Getting your P plates is like getting your freedom licence for a lot of Australian young people. However, some major restrictions still apply in some states when it comes to speed limits.

  • Provisional licence holders have restrictions in some jurisdictions
  • Other regions allow P platers to drive at the maximum signposted limit
  • There may be differences between P1 and P2 licence holders

Being able to drive anywhere you want without having a parent, guardian or instructor accompany you is perhaps one of the greatest and most unnerving things a 17-year-old can go through.

But with great freedom comes great responsibility, and provisional drivers may be tempted to drive at speeds greater than their licence (or the law) says they should.

Some jurisdictions across Australia have strict speed limits that apply to P plate drivers, while others allow them to drive at the maximum speed limit that all light vehicles can travel.

If you’re not aware, provisional licence-holders have some restrictions that are applied nationwide. They include: a zero-tolerance limit for alcohol and drugs; displaying a P plate (see our story about where P plates must be positioned); and zero-tolerance for mobile phone  use while driving. 

Here’s a rundown of the laws for provisional licence holders across the states and territories in Australia:

New South Wales: P1 licence – 90km/h, P2 licence – 100km/h: New South Wales has some of the strictest rules for speed enforcement for provisional drivers. Those who hold their P1 (red P plate) licence are limited to 90km/h, which is the same as what an L-plater is allowed to drive. And those with their green Ps (P2 licence) can drive at a maximum of 100km/h.

As for the duration that drivers must hold each of those licences, the P1 licence is required for a minimum of 12 months, while you must hold your P2 licence for 24 months before you can get your full licence.

Victoria: P1 and P2 licence – no limit: Victoria’s graduated licencing system requires P1 (red P plate) licence holders to complete 12 months of driving before they can then get their P2 (green P plate) licence, which they must hold for a further three years. It is the longest provisional licencing scheme in Australia.

However, it is also among the most lenient, with no specific speed limitations for red or green P platers. Just watch out for those speed cameras, as they’re everywhere, and they’re not signposted like in other states.

ACT: P1 and P2 licence – no limit: In the ACT there is a two-stage provisional licence setup, with the first being P1, or red P plates for the first 12 months, followed by two years of green P plates (P2). If you get your P plates at the age of 25 or older, you won’t have to be a red P-plater at all.

No matter what colour your plates are, though, the ACT doesn’t impose any speed restrictions for provisional drivers, so they are free to drive to the maximum signposted limit in the ACT. However, just like with L-platers, P-platers from the landlocked-by-NSW area will need to note that they must abide by the laws of their surrounding state, meaning P1 limited to 90km/h and P2 limited to 100km/h. 

Northern Territory: Provisional licence – 100km/h: The Northern Territory has the nation’s highest speed limits at 130km/h for some sections of the main highways, but P platers are not allowed to go that fast – those with provisional licences are limited to 100km/h across the Territory.

In the NT there isn’t a staged provisional licence program. P-platers get red Ps, and that’s what they hang on to until they are fully licenced. The duration of the P-plate licence depends on the person’s age – those under 25 years old must hold their Ps for at least two years, while those 25 or older must have their Ps for at least one year. 

Queensland: P1 and P2 licence – no limit: Queensland doesn’t impose speed restrictions on P1 (red P) or P2 (green P) drivers. P2 licence holders no longer have passenger restrictions, and can use a phone (handsfree!) while driving.

Drivers must hold their P1 licence for at least 12 months before they can graduate to a P2 licence, which must be held for two years for those under issued a P2 licence while less than 25 years of age. For those aged 24 years and older, the P2 duration will be 12 months.

South Australia: P1 and P2 licence – 100km/h: South Australia has a slightly different approach than other states, with both P1 and P2 licence holders allowed to drive up to 100km/h.

Interestingly, the P1 licence holder must display red P plates on their car, and they have to hold their P1 licence for 12 months. P2 licence holders have a 24-month licence period, but they do not have to display their P plates anymore. 

Western Australia: Provisional licence – no limit: P platers in Western Australia are “not restricted to any particular speed and can drive up to the posted speed limit on any gazetted road in WA”.

In WA, “novice drivers” on their provisional licence will start off with red P plates, which last for six months and include som restrictions for nighttime driving, and then progress to green P plates thereager. You’ll start off with red P plates and transfer to ‘green Ps’ after six months. Night time driving restrictions apply to the first six months, and you must then hold your green P licence for 18 months or until you turn 19, whichever period is longer.

Tasmania: P1 licence – 100km/h; P2 licence – no limit: Seems like a pretty progressive approach from Tasmania, where those drivers who hold a P1 (red P plate) licence can drive up to 100km/h, and those with their green Ps (P2) are allowed to drive at whatever the maximum signposted limit is.

Tassie P1 licence holders must have their red Ps for 12 months. P2 drivers are allowed to use a phone in handsfree or speaker mode, and must hold their green Ps for different amounts of time depending on their age: “If you are under 23 when you get your P2 licence, you will need to hold the licence for 2 years; if you are 23 or older but under 25, you will need to hold the licence for 12 months or until you turn 25. The time that applies will be whichever of these is longer. If you are 25 or older, you will need to hold the licence for 12 months.”

Tasmania also has a nice reward for those who don’t get in trouble on their P1 and P2 licences – the state will provide “eligible drivers and riders with a three-year full licence that is valued at up to $75.75.”

Not intended as legal advice. Check with the relevant roads authority in your state or territory.

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Matt Campbell
Matt Campbell is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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