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Frequently Asked Questions - Zippers Driving School

Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.s)

Driver Training & Licensing - Zipper's Driving School

Site Map HOME  »  F.A.Q.s (you are here)


Information contained on this page is presented in good faith - I try to keep it as accurate and up-to-date as possible but I cannot guarantee this - it's a lot of work, and rules & regulations change from time to time.
Make use of the list of links above to go to authoritative sites.
Opinions expressed on this site are that of the writer only and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of others.

The Answers ...

 NT licensing, registration, the demerit point system, etc 

The NT Department of Transport web site (see list of links above) has the latest information on this, as well as road reports, transport safety, public transport, reporting faults (roads, cycle paths, traffic lights etc) and others.
It's a very informative web site and has a search facility.
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 What do I need to study to pass a theory test for an NT Learners Licence? 

NT Road User Handbooks are obtainable from Motor Vehicle Registry offices or you can download it.
Try these practice questions for the tests, from the MVR website.
If you have difficulty with your studies, Zipper's Driving School offers an L's Test Tuition service.
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 How long can I be on my NT Learner's Licence. How do I renew it if necessary? 

As long as necessary. NT Learner's licences expire after 2 years but can be renewed by passing a written test in NT road law at a Motor Vehicle Registry office.
If you have difficulty with your studies,Zipper's Driving School offers an L's Test Tuition service.
If you are a NT resident between 16 and 25 years of age, you can also obtain your licence through the DriveSafe NT program (see links at top of page). You can only do the program once.
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 How long does the NT Provisional licence go for?

After 2 years and provided that your licence hasn't been suspended, the "P" condition on your licence is removed and you go onto a full car licence.
Your ZBAC (Zero Blood Alcohol) condition will continue for another year or until you reach the age of 25, whichever is sooner.
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 Can I carry passengers while learning to drive? 

Yes, but it's not always a good idea. Young children in particular can be very distracting while you are trying to concentrate.
Note: your accompanying driver must be fully licensed (NOT provisional), must be seated next to you, and shares the responsibility of driving.
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 What type of vehicle can I drive on an NT car learners, provisional or full licence? 

NT "class C" (car) licences cover vehicles weighing no more than 4.5 tonnes GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) with 2 axles and designed to seat no more than 12 adults including the driver, excluding motorcycles.
Mopeds, small scooters with restricted engine capacity & speed, can be ridden by C-class provisional or full licence holders.
Briefly, you may drive cars, family-sized 4WD's, light vans and some small mini buses, but you are advised to learn in something easy to handle e.g. a small or medium sized car.
You may not drive heavy vehicles or specialised vehicles (e.g. earth moving equipment).
For full information, see the list of licence classes at the NT Transport Group's web site from the list of links above.
If in doubt about the class of vehicle you intend to drive, note the registration label details and contact a Motor Vehicle Registry office for assistance.
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 Can I drive a truck or bus on an NT class "C" (car) licence? 

Minimum age and experience conditions are imposed for heavy vehicle licences, which are graded according to the weight and type of truck or bus.
(You need an "h" endorsement in order to carry paying passengers, "h" endorsements are only valid for the class of vehicle you hold a licence for).
Check out the list of licence classes at the NT Transport Group web site (see the list of links above).
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 How do I get a motorcycle licence? 

For people in Darwin, Alice Springs & Katherine the recommended method is to undergo a training course at a Motorcycle Education Training And Licensing (M.E.T.A.L.) centre.
Courses include theory as well as practical sessions and are constructed to suit beginners, intermediate and advanced. The first course when successfully completed will give you your motorcycle learner's licence.
Motorcycles and helmets are provided, but you must wear appropriate clothing for riding.
Contact your nearest Motor Vehicle Registry office for costs & details, brochures are also available at MVR Offices - or see the list of links above.
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 Do driving instructors have a Code of Practice? 

Yes there are two:
For DTAL Iinstructors there is the "Conditions of Registration for DriveSafe NT Instructors".
For all instructors there is "Code of Practice for Driving Instructors in the Northern Territory".
Do not hesitate to contact the relevant authority if you think your driving instructor is in breach of a code, mistreating you, or not training you correctly.

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 What are the driving conditions on a class C NT learner's licence? 

  • The vehicle you learn to drive in must be class "C" (car).
  • You must wear L-plates clearly visible to the front and to the rear of the vehicle.
  • You must be accompanied by a fully-licensed driver (not provisional) seated NEXT to you. The accompanying driver must actively teach you and assist your driving, and shares the responsibility of driving.
  • You must conform to ZBAC (Zero Blood Alcohol) conditions; i.e. you must not drive with alcohol present in your bloodstream. Your accompanying driver must also conform to the BAC conditions applicable to their class of licence
  • You are restricted to a maximum of 80km/h. You must obey all speed limits!
    Learners undertaking a course approved by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles (e.g. the DTAL Program) may drive up to the legal speed limit when safe to do so, but only under the supervision of an authorised instructor.
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 What are the driving conditions on an NT provisional licence? 

  • You may only drive a class "C" vehicle (car).
  • You must wear P-plates clearly visible to the front and to the rear of the vehicle.
  • You may drive unaccompanied.
  • You must conform to ZBAC (Zero Blood Alcohol) conditions; i.e. you must not drive with alcohol present in your bloodstream. (Your driver's licence will be marked with "Z"). This condition is in place for 3 years after you obtain your Provisional licence or until you reach the age of 25.
  • You are restricted to a maximum of 100km/h. You must obey all speed limits!
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 Where do I get L-plates and P-plates? 

L-Plates and P-Plates are available at most service stations, motor vehicle accessory outlets, and department stores.
They come in 3 types:
  • Magnetic plates: attach to metallic surfaces of your car. Check that your car does not have plastic surfaces where you want you mount these plates.
  • Plastic plates: require plate-holders to be mounted on the car; holders are usually available from the same outlets. These are the type commonly used by driving schools
  • Inside plates: attach to the inside of the windscreen and rear window with suction cups or by static. Do not place where they unduly obstruct the driver's vision!
L-plates must be a minimum of 15cm X 15cm, and have a black L on a yellow background.
P-plates must be a minimum of 15cm X 15cm, and have a red P on a white background.
P-plates with a white P on a red background are seen in some shops, these are not correct for the NT.
Driving school cars have plates, there is no need to bring your own to a professional driving lesson. |  Go to Top of Page  |   Return to Index  |

 What is The "System of Vehicle Control"? 

There are various systems of driving a motor vehicle, but the System of Vehicle Control (which originated at the Police Driving Academy in Hendon UK) is used by the DriveSafe NT program's CBT&A-based logbook system and by many organisations employing professional drivers.
"The System" is considered to be the safest and most efficient one available, it is a "bare bones" skeleton to be built up on with with appropriate observation and hazard perception/response skills.
See an example of The System put into practice.
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 Where can I get information on the NT's practical driving test? 

For information and downloads, see the list of links at the top of this page.
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 Is the driving test hard? Do people fail their test often? 

The driving test is not hard, but it is strict!
It's not hard in that, providing you are taught correctly and get the necessary amount of practice, the test is not hard.
However it is strict in that the authorities require you to drive to a certain standard, and in particular demonstrate approriate observation and hazard detection & response skills.
See the list of links at the top of this page and download the MVR's document A Guide to the Driving Test.

Australia's serious crash rate is embarrassingly high for a developed country, especially here in the Northern Territory where it is worse than the rest of the country.
The NT authorities would like to make our on-road driving test much more challenging to curb this trend, but unfortunately they have restraints which are common to most jurisdictions - i.e. political will (stemming from public will) - or rather the lack of it.
In other words the public is outraged by individual acts of robbery, assault, murder etc, but accept our shameful road injury & fatality statistics as an acceptable part of life!!!!
As a result of this, the NT's VORT (Vehicle On Road Test) is only a SNAPSHOT assessment of basic driving skills for a limited duration.
Even if you pass the VORT with a clean sheet, you are not necessarily an accomplished driver or even a particularly good one - yet! Remember your NT provisional licence is a type of learner's licence, where you can practice and develop your driving skills solo.

