Penalties and Demerit Points an Utter Farce

Media Release - Sunday 8 April 2001

PCA Calls on Premier Carr to Take Personal Control

The Chairman of the PCA, Mr Harold Scruby today called on Premier Bob Carr to take personal control of Road Safety in NSW and to immediately form an independent Ministerial Task Force, following the release of the Road Safety Task Force (RSTF) report this week.

Mr Scruby said: "Although there are a few commendable recommendations emanating from the report, it is really more of the same. Premier Carr must make Road Safety a "whole-of-government" responsibility and form a Ministerial Task Force, based on the WA model, comprising a top level committee of independent experts reporting directly to the Premier and the Ministers for Police, Justice, Roads and Transport, Health and Local Government. Bureaucracies cannot fulfil this vital function. They are, by nature, reactive often myopic and rarely creative, as the RSTF report so graphically demonstrates.

Mr Scruby added: "We have just had the worst annual road toll in five years (607 deaths) and the worst Christmas/New Year road toll in ten years, in spite of the fact that we were promised the Safest Roads in the World by the Year 2000. We've waited three months for this report which found (quote):
`Task Force Position: Significant numbers of offenders are repeat offenders. It appears from insurance data that demerit points are an indicator of future crashes. Conclude that these people are less likely than average to respond to advertising and suggest heavier penalties or other specific countermeasures.'
"Yet the RSTF made no recommendations regarding Demerit Points except to recommend that Double Demerit points for speeding offences continue to apply over long weekends and they should also apply to drivers not wearing seat belts.
"Attached is a copy of the current penalties and demerit points. They are an utter farce. They are a veritable minefield of contradictions, anomalies, irregularities, omissions, injustices and confusion. For example, this Easter, a driver will lose 6 demerit points for failing to fasten his or her seat-belt (an offence where nobody else's safety is compromised except for that of the perpetrator) and 3 more for each additional unbuckled passenger. With three unbuckled occupants the driver will lose his or her licence for three months. Yet that same driver can drive unlicensed in an unregistered and uninsured vehicle, up a one-way street the wrong way, without proper control of the vehicle, using a mobile phone, with a radar detector, turn right against a no right turn sign, stop on a pedestrian crossing, drive along the footpath, drive negligently, towing a trailer full of (unbuckled) children and attract not one demerit point. Unbelievably, there are even no Demerit Points for Burnouts or Aggravated Burnouts.
"Monetary penalties are also in absolute disarray. To name a few; stop in a No Stopping zone; $135. But park a vehicle all day, blocking the entire footpath in George Street forcing all pedestrians onto the road; $63. And $115 for driving up a one-way street the wrong way, yet $220 for failing to fasten one's seat-belt.

"And why, when the NRMA Board formally recommended 3 Demerit Points for stopping on pedestrian crossings over two years ago, supported in writing by the Minister for Transport (copies attached), was this totally ignored in the RSTF report, particularly when pedestrian deaths were up 10% on the previous year? Mr Scruby said.

"Governments are constantly and normally unjustifiably criticised for "revenue-raising" in many road safety initiatives. The Demerit Point system is by far the most effective and socially equitable enforcement system available. It gets bad drivers off the road. Monetary penalties favour the rich and permit bad drivers to continue driving. The entire monetary and demerit penalty system is in URGENT need of review by independent experts, far removed from the bureaucracy. Without exception, there must be Demerit Points for all driving and parking offences which compromise the safety of any human being. And they must be fair, equitable, consistent and well publicised.

"And as in the US, they should be made available to all insurance companies so drivers with histories of high demerit points will pay much higher insurance premiums, including CTP premiums.

"For those drivers who receive more than 12 points before their licences are cancelled, those points should be carried forward after the disqualification period, or longer periods of disqualification imposed.

"Motorists who drive while disqualified or unlicensed should have their vehicles confiscated as in NZ.

"There are dozens of additional initiatives which could have been embraced by the RSTF. That the committee could have released their report without addressing these fundamental issues is conclusive proof of the urgent need for an independent Ministerial Road Safety Task Force."

Contact: Harold Scruby - Chairman/CEO (0418) 110-011 or (02) 9968-4555