NRMA calls for repeat offenders to lose their cars

Sydney Morning Herald

Tuesday 10 September 2002
By Joseph Kerr, Transport Reporter

The number of motorists caught driving while disqualified jumped 7 per cent a year from 1999 to 2001, says the NRMA, which wants them stripped of their cars.

Last year, 18,680 disqualified drivers were detected in NSW, according to a study undertaken by the motoring group.
The proportion of disqualified drivers involved in fatal crashes has tripled, from 1per cent on average between 1993 and 1999 to 2.8 per cent in 2000, the study found.

"The overwhelming majority of motorists are law-abiding people," said NRMA president Maree Callaghan, but "serial offenders lose their licence and continue to drive disqualified, committing subsequent driving offences as they go".

A profile of the worst repeat offenders shows they are usually male, under 25, unemployed, students or blue-collar workers and travelling in remote areas, the NRMA found.

The serious driving offences they commit include speeding, manslaughter, drink driving, predatory or menacing driving, negligent driving causing death or grievous bodily harm, or not stopping to give assistance when a person is injured or killed.

More of them are intoxicated than other drivers. The NRMA found 40 per cent of disqualified drivers involved in fatal crashes were highly intoxicated.

At present, motorists who have lost their licences but continue to drive face a maximum further penalty of 18 months in jail and a fine of $3300, as well as further driving bans.

If they are caught driving unlicenced more than once in five years, they could be jailed
for two years and fined $5500.

Those with three serious offences in five years can be declared "habitual offenders", earning them an additional driving ban of two to five years.

From 1996 to 2000, about 6 per cent of those convicted of licence offences went to prison, with the average time in jail increasing from 3.9 to 5.4 months over the period, the report found.

Laws before the NSW Parliament would allow breath alcohol ignition "interlock" devices to be used as a sentencing option for repeat drink-driver offenders.

The study found Victoria and South Australia also had interlock laws, but neither operation was sufficiently advanced for their effectiveness to be judged.

While supporting other measures as well - such as the NSW traffic offender program, which refers repeat offenders to courses - the NRMA called for an increase in vehicle sanctions, such as impounding or forfeiting offenders' cars.

Cars can be impounded for three months for road racing offences, including doing "wheelies". If drivers repeat the offence they can lose their vehicles entirely, according to the Roads and Traffic Authority.

In the United States, according to the NRMA, jurisdictions such as California, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon have used vehicle sanctions to good effect, reducing repeat offender behaviour by up to 70 per cent.

Minnesota motorists can lose their number plates for multiple offences, the NRMA said.
In a 1993-1995 study in Ohio, impounding and immobilising offenders' vehicles brought down the disqualified driver repeat offender rate by 70 per cent, and also cut drink-driving rates by 49 per cent.
NRMA supports PCA calls for confiscation of