Instant ban for serious offences Novice drivers will lose their licences immediately if they commit serious offences such as drink-driving or speeding under the probationary licence scheme that begins on Monday, the government has warned. The introduction of the scheme has seen a surge in registrations for driving tests by people who do not wish to carry P plates or be bound by the new strict laws. From Monday, drivers who apply to take driving tests for private cars or light goods vehicles will face a one-year probationary period before they are granted a full licence. They must carry P plates at both ends of their vehicles to notify others on the road of their status. They must also drive under 70km/h and stay out of the fast lane on expressways. If they accumulate two minor offences, they will also lose their licences. Once they have lost their licences, they will have to start the application process again. The probationary licence system is among a package of road safety measures to go into effect on Monday. Others include a minimum three-month licence suspension for first-time drink-drivers, a mandatory driving improvement course for serious or repeat traffic offenders, and giving police the power to conduct random breath tests on drivers. The P plate scheme was first proposed for drivers four years ago due to the success it has had in reducing the number of novice motorcyclists involved in accidents. Motorcyclists have been governed by probationary licence rules since 2000. The introduction of the new rules for novice drivers comes amid a public outcry over two shocking road accidents that killed eight people last month. Two 14-year-old girls died when the overloaded car in which they were travelling crashed into a parked truck last Wednesday. The 19-year-old driver, who suffered life-threatening injuries in the crash, had obtained her licence just late last year. On January 23, a container truck and a taxi collided, killing the taxi driver and five passengers. The 41-year-old driver was charged with dangerous driving causing death. The government will hold a meeting on Friday to gauge the views of lawmakers and transport advisers on the need to further toughen the penalties for drink-driving, after the maximum jail term for dangerous driving causing death was raised from five years to 10 in July. Margaret Chan Chow Ling-ling, head of the Transport Department's licensing department, said the P plate scheme had been extended to new drivers because it had been effective in reducing accidents among motorcyclists. 'Before the P plate system was introduced in 2000, there was an average of 72 accidents for every 1,000 novice motorbike riders, but over the past eight years, the average has dropped to 55 accidents per 1,000 riders,' she said. Last year there were 300 accidents among 35,000 novice private car drivers and 80 accidents among 24,000 novice cargo van drivers, compared with 360 and 120 accidents respectively in 2007. Driving instructors praised the new system but cargo van drivers said it would stop new drivers entering the industry. 'Customers won't want P plate drivers to carry their goods for them, so soon or later, new drivers will stop entering the trade,' veteran driver Ip Moon-lam said. Private driving schools have reported a surge in applications for courses in recent weeks. Lee Kin Driving School and the Kwun Tong Driving School have seen a 30 per cent jump in the number of students compared to the same period a year ago. However, Mrs Chan said even if driving test attendants manage to apply for the tests by Friday, they would still have to pass all their tests in one go to obtain a full licence.