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RADIO & TV - Saturday 28 March, 2009

DRINK DRIVING

Toughen up drink-drive laws

Gavin King

Saturday, March 28, 2009

© The Cairns Post

 

WHEN serial drink-driver Henry John Van Sebille was turned away from a meeting with his parole officer on suspicion he was drunk, the 60-year-old pilot got in his car and drove home.

The parole officer tipped off police and within minutes Mr Van Sebille was charged with yet another drink-driving offence after he recorded a blood-alcohol reading of 0.083 per cent.

It was just the latest in a string of offences stretching back through his adult life, including disqualified driving, dangerous driving and driving while under the influence with blood-alcohol readings as high as 0.257 per cent.

A District Court judge last week described as "execrable", repeat drink-drivers like Mr Van Sebille are being allowed back behind the wheel.

A support group for families torn apart by fatal crashes has a simple message for the politicians who make the laws our judges abide by: ban repeat drink-drivers from the roads for life.

Citizens Against Road Slaughter executive member Bobbie Henry was appalled that Mr Van Sebille could lodge an appeal in the District Court to have his three-year licence disqualification period reduced.

Mr Van Sebille argued the licence ban would prevent him driving to his job as a crop-dusting pilot on the Tableland.

The appeal was upheld because of a legal loophole and Mr Van Sebille will get his licence back a year earlier than previously ordered.

Ms Henry, whose 17-year-old daughter Kelly was killed in 1998 by a drink-driver who walked from court with just a $2000 fine, urged lawmakers to keep serial drink-drivers off the roads.

CARS was set up in 1984 to support road victims and lobby for legislative change.

Ms Henry joined the group to convince the state government to introduce compulsory blood tests for motorists involved in suspected drink-driving accidents.

It took her six years to achieve that goal. She urged victims of road crashes to lobby just as long and hard for life-long bans on repeat drink-drivers.

"It only takes half a dozen words for the law to be changed to ban repeat drink-drivers for life," she told The Weekend Post.

"If you're caught once the current penalty the court has in place is OK. If you're caught twice, your licence should be taken away for 12 months.

"But if you're caught a third time then you're not learning the lesson and your licence should be taken away for good."

While statistics detailing the rate of repeat drink-drivers are being sought by The Weekend Post, Far Northern traffic co-ordinator Insp Bob Waters said the region had one of the state's highest rates of repeat drink-drivers. He said they showed "little to no regard" for fellow drivers.

"The Far Northern region seems to be the last frontier of the drink-driver," Insp Waters said.

"We do have a high number of repeat drink-drivers, who seem to be this core element out there that no matter what awareness campaigns or publicity occurs, it falls on deaf ears.

"It's an ongoing fight for us and it's frustrating to come across any motorist who is drink-driving, and there is even more frustration when these people are repeat offenders.

Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman Harold Scruby called on Premier Anna Bligh to change the law to crack down on repeat drink-drivers.

"The whole system is so farcical and is screaming out for review," he said.

"In some cases you can have 10 repeat drink-drives and you can still avoid jail.

"We're calling on Anna Bligh to introduce a three strikes and you're out law, and to lead the way Australia deals with drink-drivers."

 

Booze bust: Despite the efforts of police, many Far Northern motorists continue to thumb their nose at the drink-driving laws.