THE state government has announced an overhaul of its “broken” driver disqualification laws, giving those who lose their licence the chance to show they can be trusted.
Speaking from Tamworth on Monday, NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman said 57 per cent people charged with driving while disqualified had already been convicted of the same offence in the last five years.
“Having long disqualification periods, sometimes up to 20, 30, 40 years, is not working, it’s not discouraging people from driving disqualified and its having a disproportional impact on regional communities,” he said.
“We see otherwise law abiding citizens who can’t get jobs, can’t get education, can’t even take their sick kids to the doctors because their disqualified.”
The changes will allow disqualified drivers who have kept their hands off the wheel to reapply for their licence after two or four years (depending on their sentence).
“This gives people an incentive to do the right thing,” Mr Speakman said.
“We’ll still be protecting community safety. If you have been convicted of any driving offence that involves death, grievous bodily harm or leaving the scene of an accident, you will not be eligible to apply.”
NSW Police Assistance Commissioner Geoff McKechnie said the changes would provide disqualified drivers with hope.
“What we find as police, is that people aren’t going to stop driving for 28 years,” he said.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson said “regional NSW was not Sydney”.
“We have the tyranny of distance,” he said.
“People make mistakes and we need to give them a second chance to show that when they are on the right track, they are reforming, and they are showing remorse for their mistakes, that we give them another shot.”
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Sarah Mitchell said the lengthy disqualification periods were often ineffective, provide no incentive to return to lawful driving and disproportionally affect the disadvantaged, including Aboriginal people.
“Even though Aboriginal people make up about three per cent of the population, they actually make up in excess of 14 per cent of those who are in prison for though who are driving while disqualified,” she said.
“Not having access to a licence can really put someone on the wrong path by not having access to education or a job.”
The full changes include
- · Allow police to confiscate number plates or vehicles (for 3 or 6 months) for repeat unauthorised drivers and those who commit certain serious driving offences.
- · Allow the courts to lift the disqualification period for those who can demonstrate a commitment to lawful behaviour and who have been compliant with their disqualification period for 2 or 4 years. They can then reapply for a licence.
- · Introduce automatic and minimum disqualification periods for unauthorised driving offences and revise maximum imprisonment terms for unauthorised driving offence penalties.
- · Abolish the Habitual Traffic Offender Scheme, which has been proven not to be a deterrent. There is no equivalent scheme in any other Australian jurisdiction.
- · Exclude anyone ever convicted of driving offences involving death or grievous bodily harm from applying to reduce their disqualification term.