You can run but you can't hide dirty plates

The Daily Telegraph

Thursday 19 February 2004

Obscuring your number plate will carry a hefty fine.
By STAVRO SOFIOS

MORE than 105,000 drivers have escaped fines by obscuring their number plates.

A Freedom of Information request, obtained by The Daily Telegraph found motorists are using devices like reflective tape and dirt to blacken the rear number plate, making it impossible to be captured on a speed or red light camera.

More than 11,000 number plates were obscured last year, forcing a new crackdown on speeding and dangerous driving by the NSW Government.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal 1500 road offences will be reformed under new proposals.

The driver's licence demerit system has also been completely reviewed, with motorists to lose points for the first time for obscuring number plates, stopping near pedestrian crossings and hindering emergency vehicles under the proposals.

Most fines will rise about $10 but the State Government claimed last night the reforms will be "revenue neutral".

Under the reforms, the penalty for obscuring number plates will jump from $76 to $300 and the loss of three demerit points. Motorists will lose nine points and be fined $1175 for having radar and speed camera detectors.

Speeding through road work sites will cost up to eight points and $1500.

Roads Minister Carl Scully said the review held last year involving the RTA, NRMA, police and the Pedestrian Council would lead to a more consistent fine and demerit structure. Key reforms include:

DEMERIT points on parking offences.

Stopping near pedestrian and school crossings will attract a $225 fine and the loss of three points;
THE loss of eight demerit points and $1500 for speeding above 45km/h in work sites and construction zones;
THE fine for failing to obey police directions jumps from $49 to $225;
THE fine for driving too close to a car in front rises to $300; and
THE loss of three points and $225 for having illegal bullbars

Most fines for car drivers could increase by about $10, while truck drivers face a maximum $2350 fine and the loss of six points for speeding.

"Yes there are increases proposed . . . [but] there are also decreases proposed," Mr Scully said.

"If I hear the proposed fines are exorbitant I will consider that.

"The demerit point system is a coherent, effective and good reminder of the importance of complying with the traffic laws and the consequences of breaching them."

Mr Scully said 75 per cent of NSW motorists had not lost any demerit points in the past three years.

The reforms are up for public review until March 19.


FOR THE RECORD - ARTICLE IN TODAY'S DAILY TELEGRAPH

Thursday 19 February 2004
The article which appeared in today's Daily Telegraph entitled "You can run but you can't hide dirty plates" (copy attached) contained an error.

The FoI was obtained by the PCA, not the Daily Telegraph (see below).

The PCA has been working for many years on the defaced/obstructed number-plate issue. At the moment, the TIN (penalty) for defacing/obstructing a number-plate is $76 and no demerit points. This allows the driver to avoid all speed and red-light cameras in Australia. This behaviour is out of control and many motorists do it deliberately.

Motorists can avoid thousands of dollars in fines and instant loss of licence by risking a $76 fine which is rarely enforced by the police. It even applies to stolen plates.

Somehow, while we were working on the story with journalists at The Telegraph, communications broke down between journalists and the FoI was claimed as a Daily Telegraph FoI. It was an honest mistake. But it was good the story ran and showed just how many motorists are getting off paying their fines, not getting demerit points and quite frequently not losing their licences. And just how much money the NSW Government is losing, simply because of an anomalous and outdated penalty and enforcement system.

Last year, approximately 36,000 plates were unreadable or obscured. At an estimated average penalty of $200, that's over $7 million dollars down the drain.

The good news is that Minister Scully intends to increase the penalty to $300 and add 3 demerit points to the offence.

We think it should be much more considering the penalties motorists can avoid by cheating.

But it's a start.

PS: And there's more coming on this issue.

Regards

Harold

----------------------------------------------------
Harold Scruby
Chairman/CEO

Pedestrian Council of Australia Limited
"The Walking Class Heroes"

Telephone: (02) 9968-4555
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Email: walking@walk.com.au
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