Up to 144,000 people on learner or restricted driver's licences will get a two-year reprieve from the risk of losing their licence if they don't graduate to the next level.

The Government will also look at additional programmes to help disadvantaged drivers to access the next licence stage, and have more driver training in schools.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter announced changes to the driver licensing regime today. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter announced changes to the driver licensing regime today. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The moves, announced today by Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter, are a response to a 2014 law change that brought in a five-year time limit on learner and restricted licences for cars and motorcycles.

It was meant to be an incentive for drivers to graduate to a full licence, which would also make them safer drivers.

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But Genter said that it appeared to have failed - only 12 per cent of those drivers had booked in a test to move to the next licence.

All learner and restricted licences set to expire by December 2021 - which affects about 144,000 people - will be given a two-extension so those drivers will not lose their licences.

There were many reasons why people did not move on to the next licensing stage, Genter said.

"Time-limited licences make sense in theory, but we also need to acknowledge that people without the resources, training, or support to pass these tests risk becoming unlicensed when time's up.

"Whether people are unaware their licence is time limited, or for other reasons, the current rate of learner or restricted drivers progressing to the next licence stage is too low."

The amnesty will not apply to those learner and restricted licence holders who hold a 10-year licence, have zero alcohol or alcohol interlock sentences, are suspended or disqualified from driving any time before November 30, 2019, or are aged 75 before December 1, 2021.

Genter also said the Government will review the system to look at barriers to drivers graduating to full licences, including the costs and the number of driving instructors.

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It costs $134.80 to sit a restricted driver's licence test, and $109.50 to get a full driver's licence. A holder of an expiring learner or restricted licence has to pay $65.80 to keep their licence from expiring.

The Government will also:

• Launch a campaign to encourage learners and restricted drivers to progress to the next stage.

• Look at additional programmes to help disadvantaged young drivers access licensing

• Expand access to driver training and resources in schools

• Increase the capacity of driver's licence testing sites.

"My message to licence holders in this situation is - don't wait. Book your test now. If cost is an issue talk to Work and Income about the financial assistance on offer," Genter said.

The Government says the five-year time limit on learner and restricted driver licences has not pushed people to graduate to the next licence. Photo / Jimmy Joe
The Government says the five-year time limit on learner and restricted driver licences has not pushed people to graduate to the next licence. Photo / Jimmy Joe

The 2014 changes came in to try and push holders of learner or restricted licences to move more quickly to a full licence.

At the time, a regulatory impact statement said that 37 per cent of learner's licence holders (109,102 learner's licence holders) and 32 per cent of restricted licence holders (98,838 restricted licence holders) held their licences for more than six years.

A survey from 2006 to 2008 showed 38 per cent of those on a learner's licence had not progressed to a restricted.

Of those, 27 per cent said they were "too lazy or too busy to do so", 26 per cent said they had limited access to the means to drive, and 14 per cent said it was because of costs.

The 2014 changes also include changes such as photographic ID when applying for a licence to reduce the risk of identity fraud.