The new road safety proposals

Just before Christmas, the Government announced some proposals for improving road safety.  There’s a lot of them, so worth going through in detail:

  •  to extend from six to twelve months the minimum time under 25 year olds spend on a learner licence – very sensible as allows for more supervision
  • breaches of Graduated Driver Licensing System conditions have penalty drop from $400 to $100 but demerit points increase from 25 to 35 points – excellent as few ever paid fines and demerits are a bigger disincentive
  • a second breach of learner or restricted licence conditions can result in a possible 28-day vehicle impoundment – great – if they won’t obey the law, get them off the road
  • all traffic offenders will be required to pass the appropriate driver licence theory test before their licence will be re-issued – about time, just automatically getting your licence back is too easy
  • a licence suspension for accumulating 100 or more demerit points will only reduce the total demerit points by 100 and will not remove all active demerit points on the licence – also good, as often someone could have 400 demerits and get them all wiped for just a three month suspension
  • penalties for speeding (caught by a cop) decrease in monetary value (now only $50 to $150) but demerits increase (25 to 75 points) – I support the general change but do think 50 demerits for doing 121 km/hr on a motorway is somewhat harsh.
  • radar detectors will be illegal and possession will cost $150 and 75 demerits – I don’t support this (and no I don’t have one). Merely owing a piece of equipment should not be illegal.  And this will just lead to such features being added to cellphones or blackberries, so they are undetectable.
  • failing to stop at give way sign, stop sign and red light will incur 25, 50 and 75 demerits.  A bit harsh at the upper ends but something I generally support – red light runners are a hazard.  I suspect with 75 demerits involved more people will litigate these in future.
  • Failing to wear a seatbelt will get 25 demerits and $50 fine.  The stupidest part of the proposals (which are generally good).  Taking away someone’s licence because they (for example) did not wear a seat belt as a passenger is daft.

Overall the strategy and direction seem sound.  However the exact thresholds and penalty levels may be somewhat too heavy handed and there is some risk of a backlash.  If hundreds of thousands of drivers end up getting suspended licenses because for example they got caught speeding once at 121 km/hr and then 18 months later were pinged for not having on a seatbelt in a quick taxi ride, well it could be as popular as a poll tax.

But overall it should help reduce the road toll, which is what we want.

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