Road Safety Amendment Bill 2014
Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to rise to speak on the Road Safety Amendment Bill 2014. The opposition supports measures designed to address road safety and reduce the road toll and incidence of serious injury. Road safety in many respects has
been a bipartisan issue for many years. When you look at the multipronged approach over decades, whether it be the introduction of seatbelts, random breath testing, speed cameras, the statewide black spot program or where we are today in drug testing alcohol interlocks, both sides of politics can be proud that we have acknowledged that this is an issue that affects the whole community and that we have bipartisan support when it comes to road safety.
When accidents on our roads occur, their effects reverberate throughout the whole community and friends, families — everyone — is affected. You only have to drive through
your electorate to see flowers on the side of the road or crosses representing the scars of a loved one lost. The road toll statistics that we see every day in the newspapers are not just numbers; they actually represent something much more. They quantify something that we truly cannot measure — they represent the potential and the value of life, life that has been taken away, with future happiness lost and the truly unimaginable pain of those in the community, particularly families, who are left to grieve. I am sure everyone would agree that we must do everything in our power to prevent fatal accidents on our roads.
Too often road accidents are the result of the recklessness of others. Too often individuals who choose to drink, drive or undertake polydrug use cause trauma, pain and loss. Too often disregard for simple common sense can see people not only harming themselves but also hurting others. All of this has led to the very successful Transport Accident Commission ‘bloody idiot’ campaign.
I commend the government on taking action to protect road users, to stop drink drivers and drug drivers and to make our roads safer, which is why the opposition supports the bill. It is vital that we do everything in our power to protect the members of our community who do the right thing, who drive safely and who look out for others on the road, and it is vital that governments take action against those who drink and drive and also take drugs.
As someone who sits on the Parliament’s Law Reform, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee, I can say we have seen firsthand — and the member for Caulfield, who is also on that committee, is in the chamber too — the impacts of methamphetamine use and the drug ice, and its effect and impact on road trauma, which is why this legislation is welcome. It will create a new offence, a single offence, for drink driving and drug taking. It will extend to when an alcohol interlock condition may be applied and will also permit the new technology to be implemented. It will provide immediate impounding for a blood alcohol concentration level of .10 or more. It will also introduce important safety measures for newly licensed motorcycle riders.
Alcohol interlock devices are an important measure that have been around now for over a decade. They stop drivers at the point of ignition if they are under the influence of alcohol. It is a simple fact that if a drink driver cannot start their car, they cannot do damage to our community and they cannot contribute to the statistics, which represent so much more than just numbers — they represent the hurt, the family pain and the innocent victims. Interlocks were first introduced under the Labor government in 2002 for repeat and serious drink‑driving offenders and represented a new and extraordinary leap forward in the way we tackle road safety. Pleasingly, the government today is continuing with the rollout of interlocks for all drink drivers in Victoria. That is about 17 000 each year, and it represents a massive assault on drink driving in this state. This legislation is welcome because alcohol interlocks will be more readily available and will be a strong measure and a strong sentencing option for drink drivers.
As I said earlier, Victoria has a proud history when it comes to road safety. The history of the mandatory wearing of seatbelts is an interesting one. Who would have thought that when the wearing of seatbelts was made mandatory in 1970 that that would be a world first, that it would become as natural as putting on sunscreen? The rest of the world followed, and in the first year after the mandatory wearing of seatbelts was introduced the road toll fell by 13 per cent. It now seems almost unthinkable to get into the car and not put the seatbelt on; it is second nature.
Our strong stance on seatbelts was followed by the introduction of random breath testing in 1976 in an effort to find drivers who were putting their own lives and the lives of others in danger. In 1987 we introduced speed cameras as another system designed to keep our roads safe, not just by catching offenders but also by deterring them. We all know that the issue of speed cameras is often caught up in political debate, but we must fully appreciate that speed cameras save lives whatever political pain they may cause. I was proud in 2000 when the Bracks government introduced the statewide black spot program, which invested $240 million in the worst roads in our state. That has also led to safer roads and less road trauma. That is an initiative that the former roads minister, who is in the chamber, can be very proud of.
It is worth reflecting on how we can build on that history. It is over 40 years since the wearing of seatbelts became mandatory in Victoria. The government is now introducing more safety measures. Drug‑driving and alcohol interlocks are a welcome step. This legislation in particular will create the new combined drink and drug driving offence. The offence will be made out when a driver is tested and is shown to exceed the prescribed concentration of alcohol and the prescribed concentration of a proscribed drug, such as cannabis, methamphetamine or ecstasy. Over the past year I have seen more and more presentations and evidence on public drug use, on how it affects the brain and on its dangers. We are doing everything in our power not only to deter and punish people who are taking alcohol but also to extend that to those who are taking things such as methamphetamine and putting the lives of others at risk. The penalty for that offence will be a mandatory 12‑month licence cancellation and a fine of up to $14 500 for a first offence, with more serious penalties for repeat offenders.
This legislation will also amend the Transport Accident Act 1986 to include the new offence as an offence that can result in a reduction of compensation. Currently the alcohol interlock program applies to drivers with repeat and high blood alcohol content readings.
The government plans to expand that to convicted drink drivers in two stages, which is a welcome move. Stage 1 will make interlocks mandatory for first‑time offenders who blow .07 or above, probationary or professional drivers and those caught driving on a cancelled licence who blow between .05 and .07. Stage 1 is proposed to commence later this year. Stage 2, which is still to come, will be subject to further work, and I wish the government well in doing that. This will mean around 17 000 interlocks will be installed each year. There are currently three approved suppliers of interlock devices in Victoria. They are required to install and monitor devices and keep records, including the number of times offenders have tried to start their car while under the influence of alcohol. Statistics help improve the monitoring and help the government of the day to get the policy right.
The opposition supports any measures that increase road safety, cut the road toll and reduce road trauma. Labor has a proud record of acting on road safety through the years of the Bracks and Brumby governments. We want to spare the countless families affected by the pain, grief and suffering of road trauma. Drink drivers are a danger on our roads and severe penalties, including the fitting of alcohol interlocks, are an acceptable response to that danger. Thirty per cent of those who made up the fatalities in Victoria had alcohol in their system, which shows how much of an effect drink driving has on road fatalities. As I mentioned earlier, we regularly see the evidence of road trauma with memorials by the sides of roads in our electorates, whether they be crosses, flowers or whatever.
We have a strong history of road safety in Victoria, and it is worth reflecting on how we can build on that history. In 2010 we celebrated 40 years of the compulsory wearing of
seatbelts. Now we are doing drug testing and installing alcohol interlock devices. We have seen the road toll decrease. We have also seen governments of the day of both political persuasions move with the times. Polydrug use is being deterred and new technologies are being adopted. Drug driving is the current issue and we must all focus on that. When the Law Reform, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee hands down the report on its inquiry into methamphetamines, particularly ice, and the government responds, I am sure the media will focus to an extent on how ice contributes to road trauma. It is a dangerous drug.
The government’s introduction of a new combined offence of drink and drug driving is a welcome step. I commend the bill to the house. I look forward to stage 2 of this legislation being implemented later this year, and I say well done to the government.