PUBLISHED JULY 2019
The NSW Government has a road safety policy called “Towards Zero”. It is said the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Penalties and Other Sanctions) Bill 2018, which came into effect in NSW on 20 May 2019, is part of this policy, designed to drive – no pun intended – the road trauma toll towards zero. But is this legislation the right vehicle to use?
The Victorians have had similar legislation since 1994. The findings of a 2016 VicRoads report (VicRoads “The Effect of Sanctions on Victorian Drink-Drivers” Fri, 16 Sept 2016), showed recidivism (for low-range prescribed concentration of alcohol (‘PCA’)) to be in the region of 29 per cent, while similar calculations by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (‘BOCSAR’) demonstrated a recidivism rate of approximately 21 percent in NSW.
So how will the new NSW legislation work?
First, the premise behind the “Towards Zero” policy, to reduce the road toll by being tougher on alcohol – and drug – related offending is to be applauded.
Second, the courts will make a saving in not dealing with such matters. The actuarial calculation would suggest the time saving is absolutely minimal.
Third, the legislation will diminish rights. This legislation effectively removes the courtroom process by disincentivising people from attending.
Fourth, by removing the courtroom process and the shame, humiliation and embarrassment of having to appear before a magistrate to be condemned for such conduct, the fear of the unknown outcome and being put through the inconvenience and hassle of going to court, a person gets to hide behind an infringement notice. The statistics show it is the court process that changes thought processes and behaviours, thus making people less likely to be a recidivist and in turn, making the roads safer.
Fifthly and perhaps most importantly, the process puts an obstacle in the way of educating the offender regarding the dangers of drink and drug driving. Presently it is practice of the Local Court at Young (and at surrounding towns having local courts) to require the offender to undertake the Traffic Offenders Intervention Program held over two Saturdays in given months. The rate of recidivism would appear to be extremely low for those attending this program.
Nobody disputes the need to reduce drink and drug driving and the incidence of road accidents but the best way to achieve this is another question.
The advice in this article is general in nature and you should consult your solicitor for specific advice