A fast road to prison

The Sunday Telegraph

Sunday 16 February 2003

TWO young NSW drivers caught speeding at more than 200km/h near Goulburn on the Australia Day long weekend may face jail terms for what a magistrate described as extraordinary behaviour.

Dean Michael MacCallum, 19, was caught travelling at 226km/h after drinking, while apprentice carpenter Aaron David Neil, 20, was stopped doing 204km/h on a wet road. Each man had three friends in his car.

The two speedsters are extreme examples of a continuing menace on our roads.

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has revealed almost 1200 drivers a day are still caught speeding, despite expensive public education campaigns.

In the 12 months to July last year, 431,000 drivers were caught speeding by speed cameras.

Pedestrian Council of Australia chief executive Harold Scruby said speeding should be as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.

"It certainly kills more people," he said. "Police seem to be ignoring the problem and treating it like a misdemeanour. People just aren't getting the message."

NSW Police Traffic Services Branch Commander Ron Sorrenson said police were meeting targets in reducing fatalities and injuries on the roads.

"All the trends are going down, despite the fact that there are more drivers on the road and more methods of detecting speed."

But people like MacCallum and Neil are still ignoring the road-safety message. They were caught by police two days apart speeding late at night on the Hume Hwy on what is traditionally Australia's worst weekend for road deaths.

In Goulburn Local Court last week, both men pleaded guilty to reckless driving charges.

Magistrate Robert Rabbidage said MacCallum posed an extreme danger to other road users, and that Neil's actions had the potential to cause massive loss of life.

"It's just extraordinary," Mr Rabbidage said. "We have a young man driving at speed with mates on board, risking their lives and the lives of other road users."

When police stopped MacCallum, they found the apprentice car dealer was driving on a suspended provisional licence and had a blood-alcohol reading of 0.045.

When asked what speed he was doing, MacCallum said: "Between 210 and 220. I wasn't really watching my speedo."

Mr Rabbidage said he was considering a jail term for each of the men. He released them on strict bail conditions and told them to reappear in Goulburn Local Court for sentence next month.

MacCallum also pleaded guilty to drink-driving on a provisional licence, but is considering challenging a third charge of driving with a suspended licence.