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NSW crackdown on foreign driver’s licence-holders with those from India and China to sit test

New South Wales will close a loophole that would allow drivers to use foreign driving licenses on Australian roads while avoiding fines and penalties.

Temporary work or student visa holders can use their foreign license indefinitely, but from November they will be required to switch to a local permit if they have lived in the state for more than three months.

New rules will also mean that drivers from ‘unrecognized’ countries such as China, India and Nepal will soon have to take a test if they want to get behind the wheel.

Those with driving qualifications from ‘recognised’ countries such as the UK or Germany can automatically switch to a NSW driving licence.

New South Wales will close a loophole that allowed drivers to use foreign driving licenses on Australian roads while avoiding fines and penalties

New South Wales will close a loophole that allowed drivers to use foreign driving licenses on Australian roads while avoiding fines and penalties

From November, NSW residents who have lived in the state for more than three months will be required to change their foreign driver's license to a local one

From November, NSW residents who have lived in the state for more than three months will be required to change their foreign driver's license to a local one

From November, NSW residents who have lived in the state for more than three months will be required to change their foreign driver’s license to a local one

The change will be welcomed by the Heffernan family who last year launched a petition to get the state to change its laws after a fatal accident involved a student visa holder who was driving a Nigerian driver’s license.

Father of three Trent Heffernan, 42, was killed at the wheel of his Toyota Corolla on Wakefield Road in Ryhope in the Hunter region of NSW after colliding with another vehicle on November 29, 2020.

Police accused the driver of the second vehicle, Innocent Oliver Idokoh, of driving on the wrong side of the road.

Mr Heffernan’s sister, Peita Heffernan, started a petition last year to ensure that foreign drivers obtain a NSW driver’s license rather than relying on a permit from their country of origin.

She recently told Daily Mail Australia that foreign drivers, especially students, needed to understand local driving rules.

“You can’t get mad, you just have to find a solution,” she said. ‘It can’t be that hard.

“My point is that they came here to learn, so we need to tap into that desire and give them another chance to learn something else.

Former NRL star Sam Burgess was found to have committed over 30 driving offenses in NSW while using his UK driver's license

Former NRL star Sam Burgess was found to have committed over 30 driving offenses in NSW while using his UK driver's license

Former NRL star Sam Burgess was found to have committed over 30 driving offenses in NSW while using his UK driver’s license

Trent Heffernan was killed in a collision with a Nigerian student who was driving on his foreign driver's license.  His family began campaigning for legislative changes that would allow visa holders to drive without a local driver's license.  Mr Heffernan is depicted with daughter Matilda

Trent Heffernan was killed in a collision with a Nigerian student who was driving on his foreign driver's license.  His family began campaigning for legislative changes that would allow visa holders to drive without a local driver's license.  Mr Heffernan is depicted with daughter Matilda

Trent Heffernan was killed in a collision with a Nigerian student who was driving on his foreign driver’s license. His family began campaigning for legislative changes that would allow visa holders to drive without a local driver’s license. Mr Heffernan is depicted with daughter Matilda

“We’re not just abandoning Australians, we’re also abandoning those people.”

Ms Heffernan stated in her petition that the Australian authorities are unable to detect the offenses a driver could have committed with an international driving licence.

She also asked if those who don’t understand English could understand safety signals.

‘If someone does not have an English-speaking background, how can they be expected to read and understand our road signs?’ she wrote.

Ian Luff, a pioneer of professional driving education, welcomed the move to test some foreign driver’s license holders and said some countries were not meeting the Australian standard of driver training.

“The educational standards of many overseas countries are very poor,” he told the… Daily Telegram.

“In places like India, for example, bloodshed on the road is absolutely disastrous, because of the number of people and the amount of motorcycles, cars and trucks – safety standards are virtually non-existent.”

Potentially 120,000 of the 220,000 eligible visa holders in NSW should undergo driving tests, although they do not need to keep the 120-hour driving log that locals do to get a full driving licence.

More than 2,000 foreign drivers in NSW have been banned from the road since 2020 for unacceptable behavior behind the wheel.

Trent Heffernan's sister Peita Heffernan (left) started a petition to ensure that foreign drivers obtain a NSW driver's license rather than relying on a permit from their country of origin.  Mrs Heffernan is pictured with her brother

Trent Heffernan's sister Peita Heffernan (left) started a petition to ensure that foreign drivers obtain a NSW driver's license rather than relying on a permit from their country of origin.  Mrs Heffernan is pictured with her brother

Trent Heffernan’s sister Peita Heffernan (left) started a petition to ensure that foreign drivers obtain a NSW driver’s license rather than relying on a permit from their country of origin. Mrs Heffernan is pictured with her brother

Complicatingly, the authorities are struggling to keep up with the penalty points awarded to visitors driving with a foreign driving licence, which in some cases have been accumulated over years without action being taken.

Former NRL star Sam Burgess managed to register over 30 driving offenses in NSW while using his UK driving licence, despite being required to use a NSW driving license as a permanent resident.

The count only came to light when he was charged with drink-driving, to which he pleaded guilty, after being detained in unregistered BMW last year.

In Victoria and the Northern Territory, a time limit of six months and three months respectively has been introduced for foreign drivers to convert their permit into a local driving licence.

Australia is a signatory to the UN Convention on Road Traffic, whereby countries agree to allow international visitors with valid foreign driving licenses to drive on their roads without further testing or assessment.

The same agreement allows Australians to drive overseas with their Australian license without further assessment.

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