Motorists involved in collisions with vulnerable road users may face a specific charge and much stiffer penalties if convicted under a bill to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday (22 June).
ACT Greens spokesperson on Road Safety and Active Travel Jo Clay will table the bill designed to deter aggressive driving and provide more protection to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
The bill would amend the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 to add an offence of ‘Negligent driving – harm to vulnerable road user’, and quadruple the maximum penalty to 50 penalty units or a maximum fine of $1600.
The move comes after a horrifying collision late last year in which a cyclist was seriously injured and the car driver was fined $393.
“It’s an insult, frankly, that someone can inflict lifelong injuries and drive away with a fine not much higher than if they’d been speeding and didn’t hit anyone,” Ms Clay said.
“Reducing harm to pedestrians, cyclists, people entering and exiting public transport and everyone else on or near our roads is so important. It’s about community safety, and supporting our community to be active and healthy.”
Ms Clay said that while the Greens continued to push for more paths separated from roads, it was critical to develop a culture of care among drivers.
“While this is just one of many things we can do to make our roads safer, the increased penalty is a strong disincentive against carelessness and hostility,” she said.
Pedal Power ACT backs the legislative changes. CEO Ian Ross said people needed to feel safe if they are to make the switch to cycling to work or school.
“Strong protections under the law are essential to improve the safety of all Canberrans, particularly when they ride on our roads,” Mr Ross said.
“This proposed legislation would significantly increase the penalties for negligent driving that injures a vulnerable road user.
“We know strong penalties act as a good deterrent. People’s driving behaviour changed when strong penalties were introduced for drink driving and speeding through school zones”.
Mr Ross said the ACT needed a culture where all drivers automatically take extra care when driving near vulnerable road users.
“If they don’t, our police need to be equipped to impose high and immediate penalties,” he said.
“This proposed legislation will send a message that our community values people who ride bikes and that we will protect our vulnerable road users.”
Ms Clay said the bill was not just about protecting cyclists.
“If you don’t think you’re a vulnerable road user, think again,” she said.
“When we walk to school or ride a bike or motorbike to work, when we use a scooter to get to a meeting, cross the road to get on the bus or light rail – even if we drive most places – when we walk from our car to our final destination we are vulnerable road users.”
The bill will be debated during this week’s sitting of the ACT Legislative Assembly.
Ms Clay said Canberrans with personal stories about road safety or comments on the proposed legislation should contact her at CLAY@parliament.act.gov.au.