18 June 2020

Extreme speeds on ACT roads put spotlight on fines and tougher penalties

| Dominic Giannini
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ACT Policing

ACT Policing has again called on Canberra drivers to slow down after a spate of high-range speeding incidents over the weekend. Photo: ACT Policing.

Questions have been raised about whether high-range speeding infringements in the ACT should result in on-the-spot licence suspensions after a driver travelling at 214km/h along the Majura Parkway over the weekend was able to drive home.

ACT Policing has repeatedly expressed frustration at drivers over a spate of high-speed infringements across the Territory during the pandemic, but the Government has refused to commit to tougher penalties in the Territory.

The top tier speeding offence – speeding at more than 45 km/h over the limit – attracts a $1841 fine and six demerit points, but police cannot suspend a driver’s licence on the spot.

Across the border, NSW Police can immediately confiscate a driver’s licence at the roadside for six months for exceeding the speed limit by 45 km/h.

In NSW, the car may also be impounded, repossessed or have its number plates confiscated if the driver is caught exceeding the speed limit by more than 45 km/h, while travelling 30 km/h over the speed limit carries an instant three-month disqualification.

Mandatory suspension periods and car impounding and repossession are also in place in Victoria.

While the ACT Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury expressed his disappointment at ACT drivers who continue to flout road rules, he did not commit to tougher penalties such as mandatory suspensions.

“I am really staggered at some of the numbers we are seeing in terms of the speed people are doing. It is incredibly irresponsible,” he said.

“We are currently reviewing the ACT’s road safety strategy and one of the things we will be looking at is a review of the penalties for speeding. It is clear that some people in the community are just not getting the message.

“We will be looking at a range of penalty options to further provide incentives for people to do the right thing.”

The Road Safety Action Plan review is set to wrap up in the coming months as the current strategy expires at the end of this year.

Officer in Charge of Traffic Operations, Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman said tougher penalties should be put on the table by the ACT Government, but refused to comment on what specific measures ACT Policing would recommend.

Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman

Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman called the high-range speeding offences “disgusting and indefensible”. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

“ACT Policing will continue to work with Government,” he said. “In other states and territories there are harsher penalties and consequences, now we need to look at those [and] consider those.

“Legislative reform is a matter for government. We will be examining what is going on in other jurisdictions, providing the data and the information to the ACT Government and the ACT Government can determine what the penalties are.

“Speed cameras are one way of dealing with excessive speed but when you look at it, it is about driver behaviour and about people being responsible themselves. If enforcement was the key answer to this, we would have solved the problem a long time ago.”

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman said he would discuss the matter with Mr Rattenbury, but did not commit to legislative reform. However, Mr Gentleman said the Government would act on police feedback as it did with the new police car ramming laws.

“We will have to look at the amount of events we see occur. We have seen a spike in high-speed occasions over the last couple of weeks, and indeed during the COVID incident we have seen more speeding across the ACT,” he said.

“Our speed limits are appropriate across the ACT. People do not need to be speeding and if they are caught there are severe fines and penalties.”

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Australia seems to have an unhealthy preoccupation with speed limits and excessively tough enforcement with excessively high fines. The contrast with Europe is stark although the accident rates are not dissimilar. The high fines and loss of licences make life exceedingly different for the average worker. In many cases there is very low investment in roads but the money is spent on cameras and policing. The nature of the adverts on Tv especially in NSW and Victoria portray the police as Nazi stormtroopers waiting yo nab the gullible motorist. Such adverts are absent in Europe or even North America for fear of portraying the police as an a unfriendly force! The recent news item featuring the views of a retired judge on drug testing says it all. There is no basis for the excessive enforcement models currently implemented by Australian traffic authorities. The use of average speed cameras, phone use detection cameras, high fines for minor offences, drug testing etc make the Australian motorists’ environment one of the most unfriendly in the world! I have previously worked in transport and road safety and hence I am not speaking from a position of bias.

Europe is so much more advanced than us in their understanding of vehicles, drivers and managing traffic. There are no speed limits on autobahns and people get quite safely from A to B at high speeds.

I suggest that you look at what percentage of roads in Germany actually have the no limit apply. I will give you a hint its less than 2% and focus only on outside of metropolitan areas between major population centres. You need to consider that the driver training standards are far more complex than in Australia and so are the road worthiness compliance requirements. You also need to look at how they deal with failure of drivers to meet the standards. The loss of a licence, which in the context of points is about twice as likely than us, actually means a loss of the licence. Unlike a suspension her where you get your full licence back after a short period in most of Europe a loss requires you to resit your testing after your prohibition period.

And either way I am certain 200Km+ on the Majura Parkway would be most people’s measure even the Germans be considered a bit excessive and dangerous.

I was not suggesting there be unlimited speed limits through the middle of the city.

Just the ACT government looking for a new way to revenue raise, rather than actually addressing the problem. Nothing unusual.

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