OK then so why the high fail rate (yes it IS high!)?
Apart from test nerves, the main reason is that many test candidates are simply not ready (poorly taught and/or insufficient practice), they go for their test too soon.
This is recognised by the NT Transport Group - two rules, the "6 continuous months on learner licence" rule before booking a VORT, and for the DTAL Program's rule that only 2 subsided (voucher) lessons can be done in a 7-day period were introduced to counteract this trend.

A common problem for instructors especially those providing DriveSafe training, is that when a student driver is eligible to book their test or have used up their 10 e-vouchers, the student "disappears" without further lessons and suddenly contacts the instructor just before the test expecting to be given a "quick practice lesson" and then to pass their test.
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 How do I arrange for my driving test? 

Under current NT regulations you may not book your on-road driving test unless you have held your NT learner's licence continuously for at least 6 months, and if you do it through the DriveSafe NT program, you must have been on the program at least 5 months and have completed all competencies and passed the Pre-VORT assessment.
You have TWO options when arranging your test:
  1. Book through a Motor Vehicle Registry office (test is conducted by a MVR Licence Testing Oficer), or
  2. with a driving instructor accredited to do class "C" (car) driving tests.
This 2-page document on arranging your driving test describes your options.
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 Can I do my driving test in an automatic car? 

Yes. Your provisional licence will be endorsed with an "A" meaning that for the first year on your provisional licence you may only drive unaccompanied in an automatic vehicle. You may still learn and practice in a manual car with an accompanying licensed driver, as if you were on "L" plates. There is no differentiation between manual and automatic cars on NT open class "C" licences.
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 Practising the reverse parallel park 

The reverse parallel park exercise on the current NT driving test is done on a roadside, but poles are no longer used - instead, the candidate must reverse behind a parked vehicle and finish alongside the kerb.
Zipper's Driving School has produced a 2-page document explaining the requirements of the reverse park.
Also, refer to the MVR's A Guide to the Driving Test.
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 What are advantages of learning to drive through the DriveSafe NT program? 

DriveSafe NT is unique to the Northern Territory, no other Australian state or territory has a similar program that I know of. The program has many advantages, in particular:
  • DriveSafe's competency-based log book is thorough and is designed to produce safe drivers.
    It includes many aspects of driving that would not be normally be covered by training designed to simply pass a driving test e.g. DTAL log book competencies include cab drills, driving on the open road at speeds up to 100km/h, night driving, multi-point turns, reversing along a kerb, high-speed merging etc. (Learners are otherwise restricted to only 80 km/h in the NT).
  • The course is heavily subsidised (10 electronic "e-vouchers" towards the cost of 10 1-hour driving lessons/assessments are available to each participant in 2 stages).
  • Students who complete the log book system also have the MVR test fee for their first test and the cost of issuing the provisional licence paid for.
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 How do I arrange for my DriveSafe driving lessons? 

When you pass the Theory 1 assessment, you will have access to an on-line list of Registered DriveSafe Instructors from which to choose.
The choice is entirely yours and the list does not recommend one instructor over another, but please note that instructors NOT on the list cannot accept an e-voucher as part-payment for a lesson, and cannot sign off competencies.
(Of course, you can also take lessons from family members and/or friends and with any professional instructor, in fact you should get as much driving practice between DriveSafe lessons as you can - you may only use 1 e-voucher per 7-day period, to give you time to practice).

Decide beforehand whether you want to learn in a manual or an automatic. Perhaps you might want a female instructor, or a certain type of car.
When you contact your chosen driving school, here are some questions you might like to ask:
  • "Do you have an automatic or manual car?"
  • "How much extra do you charge in addition to a voucher?" (vouchers do not cover the full cost of a standard driving lesson).
  • "What is the cost of extra lessons?"
  • "Can you pick me up from home, or from work, or from school?" (especially important if you live in a rural area)
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 What is Competency Based Training & Assessment (CBT&A)? 

A competency can be briefly described as: "the specification of a knowledge and skill and the application of that knowledge and skill, to the standard required".
In the CBT&A-based logbook system used in the NT, there are 23 competencies - each must be taught and assessed by the instructor to the required standard as defined by the NT Registrar of Motor Vehicles (licensing authority).
(Note: The final assessment in the DriveSafe program is the same on-road driving test available to the public, and arranged in a similar manner).

