Road Safety Amendment Bill 2015
I rise to support the Road Safety Amendment Bill 2015.
This legislation was introduced on 23 June and is designed to provide the legislative provisions whereby a driver of a motor vehicle involved in an accident resulting in serious injury or death must undergo a drug test.
The bill also makes changes to the hoon driving legislation we have in Victoria to allow police to recover costs associated with impounding or immobilising motor vehicles and further to clarify in what circumstances exceptional hardship can be considered by a court.
There are other incidental changes to the legislation.
In his second-reading speech the Minister for Police pointed out that the bill fixes a loophole that exists in the law currently by giving the courts and police greater powers in dealing with drivers with drugs in their systems when they are involved in serious motor vehicle accidents. On 23 December 2014 the Herald Sun reported that ice had been a factor in 18 road deaths in the previous year, which is up by 30 per cent on the year before. The newspaper further reported that Victoria Police statistics had revealed that 7340 drivers had been caught drug driving over the previous five years and that of those 813 had been repeat offenders. The figures were indicating that for every 15 drivers tested, 1 was driving drug affected. What a huge impact ice has had on our community. I think we are all aware that driving and ice use has now become a major issue in our community.
As parents we all dread the nights when our children are out on the roads, when our young adult children who have drivers licences are out there driving around. You have that fear of the phone call coming, of something happening. We have all been affected and know families where a young member of the family has been killed in a motor vehicle accident. In country communities that is particularly prevalent. In 2015 there have been 148 road deaths, 81 of which have been in rural Victoria, and so many of the people who die are young men.
Not only do deaths result from these sorts of serious accidents, there are also very serious injuries. Something like 24 000 people a year — this is based on statistics I remember from several years ago — are injured. The cost of seriously injured people to our community is well known. By comparison the fatalities are few. The cost of the serious injuries that result and the huge impacts they have on families over time is immense.
I recall driving home from Melbourne to Shepparton on the Hume Highway just last year and experiencing instant fear when a motor vehicle passed me as I drove at 110 kilometres an hour. This vehicle must have been travelling at at least 160 to 180 kilometres an hour. It had a bit of vehicle broken off it and it was rattling along the road as it disappeared past me. I instantly called 000 to warn the police, and within about 5 minutes as I drove along the road I observed two or three police cars out there. I did not observe whether they had apprehended the offender or not. The fear you have when you see someone go past you that fast is that you are going to come upon a serious accident any minute, because the level of control a person has over a motor vehicle in that circumstance is minimal, and of course they are likely to be drug affected to be acting in that way.
From the point of view of a rural representative, a parent and a member of the community who has seen the effects of all of these things, I cannot help but support this piece of legislation. We need to see support given to the courts to be able to deal with people in these circumstances.
I have a few comments to make on the hoon legislation. I think there was a time when we thought of young men driving around the countryside in a hoonish way as being foolish but not really so bad. However, times have changed, and over a long period we have reached a point where we can no longer accept such behaviour. Certainly since about 2006, when this hoon legislation was introduced, we have taken a very hard line on it.
Again referring to some local knowledge, I note that it used to be that down by the Shepparton lake on a Friday and Saturday night there would be numerous cars parked there, and the activities later in the evening were all about hoon driving. At times there would be oil tipped over the road to make the skids and the turns even better. Nowadays things are pretty quiet down by Shepparton lake. It is fair to say that the hoon legislation has had quite an impact on people's behaviour. I would like to think that as a result of that there are fewer deaths and fewer serious injuries. These sorts of activities are high risk, they are intentional and they really do need to be punished. We have created a level of criminality around that now rather than regarding it simply as high spirits.
I note that South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia all have legislation dealing with hoon driving. It is widely regarded as acceptable to deal with these sorts of situations through punishment. In addition to the usual penalties, for both tier 1 and tier 2 offences the court may make an order to impound or immobilise a vehicle for between 30 days and three months. It can also make an order for a vehicle to be forfeited and sold if a person is found guilty of more than one tier 1 offence and for various other offences.
The amendments that provide for the payment of designated costs by an offender should not be underestimated. It is my understanding that they can be very substantial and will result in substantial hardship in many cases. It is an impact that the legislation certainly intends to impose, and I wonder how many people out there understand that impact. I have heard of people simply not being able to afford to pick up their second-hand car because the cost of impounding and holding the vehicle is more than that old car is worth.
There are issues around that, and it is important that as this legislation passes through the Parliament that information gets out to young people. For many young people their first car is a second-hand one and it is not worth a lot of money. We know that the costs of clamping or immobilising a vehicle and the costs of taking a vehicle away and holding it for a period of time are high. As well as the penalties that apply through the courts, it would be very useful for people to understand the substantial other penalty of the costs of immobilisation. It may well provide some deterrent effect as well.
For these reasons I support the Road Safety Amendment Bill 2015, which is designed to deter dangerous behaviour and deal with those who commit serious offences of this nature.