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Seat-Belt Laws Are Lethal

Tuesday 15 April 2003

Following the tragic deaths of two young men at Ingleside last Saturday, the PCA has called on Minister Carl Scully and all other Australian State Roads Ministers to urgently amend their seat-belt laws.

The Chairman of the PCA, Mr Harold Scruby said today: “The current regulations are a minefield of contradictions and anomalies. Under the current law, providing all occupants of a vehicle are wearing the seat-belts provided, there is no law or regulation prohibiting additional passengers from travelling in the same vehicle.

“The tragedy last week highlights the need for urgent amendments to the law, hopefully before Easter. Reports suggest that 8 young people were travelling in the VW Polo, 2 in the boot. Vehicles of this kind are normally equipped with only 5 seat-belts, but under current laws, 3 additional passengers were technically permitted to travel in the vehicle, as the laws relating to overloading and safe-seating are generally vague, subjective or silent.

“This issue was addressed by the NSW STAYSAFE Committee over 5 years ago when the then Chairman expressed serious concerns about the legislation, yet 5 years later, nothing has been done.

Mr Scruby added: “Governments across Australia heavily and commendably promote the wearing of seat-belts. Over Easter, in most states, there will be double demerit-points and heavy fines for failing to fasten seat-belts, but none for carrying additional un-belted passengers. Furthermore, the current laws allow a driver to put the whole family in a trailer, drive them from Albury to Byron Bay, all without seat-belts, without incurring one demerit point and only receiving a very paltry fine. Unbelievably, there are no demerit points for riding outside a vehicle, such as on the roof or in the back of a utility.

“As stated by the PCA, time and time again, the traffic laws, regulations and penalties are a veritable circus of contradictions and anomalies. They are in urgent need of review, not on a piecemeal, ad hoc basis as has occurred in the past, but a detailed review of the entire system. And swift action must follow.

“We call upon Mr Scully and all other responsible Ministers, to ensure that further tragedies such as these are avoided and immediately amend the law to dictate that the absolute number of occupants of a vehicle must not exceed the number of seat-belts provided.” Mr Scruby said.

Further information:

Harold Scruby - Chairman/CEO – Pedestrian Council of Australia - Tel: (02) 9968-4555 (0418) 110-011

Email: scruby@walk.com.au Internet: www.walk.com.au