Police need to curb street hoons, plead exasperated residents

Ian Bushnell 6 August 2021 106
Hooning tyre tracks Uriarra

Rubber covers the intersection of Brindabella Road and Uriarra Road. Photo: Supplied.

Calls for a police crackdown on hooning on Canberra’s western edge are growing louder but the community feels like it is spinning its wheels after years of government inaction on the issue.

The Cotter area has been a long-time destination for drifting – sliding around corners – but in recent years the number of drivers, vehicles and illegal activities such as burnouts has increased, as has the frequency of late-night meets.

Mustering in Woden and at Weston skate park, they are doing laps, burnouts and churning up ovals in Weston Creek and Molonglo before heading into the mountains and on the way back.

Uriarra village resident Joanne Hagan has been calling for something to be done about the hooning for years but says this year it has become worse, more organised and more older people involved.

She said 40 to 50 vehicles was a common sight, some with trailers.

“A couple of months ago we heard them go past, beeping horns and doing burnouts close to the village entrance,” she said.

“There must have been close to 100 cars, it went on, the procession, for about 10 to 15 minutes.

They have two regular sites – the intersection of Brindabella Road and Uriarra Road and the Cotter Dam car park near Mount Macdonald.

Ms Hagan said the noise was intense and they left the roadside littered with debris and fast food packaging.

The meets happened late on a Friday or Saturday night and pretty much every weekend, she said.

“This year a car caught fire at the corner of Uriarra Road and Mountain Creek Road,” she said. “It’s an issue during drought when there is tinder-dry grass. Then we’re all at risk out here.”

Hooning tyre debris Uriarra

Tyre debris beside Uriarra Road. Photo: Supplied.

Ms Hagan said there needed to be a greater police presence in the area, although lookouts made their job difficult.

“How can you establish all the housing we have got out this side and expect the Woden police station to take care of that area plus this whole new area with so many people in it,” she said.

Weston Creek Community Council chair Bill Gemmell has also been banging the drum about the increased hooning and noise, saying the culprits are driving illegally modified vehicles dangerously and it was only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt.

Mr Gemmell said the nearest police station is in Woden – too far from the action to make a difference.

The council had been calling for more police, including some form of shop front in the Weston Creek-Molonglo area for some time.

“It’s dangerous driving, anyone losing traction in an urban environment deliberately amongst people, there’s no other word for it and they shouldn’t be driving,” he said.

Hooning tyre tracks Holder

Recent tyre tracks on Mulley Road, Holder, near St Jude’s. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Mr Gemmel said some of these cars had their rear brakes disconnected to enhance the burnout and exhaust systems tampered with.

“Then they drive them in traffic that we share with them,” he said.

Mr Gemmell said police needed greater powers to impound vehicles, saying the laws here compared to NSW, SA and Victoria were quite flimsy.

“It takes a lot to get to the the threshold of crushing them,” he said. “They need an effective deterrent – they don’t have it.”

Ms Hagan said the Government should also look at road pacifying measures but Mr Gemmell warned that some drivers used speed bumps as launch pads.

She said guard rails on the mountain roads might stop drivers from using roadsides as part of their frolics.

Ms Hagan is sympathetic to calls for an official facility for motor enthusiasts if that will help the situation, but Mr Gemmell said that was unlikely to work because it would involve rules, car inspections and insurance charges.

Local MLA Marisa Paterson who has taken up the cause for residents, said the two issues should not be conflated.

“We need to be absolutely clear that there is a distinction between dangerous driving and people wanting motor sport. It’s not the same issue,” she said.

She said impounding vehicles should be an option, and infrastructure to slow vehicles and block them from driving on to sports fields should be investigated.

Dr Marisa Paterson

Murrumbidgee MLA Marisa Paterson says impounding vehicles should be an option. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

But Ms Paterson said the police had told her that they had upped their presence in the area and it was adequate.

Whether more could be done was a matter for Police Minister Mick Gentleman, whom she had been lobbying.

Mr Gentleman said the government was still considering tougher laws to combat dangerous driving, including making it easier to impound vehicles.

“We would consider harsher methods including seizing the vehicles of especially bad offenders as a deterrent,” he said.

“We want to ensure changes are informed by expert advice and reflect what police have requested.”

He said the ACT already has a range of penalties for dangerous driving depending on the circumstances and the Government was working with police and road users to understand where and how further penalties may help improve safety.

Mr Gentleman said road barriers along the sealed section of Brindabella Road would be installed this financial year and sections of Uriarra Road had also been identified as possible sites for safety improvements.

That may provide some comfort to Ms Hagan.

“This is a huge issue for so many people in this area and we’re getting so sick and frustrated with it,” she said.

ACT Policing said that hooning was an ACT-wide concern.

The 74 incidents of hooning behaviour detected in the Weston Creek, Molonglo Valley, or Uriarra areas over the past two financial years represented 5.1 per cent of the 1,454 hooning incidents detected by police across the ACT in that timeframe.

