Provisional license and then finally a full driver’s licence - was developed in Australia in the mid-1960s. 

Our cousins across the pond in New Zealand introduced a GDL in the 1980s that heavily influenced the one implemented in North America in the late ’80s, with the system now established in a range of countries throughout Asia, Africa and Europe. 

Over the decades each Australian state and territory has developed its own laws and L platers rules, but the general premise is the same: learners are required to pass a road-rules test before they get behind the wheel to learn how to drive next to a person holding a full driver’s licence. 

Sixteen is the age when Australians can acquire their driving Learner’s licence, although residents of the ACT get an early mark by being eligible at 15 years and nine months. 

As for the specifics of learner driver restrictions including what is the maximum speed for learner drivers, how many passengers you can have on L plates, where to put L plates on a car in Australia and can you tow a trailer on L plates, it’s best to take a look at the requirements of each state and territory.

  • Across-the board-requirements 
  • Prove your identity
  • Pass a road rules test, which varies between each state and territory 
  • Pass an eyesight test and be medically fit to drive
  • Pay the licence and test fees

Obey special rules, that include only driving cars and not larger vehicles, being supervised at all times by the holder of a full licence seated next to you, having L plates clearly displayed on front and rear of your car, not having any alcohol or drugs in your system, carrying your Learner’s permit with you at all times, not using a mobile phone (including hands-free devices or loud speaker) while driving, or while your vehicle is stopped but not parked, don’t supervise another learner driver and only ever carry as many passengers as the car is fitted out for. 

If you’re wondering can a learner driver drive a V8, the answer is yes - you can drive whatever car your instructor teaches you in, granted it’s not a larger vehicle. 

L plate rules in NSW 

Pass a a computer-based Driver Knowledge Test (DKT) that consists of 45 questions. You can study by reading a road user’s handbook and an RMS-provided copy of the entire DKT question bank, from which your selection of questions will be drawn. If you fail the test you’ll need to pay the test fee and take it again a minimum of 24 hours later.

The speed limit for L platers in NSW is 90km/h.

Don’t tow another vehicle.

If in Sydney, you’re also not allowed drive in Parramatta Park or Centennial Park. 

You need to log 120 hours of driving in a log book, including 20 hours of night driving. Although optional, participating in a Safer Drivers Course will count for 20 hours in your log book. In NSW, structured lessons with a licensed driving instructor will also give you a bonus of “3-for-1” (three hours of normal driving for every one with an instructor in log book hours. If you’re under 25 and live in a remote area in NSW, you may be eligible to apply for your P1 licence after logging only 50 hours of driving practice.

If you reach or exceed four demerit points in a three-year period, you lose your learner’s licence. 

Learners must hold a learner’s licence for at least 12 months before a provisional P1 licence is issued.

Learner drivers 25-years-old and over are not required to complete a learner driver log book and are exempt from the twelve-month tenure.

L plate rules in VIC

Pass a computer-based test that has 32 questions. To study, read the Road to Solo Driving handbook on which the test is based, and also partake in an online practice test. 

Before you can go for your Ps, you’ll need to have your Learner’s permit for a minimum continuous period of time that will depend on your age. 

No maximum speed limit other than the set speed limit. 

Demerit points: No more than 11 demerit points within any three-year period, and no more than four demerit points within any 12-month period.

L plate rules in QLD

Their test is either an at-home four-to-six hour online test called PrepL, or a written test. You can study for the written test with the guide Your Keys to Driving in Queensland, which has information on Queensland road rules, driver licensing requirements and sample test questions.There’s also an online practice test. 

Record 100 hours of supervised driving in your Learner Logbook, including 10 hours of night driving.

A logbook exemption can be applied for, meaning the learner will not need to submit a logbook with 100 hours of driving, but will need to hold a Learner licence for a minimum of two years before going for the provisional licence.

Over-25 learner drivers in QLD are not required to complete a set number of supervised driving hours but their Learner licence must be held for a minimum of 12 months before they can attempt a practical driving test.

If you get four or more demerit points in a 12 month period, you will be suspended from driving for three months.

No maximum speed limit other than the set speed limit on any given road.

L plate rules in the ACT

Successfully complete a Pre-learner Licence course, including passing an ACT Road Rules-based computerised knowledge test. The Pre-learner Licence course is provided by most ACT schools free of charge as part of the Year 10 curriculum. It is also available from various training providers within the ACT. A practice knowledge assessment is also available online. 

Don’t tow a trailer exceeding 750kg GVM.

If you are under 25 when you are issued with your Learner’s licence you must undertake a minimum of 100 supervised driving hours (50 if you’re over 25), including a minimum of 10 hours at night (five if you’re over 25).

L plate rules in the Northern Territory 

To get your P plates, you must hold your Learner driver licence continuously for at least six months. 

If your Learner licence is suspended, disqualified, or expires, you must wait six continuous months from when it is reactivated before you can take your practical test or upgrade to a Provisional licence.

Those pursuing their Learner’s licence can learn the road rules in the NT Road User's Handbook or take an online practice driver knowledge test before attempting a computer-based DKT consisting of 30 multiple choice questions.

People can also participate in DriveSafe NT, a driver education training and licensing program for all motorists in Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine and Alice Springs.

You cannot exceed 80km/h (quite incredible, considering the speed differences this will create between those doing the NT’s limit of 130km/h and anyone with L plates. Moving chicane, anyone?)

Your Learner or Provisional licence will be suspended if you reach five or more demerit points in any 12 month period, or 12 demerit points in any three-year period.

L plate rules in SA

You must pass a Theory Test on road rules and road safety. Read The Driver's Handbook to learn the road rules and there’s an option to practice the theory test online. 

You'll need to complete at least 75 hours of supervised driving including a minimum 15 hours at night.

You must not exceed the 100km/h speed limit at any time.

Learner drivers are permitted to tow a single trailer.

You must not accumulate four or more demerit points during the learner's permit period.

L plate rules in Tasmania

Successfully complete a DKT regarding Tasmanian road rules.

Do not exceed a speed limit of 90km/h.

Learners will need to log 80 logbook hours, including 15 hours at night.

You will need to hold the licence for a minimum of 12 continuous months.

Reaching four demerit points will result in a suspension of your Learner’s licence. 

L plate rules in WA

You need to sit the Learner’s permit Computerised Theory Test (CTT) and must pass the test before driving. The theory test is a knowledge-based assessment of your understanding of the WA road rules that can be studied in The Drive Safe and Ride Safe handbooks.

If you fail you cannot attempt the test again on the same day - you’ll need to come back another day, pay the CTT fee, and bring your required documents again.

Learner drivers under the age of 25 must complete a minimum 50 supervised driving hours to be eligible for a WA driver's licence. Five of those hours must be completed at night. Those over 25 are exempt from the 50 hours.

You may tow a trailer or caravan whilst undertaking driving lessons with an authorised supervisor.

You must not exceed a speed limit of 100 km/h.

You are not allowed to drive within the boundaries of Kings Park or wherever signs prohibit learner drivers.

If four or more demerit points are recorded against a person, they will be disqualified for at least three months and any driver's licence held will be cancelled.

Stephen Corby
Contributing Journalist
Stephen Corby stumbled into writing about cars after being knocked off the motorcycle he’d been writing about by a mob of angry and malicious kangaroos. Or that’s what he says,...
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