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Belt ‘loophole’ berated

Mosman & Lower North Shore Daily

Thursday 1 May 2003

by FIONA BROWN

A LOOPHOLE in NSW's road laws allows more people to travel in a vehicle than there are seat belts.

The flawed law has prompted the Pedestrian Council of Australia to call on roads ministers from all states to urgently amend their seat belt laws.

The call by council chairman Harold Scruby follows the deaths of Sam Turner, 17, and William O'Connor, 18, at Ingleside on April 12.

They were killed instantly after the five-seater car in which they were travelling in the boot left the road, hit a rock wall and slammed backwards into a power pole. Six Queenwood girls in the front suffered minor injuries.

An RTA official said “the only law we have is that people must wear seat belts in the car. What was done was not appropriate but not illegal.”

Mr Scruby said: “We call on 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.

“The tragedy highlights the need for urgent amendments to the law. Vehicles of this kind are normally equipped with only five seat belts, but under current laws, three additional passengers were technically permitted to travel in the vehicle as the laws relating to overcrowding and safe seating are generally vague, subjective or silent. This issue was addressed by the NSW Staysafe Committee more than five years ago when the then chairman expressed serious concerns, yet nothing has been done.”

Mr Scruby said the current NSW laws also allowed drivers to put the whole family in a trailer 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,” he said.

Seat-Belt Laws Are Lethal