Incidents detected are those that result in either charges being laid for a court appearance, the issuing of a Traffic Infringement Notice, or a road user being cautioned.

ACT Policing said police would include for the first time in its 2021-22 Road Safety Calendar a specific month-long campaign on hooning.

Detective Inspector Donna Hofmeier from ACT Road Policing urged the public to report incidents of hooning.

“ACT Policing is always concerned about inappropriate behaviour on our roads. We are members of the Canberra community, and this kind of behaviour puts the safety of all members of the community at risk,” Detective Superintendent Hofmeier said.

“Police rely on members of the public to report hooning to us and we will respond to all reports we receive to investigate or gather intelligence.”

Officer-in-Charge, Woden Police Station, Detective Acting Inspector Chris Ball said he understood residents’ frustrations.

“I urge anyone with information about it happening in the Weston, Molonglo Valley or Uriarra areas to tell us about it as it is happening. We can only respond to the incidents we know about.”

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106 Responses to Police need to curb street hoons, plead exasperated residents
Rusty Baird Rusty Baird 9:19 am 11 Aug 21

Make buying tyres the same as buying pseudoephidrine based cold and flu meds - You need to provide photo ID. If the records show you buy tyres too often then you get a free psych assessment to find out what the hell it is you're over compensating for.

Justin Forrest Justin Forrest 11:44 am 09 Aug 21

A purpose built complex is the only way to curb it. Needs to be accessible to anyone whom wants to go there from the person who just wants to see what its like to even skid a car.

Needs to be more then a burn out pad to pay for itself.

Build a complex, make all L or P platers and negligent drivers attend to complete advanced driving skills, then provide even more advanced for people that want to learn more. Show them the L and P platers the tragic side of road toll. Over 1100 road deaths for the 12 months rolling figure.

Club driving days, car shows, grass roots racing, drags and burnout events can be ran there on weekends and driver training corporate days during the week.

Make it cheap enough for people to go, even if its thier weekly fix if thier heart desired.

Susan Willemse Susan Willemse 9:05 am 09 Aug 21

Time to build surgery theaters and racetracks for health and safety in ACT and if legalities are the problem to legal race tracks, users could be asked to sign consent forms like Covid vaccination while using these facilities. Police can then focus on cars being smashed and stolen in our streets and the problems legalizing drugs will cause, a win for tax payers as well. Had to smile there's burnouts on Parkes Way under the bridge by the ANU, its not just in the 'outskirts' anymore and a degree of skill and sobriety had to be acquired to achieve this. A racing track may solve alcohol and drug use and provide better entertainment and driver safety for all in Canberra but certainly there's more benefits than disadvantages to providing places and times for legal 'burnouts' now with less resources to legislative enforcement. The furious car enthusiastic without a place to drive will drive fast and furious on our streets with Covid lockdowns, I would rather build a race track than know innocent people could be affected not just by noise but by a car crash.

bigred bigred 8:30 am 09 Aug 21

Maybe Minister Gentleman could try using his call-in powers to hurry the new powers through. After all, he has been considering them for quite a while now!

Rob Calvert Rob Calvert 11:12 pm 08 Aug 21

Absolutely correct. The lack of police presence is an invitation to misbehave with impunity.

James Overend James Overend 7:20 pm 08 Aug 21

There are legal and cost effective places for motorsport in the ACT

I am all for some kind of motorsport complex and a drag strip with a burnout pad is an excerlent idea, not only giving a place for enthusiasts to enjoy There cars, I'd say this will creat some healthy competition amongst local workshops further driving the car community in the ACT region.

If there was perhaps a way to exclude those individuals who have been know to display antisocial driving behaviour from partisapating in evenst at a complex like this could be a step in the right direction in reducing this behaviour. Clearly this can not be used to "reward hoons"

Canberra has an excerlent car community in my experience most enthusiasts are respectful and do what they can to not be "that guy"

There also huge variety of cars, alot of which will be on display at the up and coming camp quality cruise, where local enthusiasts are using there cars for good by raising money to an excerlent cause.

Side note Big thankyou to Southern District Motorsports Association (SDMA) for holding monthly events keeping motorsport alive in the ACT

Kevin Webb Kevin Webb 6:56 pm 08 Aug 21

Yep you can’t do that Graham Burto Burton that would be common sense , welcome to Australia run by small minded bureaucrats.

Martin Kilpatrick Martin Kilpatrick 6:40 pm 08 Aug 21

Why can't we have a dedicated motor sport park in Canberra?

    James Overend James Overend 7:25 pm 08 Aug 21

    Martin there is to some extent.

    Sutton driver training,

    Canberra karting club,


    Hillclimb, are all in the same location

Jeffrey Brown Jeffrey Brown 6:31 pm 08 Aug 21

They have made a road mix where it shreds the tyres of those who throttle it. Might be worth the investment.

