Australia Is Introducing a Special License Requirement for High-Powered Cars

Drivers of “ultra high-powered vehicles” will have additional responsibilities and higher penalties

Green Lamborghini car
Huracán Tecnica

We’re coming in hot on this one: Do you think the license that grants a person the permission to drive a regular commuter car should also allow that same person to drive a high-powered sports car on public roads? The State of South Australia doesn’t think so, and by the end of next year, residents with such cars will be required to have a special license for them, along with a host of new rules governing their usage. 

As reported by the Australian outlet Drive, vehicles with a power-to-weight ratio of at least 370 horsepower per 1,000kg or one metric ton (1.1 U.S. tons) that weigh less than 9,900 pounds will require a special “U-class” license to operate, excluding motorcycles and buses. 

Is that all performance cars? No, but it does include around 200 models of vehicles available to Australian drivers today. As an example, the article notes that the BMW M3 would be in the clear, but a driver of a Lamborghini Huracán, wouldn’t be, which is sadly pertinent. Much of the reasoning for the law stems from an incident in 2019 when a driver of a Huracán fatally struck a 15-year-old girl. 

So what’s it take to get a U-class license? Details are thin as the process is still being developed, but reportedly, it’s merely an online test. We say “merely” because (again, without knowing the details of the course or procedure), it doesn’t sound particularly difficult to get a hold of. What we do know is that the course will “ensure a person is aware of the risks associated with driving an UHPV (ultra high-powered vehicle) and the use of common vehicle features within Advanced Driver Assistance Systems,” according to a spokesperson for the South Australian Department of Transportation.

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Simple to get but perhaps not so much to bear. Holders of a U-Class could face fines up to $5,000 Australian ($3,290 US) for deliberately disabling “automated intervention systems” such as traction control, electronic stability control and automated emergency braking. There are also new definitions introduced for “driving without due care” that could carry a seven-year sentence at most. 

Heavy stuff, and easy to scrutinize from two hemispheres away, though it’s just as simple to see something take effect here, given our massive car culture. 

On one hand, it seems ludicrous that a freshly-minted US driver can immediately legally operate anything from a lowly economy car to a high-speed hypercar and anything in between after demonstrating that they know the basic fundamentals of that state’s driving laws. 

Without listing the myriad ways a high end sports car’s behavior differs from that of a daily driver, they are built for different purposes and demand a higher level of knowledge and experience to utilize safely. Motorsport governing bodies require different licenses for the various types of disciplines. Your local track club racer can’t participate in NASCAR with the same license, for example, so why extend a Honda Civic driver and a Ferrari Enzo driver the same privilege?

On the other hand, our road laws apply to all cars. 55 mph is the limit no matter what car you’re driving, and a U-Class license doesn’t grant anyone special exceptions to the rules already in place. That said, anyone holding one might laud it over others as proof of their own driving superiority and thus an excuse to drive as wildly as possible. 

We’re obviously painting things with a very broad brush here, and we’re not even going to touch the political side of this conversation, but there are some things we can take away from this: 

First off, driving is a privilege. We all “have” to do it these days since this is how our society is structured for the most part, but it’s still something we’re allowed to do, not a right we hold, and it can be taken away. With that said, it’s also a shared experience with people of all ages and skill levels operating all sorts of cars, most of which aren’t 1,000-horsepower track-destroyers. 

At the end of the day, we all want to get to where we’re going in one piece, regardless if it’s a joyride or a supermarket run, and the easiest way of doing that is by being sensible. Being aware of other people, most of whom are just getting on with their life, is a great start. The other is learning what a car can do. Take it to an autocross or take it to the track. Learn the limits of what it can do, be it a 130-horsepower hatchback or a 500-horsepower muscle car. A little education goes a long way and it’ll be fun, too, trust us.

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