Pedestrian Council of Australia

Safety – Amenity – Access – Health


Media Release

"The Unlicensed Drivers Scandal:
Victoria Acts While NSW Dithers"


The Chairman of the PCA, Mr Harold Scruby said today:


"Every year, the number of unlicensed drivers on our roads increases.  Experts estimate it be as high as 12%.  That's right, about one in every 8 vehicles on our roads is being driven by an unlicensed diver.


It's a scandal of epidemic proportions.


Every year those in authority acknowledge these figures and are 'horrified'.


And every year, nothing changes except the date.


The PCA has been screaming out for the confiscation of vehicles of unlicensed drivers for over 7 years.  Until now, our efforts have fallen on deaf ears.  But finally the Victorian Government is considering this option.


If this can work in NZ, it will work here.


There is absolutely no point in relying on magistrates or judges to get these killers off our roads.  These recidivist, unlicensed drivers appear before them time and time again and all they do is extend the period of disqualification.  They will only jail these criminals when they kill or seriously injure someone.   The system is utterly bankrupt and farcical as our following "case study" in the Manly Daily (copy below) demonstrates.  Here is a driver, who has a very bad driving record.  He has been caught drink-driving at least three times, twice in one night. Prior to his court appearance, he told the police he intended to continue driving while disqualified.  So what did the magistrate do?   Did he threaten him with jail or incarceration?  No, he did what most magistrates do.  He said if he drove again while disqualified, he 'risked losing his licence for 8 years'.


Impoundment is the only answer besides jail or incarceration (home detention).  These potential-killers can't drive without wheels.


We suggest that initially, impoundment only applies to Disqualified Drivers and Never Licensed Drivers, so there can be no argument that the driver did not know they were banned from driving.


We recommend that in the first instance the vehicle be confiscated for 3 months.  On the second instance, it be confiscated and sold, the proceeds paying all outstanding fines, the balance going to Road Safety programs.


The entire process can be outsourced to organisations such as the NRMA and the RACV so the involvement of Police is minimal.


We could also look at employing the latest technological devices such as block-boxes and wheel-clamps, so that the vehicle may be returned to the owner's home, but if driven, the authorities would know and the driver arrested and possibly incarcerated.


Organisations such as the RACV who are concerned about the families of the owners of impounded vehicles being inconvenienced should try looking at the big-picture.  They seem far more concerned about the "inconvenience" of this minority group than the death and injuries inflicted by them upon the innocent majority of motorists and pedestrians on our roads.  Overwhelming evidence proves that this group of recidivist, unlicensed drivers is responsible for up to 8 times as many deaths and injuries on our roads as law-abidinglicensed drivers."


Please read yesterday’s articles in the Sunday-Age and the Sun-Herald (below) for further information." Mr Scruby said

Contact:  Harold Scruby - Chairman - PCA:  Tel (0418) 110-011


The Sunday Age – Sunday 16 January 2005

No licence: car seizure move


By Mark Russell

Unlicensed drivers may face having their cars seized under anti-hooning laws.


A spokeswoman for Police Minister Andre Haermeyer said impounding cars could become part of the anti-hooning legislation the Government is examining.


It could be used more broadly to include unlicensed drivers, she said.


The move follows a Victorian police submission in January last year to a state parliamentary inquiry into the Government's road safety strategy.


It called for new laws to allow the seizure of repeat unlicensed drivers' cars.


The proposed anti-hooning legislation has been referred to the Government's Ministerial Road Safety Council and follows the deaths of two young men in October.


They were passengers in a car allegedly drag racing that smashed into a pole in St Kilda.


NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania have introduced anti-hooning laws that include the power to confiscate cars.


An RACV spokesman said the organisation would be reluctant to support a blanket confiscation of cars from unlicensed drivers, because it could cause hardship if a seized car belonged to a driver's family.


But Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman Harold Scruby welcomed the move.


He claimed the number of unlicensed drivers had become an epidemic.


The number of unlicensed drivers in Victoria is difficult to assess.


But Mr Scruby claimed anecdotal evidence from police and insurance companies showed more than 10 per cent of drivers on the state's roads never had a licence, had been disqualified from driving or were driving after having their licences cancelled or suspended.


There are more than 3.4 million licensed drivers in Victoria.


Mr Scruby said unlicensed drivers were eight times more likely to be involved in crashes than licensed drivers and were a major contributor to the road toll.


"This is a group of people who don't give a stuff about anybody else on the roads," he told The Sunday Age. "They are a very dangerous group of drivers. Honestly, they will continue to drive until they kill someone and are locked up."


Mr Scruby urged the Government to adopt the New Zealand system in which cars driven by unlicensed drivers were impounded for a month. Repeat offenders had their cars confiscated.