Samuel Gordon-Stewart Samuel Gordon-Stewart 6:21 pm 08 Aug 21

I don’t participate, but I have seen them use industrial areas in the wee hours. In my opinion it should be perfectly legal to use deserted areas for this purpose as long as it’s not close enough to a residential area to cause a noise nuisance and not impacting traffic.

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 6:01 pm 08 Aug 21

Hooning would be.reduced if there was some enforcement of the need to have effective mufflers. There is only finger pointing but neither the police nor transport inspectors are interested. Why?

    Frederick Burman Frederick Burman 11:33 am 11 Aug 21

    We have the lowest number of police per population in the nation so it’s easy for these idiots to get away with hooning. Impounding or confiscating their cars would fix that.

James Forge James Forge 5:16 pm 08 Aug 21

We don’t need tougher laws we need better enforcement of the laws that we have.

This includes the enforcement of the current epidemic of red light running

Matt Brown Matt Brown 5:10 pm 08 Aug 21

There’s one outside our office 🤣

Leigh Peddell Leigh Peddell 4:51 pm 08 Aug 21

Obviously ran out of things to say about Covid, went back to the cupboard and dusted off the hoon story.

Cooper Cooper Cooper Cooper 4:39 pm 08 Aug 21

Canberra has a burnout strip sitting there doing nothing why don’t we put it to use instead of using it for 3 days at the end of the year instead our politicians are worrying about the tram and cyclists

    James Overend James Overend 7:21 pm 08 Aug 21

    Cooper top idea. However it's not in the best location for regular events.

    Cooper Cooper Cooper Cooper 7:25 pm 08 Aug 21

    James Overend mate has to be better than our streets

    James Overend James Overend 7:26 pm 08 Aug 21

    Also true

Shayne Taylor Shayne Taylor 2:33 pm 08 Aug 21

So you’re the said ‘hoon’?

Des Berminghan Des Berminghan 2:31 pm 08 Aug 21

That's what happens when there is nowhere to let off some steam for these young guys

    Guy Noble Guy Noble 2:54 pm 08 Aug 21

    Des Berminghan exactly i was young once we all loved it,,,, if its away from houses and pedestrians i see no problem

    Des Berminghan Des Berminghan 5:27 pm 08 Aug 21

    Guy Noble thats it !!

Matt Jakab Matt Jakab 2:04 pm 08 Aug 21

Boating and jetski enthusiasts have to tow their toy to a suitable place where they can have their fun in a legally and socially acceptable way. You don’t hear them complaining about that, or churning up nearby lakes and ponds because they can’t control their urges. So why can’t car enthusiasts do the same?

    Damian Lomax Damian Lomax 4:43 pm 08 Aug 21

    Matt Jakab would it have anything to do with the need for water? 😂 People who are interested in motorsports like circuit racing or drifting etc... Absolutely do that. This is not those people. These are generally young people who love the social aspect of vehicles wanting to have a bit of fun. There is absolutely no place to tow their 'toy' to that is a legal avenue for them within a reasonable distance or for a reasonable cost. A normal 18 year old doesn't have the funding for a car trailer, tow car, twice the amount fo fuel, rego etc... Everyone not just them is crying out for a facility so they can enjoy their hobby responsibly. As your example above.

    Matt Jakab Matt Jakab 9:13 pm 08 Aug 21

    Damian Lomax there is no issue with the need for a social outlet, but some people clearly are too immature to accept restrictions on how and where they can practice their hobby. So those people choose to break the law anyhow, at times putting themselves and other road users in danger, damaging public property and creating an ongoing nuisance in the name of “fun”.

    Craig Tregear Craig Tregear 10:14 pm 08 Aug 21

    Matt Jakab , Damian Lomax’s point is there is no how and where for these people. People have always been interested in Motorsport, cars and racing; it’s not just a new thing, there were Motorsport enthusiasts (aka hoons) back in the 90s, 80s and 70s. There are no outlets for these people now and no easy ways for people to experience these things properly (so some of them do it in a bad way).

    Each year it gets harder and harder to try things. If you wanted to do a “legal” burnout you have to build a custom burnout car, tow it to a specialized event with a trailer and tow car (which young people can’t legally do), pay the appropriate licensing fees, memberships, event fees, have the car scrutineered to ensure it has an appropriate cage/engineering, has the relevant safety components, that you are wearing the right kind of fireproof race suit, have a helmet, support crew and that there are trained event staff, marshals, fireman and all the appropriate insurances in place. Realistically there’s no way for someone to get to that position of doing a single burnout without investing $20-$30k and spending 3-6 months getting to that point.

    It’s really easy to just say people should accept the restrictions without realizing the extent of it.

Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 1:58 pm 08 Aug 21

Maybe canberra needs hwy police. The regular cops aren’t interested in traffic policing.

Kunal Chaturvedi Kunal Chaturvedi 1:49 pm 08 Aug 21

So tuggeranong parkway is not a drag strip?

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