Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The case for reform in Australian public policy – NSW driving licenses

Continuing my analysis of the impact of unforeseen side effects on public policy, this post looks at the continuing impact of the NSW decision to increase the hours required to get a driving license from 50 to 120.

Again, this was one of those decisions that seemed like a good idea at the time. It also attracted public support because it was seen as a way of reducing the road toll on young drivers.

I first wrote on this issue back in May 2008 in Saturday Morning Musings - the burden of compliance, using it to illustrate a broader point. Leaving aside social and equity issues, my concerns were cost (at least $350 million annually to NSW parents or trainee drivers on my rough back-of-envelope calculations) compared to benefits. I wondered whether the same objective might not be achieved in better ways.

Twelve months later in The continuing insanity of NSW's approach to driving licenses I complained of the way that the extra hours were creating a growing social inequity (poor people could not afford the costs involved), together with a growing tendency of young people to falsify their hours.

All the anecdotal evidence is that both trends have continued.A further trend has also emerged.

Any trainer knows that concentrated practice is required to obtain a skill. The problem with the new rules on NSW driver licenses is that the sheer length of time involved means that kids are doing it in bits with gaps. Those sometimes lengthy gaps reduce the value of the practice.


The NSW Government has finally bowed to the inevitable and introduced two changes to the NSW driving license system.

Drivers over 25 will no longer need to keep log books. The practical effect is that the 120 hours no longer applies to them.

For drivers under 25, every hour of practice with a licensed driving instructor will now count as three up to a limit of ten hours. This means that middle class kids with access to a bit of money will now need to do only 100 hours, including ten hours of licensed instruction, to get to 120 hours.

Kids who do not have access to the money are still stuck with 120 hours. Mind you, if they wait until they are 25, then they do not need any hours at all.    

Note to readers:

This is one of a month long series on the need for reform in Australia's approach to public policy and administration.

Consider yourself the judge or jury as I present the evidence. Most posts will be short, introductions to other writing. My argument is that we now have a systemic pattern of failure. You have to decide whether or not I am right and, if so, what you think that we should do about it.

If you want to follow the whole series through, you can click reforming Australian public policy on the side bar. This will bring the whole series up. Alternatively, if you want to follow the whole series through from the first post, click here and then click next at the end of each post.

No comments: