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South Australia is introducing special driving licenses for high-powered cars

Should the Philippines implement this, too?

Soon, owners of high-performance vehicles in South Australia will need to get a special license just to use their prized cars. PHOTO FROM PORSCHE

Imagine owning a high-performance car and being told by your government that on top of your normal driving license, you now need an extra license just to be allowed to drive it. That’s the situation facing drivers of certain sports cars in South Australia.

The state down under is the first in the region to introduce a special license for vehicles with a certain power figure. The move follows a number of serious accidents in recent times, most notably one where a 15-year-old girl was killed by an out-of-control Lamborghini. Drivers can now also face steep fines if they deactivate things like traction or stability control.

Cars like this Holden GTSR W1 will need the special U-Class license to be driven on the roads of South Australia legally. PHOTO FROM HOLDEN

The new U-class license is a requirement for anyone wishing to drive ultra-high-powered vehicles, or UHPVs, which are defined by the South Australian government as cars with a power-to-weight ratio of at least 276kW or 370hp per 1,000kg, and a gross vehicle mass of less than 4,500kg. Bus drivers and motorbike riders are exempt, and the new rules will come into force in December 2024.

Unfortunately, the tests to get this license won't be anything like on 'Gran Turismo'. SCREENSHOT FROM GRAN TURISMO

If you now think that this special sports car license involves having to prove that you can control your four-wheeled missile properly on a track or proving ground, then you’ll be disappointed to learn that’s not the case. It seems all you have to do to get a U-license is to pass a yet-to-be-unveiled online training course designed to highlight the dangers that come with driving a fast car.

You can be fined if they find out that you disabled functions like the traction control. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Pointless, I hear you say? Maybe, but knowing politicians, there’s also a good chance these new rules will be used to influence any punishment that erring drivers of sports cars and hypercars may face in the future. They will already face stiff fines under another new rule coming into force.

Anyone willfully disabling automated intervention systems on their vehicle—such as the antilock brakes or the traction and stability controls—can be fined up to A$5,000 (P183,000). The South Australian government is also increasing the penalties for offenses such as driving without due care and attention, which can now send erring drivers to jail for up to seven years instead of just 12 months.

If you wish to toy around with your high-powered vehicle, the racetrack is always available. PHOTO FROM FORD PERFORMANCE

All of these measures are a result of a string of accidents with sports cars in recent years. Most recently, a Ford Mustang did what Mustangs do and crashed through a storefront in Adelaide, but the incident that influenced these law changes the most happened back in 2019. The driver of a Lamborghini lost control when he accelerated and mounted the sidewalk, killing a 15-year-old girl. Although the driver was cleared of being drunk or having traveled at excessive speed, the judge mentioned that the fact that the driver had driven in sport mode with the electronic stability system deactivated was a contributing factor.

The changes in South Australia now beg the question if such an extra license for high-powered cars might also be a good idea in this country. It’s no secret that there are a growing number of sports car owners in the Philippines who have a heavy right foot and are willing and able to pay the relatively lax penalties for speeding. Should these be reviewed and increased to encourage more responsible behavior?

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.