As each competency is assessed and deemed competent it is signed off by the authorised driving instructor in the student's log book.
The 23 DriveSafe NT log book competencies are:
  1. Vehicle Controls.
  2. Cabin Drill.
  3. Start Up Procedure.
  4. Moving Off Procedure.
  5. Gear changing.
  6. Steering control.
  7. Turns, left and right.
  8. Speed control.
  9. Slowing procedure.
  10. Stopping Procedure.
  11. Hill starts.

  12. When competencies 1 to 11 are signed off the participant can book the "2nd Theory" (or "Drive 2") class.
    On successful completion of the 2nd theory the participant will have access to 5 more e-vouchers.

  13. Give Way Rules.
  14. Reversing.
  15. Right Angle Parking (front in).
  16. Reverse Parallel Parking.
  17. U-turns.
  18. Turning Around in the Road (e.g. 3-Point Turn).
  19. Lane Changing, Merging, Forming One Lane.
  20. Overtaking.
  21. Observation Skills, Visual Searching and Scanning, Hazard Recognition.
  22. Compliance with the System of Vehicle Control .
  23. Driving at night.
  24. Driving on busy roads and unfamiliar roads.

  25. Pre-VORT assessment with the instructor.

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 What is the difference between an "assessment" and a "test"? 

"Test", "Pass" and "Fail" are four-letter words not used in Competency Based Training and Assessing (CBT&A) systems. They are considered to have negative connotations not in keeping with the principles of setting fair and appropriate conditions of assessment
Instead we use "Assessment", "Competent", and "Not Yet Competent".
The Vehicle On Road Test (VORT) still uses the old words but, in my experience as an instructor, I doubt if introducing the politically correct equivalents would do anything to relieve the nerves of test (sorry, assessment) candidates.
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 How many driving lessons will I need? 

The number of lessons you may need depends on many factors, including your learning speed and especially on how much practice you get between lessons, and also the type of practice you can get.

The 10 DriveSafe e-vouchers do NOT guarantee that you will be ready for your licence after they are used up, extra lessons are often necessary and you are encouraged to get as much practice with family or friends as you can.

There is no substitute for experience! Your instructor can advise when you are ready for the practical test.
Note: learning to drive is an individual activity. It does not serve any purpose to compare your rate of progress with another DriveSafe student, there are far too many variables to make a meaningful comparison.
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 Why is my driving instructor hard to get on the phone? 

Your instructor might be conducting a lesson or assessment, and have the mobile phone temporarily switched off or diverted to allow full attention to be given to the learner driver.
It is against the codes of practice for instructors to spend time on the phone during a session. (This a significant problem for most instructors, who rely on the phone for their business).
Also, it is an offence to use a hand held mobile while driving, and accompanying drivers such as instructors are required to obey all rules & regulations pertaining to driving, even when sitting alongside a learner driver.

If you can't get through straight away, send a text or leave a message, or try again later.
DriveSafe instructors are often out teaching at night as well (at least one Night Drive is mandatory on the log book system).
I prefer to receive messages by text or even e-mail, as I can read them at my first opportunity without interfering with a lesson, and have a text record as well (e-mails are only checked when I'm at home).
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 Can I change to a different DriveSafe instructor? 

Yes. Here are two situations where you might change your instructor:

  1. If you are not satisfied with your current instructor for some reason - such as harassment, not teaching correctly, not teaching all of the competencies, shouting at you, smoking in the car etc. In such cases you may elect to transfer to another instructor of your choice.
    Instructors have a Code of Practice - if you feel like you are mis-treated or not being taught correctly, you should contact the DTAL Program Manager (see list of links above).
    Note: only instructors registered with the DriveSafe program may sign off a competency on the log book system and accept e-vouchers as part-payment for lessons.

  2. If your instructor is unable to continue giving lessons (e.g. through illness), you can transfer to another registered DriveSafe instructor who can continue teaching and signing off completed competencies.
    In the interests of courtesy, please advise your first instructor of your intentions - better still, do it with their cooperation and approval.

Bear in mind that changing instructors frequently will significantly delay your progress.
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