P-platers would be banned from driving powerful cars under a State Government proposal which road safety experts have been commissioned to investigate.
The Curtin-Monash Accident Research Centre has been asked by the Government to study the merits of power-to-weight ratio limits on cars driven by P-platers, similar to the 125kW/tonne restriction used in Victoria between 1995 and 2007 under which novice motorists were allowed to drive some V8s but not some new family sedans.
Under such a proposal, P-platers could drive some older cars with V8 engines, such as a 1986 VL Commodore which weighs 1340kg and has 122kW of power, giving it a low power-to-weight ratio of 91kW/tonne.
But they would potentially be banned from driving, for example, a late-model V6 Toyota Aurion sedan, which has a far higher power-to-weight ratio of 130kW/tonne.
Accident centre research fellow Peter Pallamara said yesterday that its investigation, which was expected to be completed late this year, would analyse the links between high-powered cars and fatal and serious crashes involving novice drivers.
He said that they would analyse the power-to-weight system which had been used in Victoria and also study restrictions in place in Queensland and NSW, where novices are banned from driving a car with eight or more cylinders or which has a supercharged or turbocharged engine.
Police Minister Rob Johnson said the research was being done on behalf of the Road Safety Council and he would consider the findings upon completion.
Cdr Michelle Fyfe, from the police traffic division, said they supported any initiatives that "make WA roads safer, in particular those that have the potential to save the lives of young and new inexperienced drivers". Almost one in 12 fatal crashes in WA last year involved a P-plate driver, according to the Office of Road Safety.
Shadow police minister Margaret Quirk welcomed the project, saying that previous research conducted into power-to-weight ratio limits had been inconclusive. "The more evidence we have on road safety measures which could save the lives of young drivers the better," she said.
RAC head of member advocacy Matt Brown described the research as "long overdue" and said member surveys showed there was considerable public concern about allowing P-platers to drive powerful cars.
Former Peel Supt David Parkinson, who has championed the idea of power-to-weight ratio limits for novice drivers, said he was delighted it was being fully investigated.
"I regularly see P-platers in powerful cars driving in a reckless manner, which endangers themselves and other drivers, and it seems plainly obvious that they shouldn't be allowed to step straight into these sorts of cars when they first get their licence," he said.