About 1000 cars are seized each month in New Zealand. But there was a 40 per cent drop in the number of unlicensed drivers caught during the 12 months after the measure was introduced five years ago.


In a separate development, VicRoads has rejected a NSW Government discussion paper calling for cars driven by unlicensed drivers to be marked with special number plates.


Unlicensed drivers caught behind the wheel would have the car's number plates confiscated for a month.


The owner of the car would then have to apply for the special plates that could remain on the car for three years.


A VicRoads spokeswoman said the proposal was not being considered.

© This work is copyright and is reproduced under licence from John Fairfax Holdings Limited



Sun-Herald – Sunday 16 January 2005


Scanner to tackle surge of illegal drivers


By Sean Berry


NSW police are spending $1.5 million on a device designed to halt an epidemic of unlicensed drivers on our roads.


More than 60,862 people were charged or booked in NSW during 2004 after being caught, new police figures reveal.


These include people who have never held a licence, were disqualified drivers, or had the wrong licence class.


Police Traffic Services Commander Superintendent John Hartley said that, in the previous year, 59,913 were caught.


"These drivers have obviously been disqualified or banned for a reason - some have never had a licence before, but some are downright criminals," he said.


A roadside device using automatic numberplate technology will hit NSW roads midyear in a bid to curb offenders.


Canberra police are already using the system with promising results.


"It is like a tripod attached to a computer that can test in a millisecond the vehicle's numberplate as it goes past," Commander Hartley said.


"It allows us to identify if the owner of the car is unregistered or disqualified from driving. We have a set-up with officers further down the road, and what Canberra tells us is that they need a big car park near where they are working for all the people they catch."


Up to 30 of the devices will be deployed across the state.


Despite this, Commander Hartley said it was nearly impossible to detect all offenders and he admitted being staggered each year at the number of unlicensed drivers.


An RTA spokesman said strong penalties acted as a deterrent.


"There is a wide range of penalties to deter motorists


... these range from a $370 fine to a jail term, depending on the nature of the offence," he said.


Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman Harold Scruby said harsher measures were needed.


"These are only the ones who are caught - how long will it take Government to enact legislation that will require people to lose their vehicles when caught unlicensed?" Mr Scruby said. "Every time someone is caught, a magistrate just extends the period these people are off the road, but these people already drive unlicensed.


"The statistics show they are many times more likely to have a crash and the vast majority of those injured or killed by these people are law-abiding citizens."


Staysafe Committee chairman Paul Gibson MP said the existing demerit system might be encouraging people to drive without a licence.


"You don't need a licence to drive a car, all you need is a key. If people are losing their licences too quickly for whatever reason we have to look at that," he said.

© This work is copyright and is reproduced under licence from News Limited


Manly Daily - Saturday 11 December 2004


Caught out twice


A COLLAROY man caught drink-driving twice within an hour on the same road was sentenced to a year's good behaviour bond and fines yesterday.


Ross McKenzie, 39, pleaded guilty in Manly Court yesterday to using a mobile phone and drink-driving with a reading of more than twice the legal limit on Pittwater Rd at Dee Why on July 22 at 8pm.


The court heard that police saw McKenzie talking on his mobile phone in his BMW, which was swerving without indicating between lanes.


After he breath-tested in the mid-range, he was charged and his licence was suspended.


At 8.50pm, police spotted him driving his car again and he was charged a second time.


But he told police he was “not pissed”, was “fine to drive home” and he lived just down the road.


Police said when they did not take his suggestion to “have a heart” and drive him home, he accused officers of “making it all up”.


When police threatened to take his keys, McKenzie said he had keys “hidden” in his car, the court heard.


Later, he told police he had “six wines and some beer” at a Rotary function before driving that day.


Yesterday McKenzie also pleaded guilty to driving with a suspended licence.


The court heard he had a bad traffic record with a previous mid-range drink-driving conviction.


His solicitor, Ian Rolfe, said phone records showed McKenzie was not calling anyone, but was merely holding the mobile that night.


In the second incident, Mr Rolfe said McKenzie was trying to move his car because someone had damaged the mirror by “side-swiping” the vehicle.


“It was one of those lost nights he obviously now wishes had never happened,” Mr Rolfe said.


Magistrate Andrew George warned that if police were right that McKenzie intended to drive while disqualified, he risked losing his licence for eight years.


“I'm not surprised the police weren't more sympathetic to you,” Mr George said. “Your behaviour was that of a 14-year-old, not a mature person.”


McKenzie was convicted, fined a total of $3550 and disqualified from driving for a year.

© This work is copyright and is reproduced under licence from News Limited