Road Safety

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — It is a pleasure to speak on the Road Safety Amendment Bill 2014, which looks to expand the mandatory alcohol interlocks upon the relicensing of drink drivers. It establishes a combined and drink and drug driving offence, and extends immediate vehicle impoundment at the discretion of Victoria Police for drivers with a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10 or more. It extends the BAC requirement, introduces a mandatory carriage of licence requirement for novice motorcyclists subject to a restricted licence, and makes minor amendments to a range of acts.

I am glad the opposition is supporting the bill. We have heard opposition members state that road safety should have bipartisan support, and I concur with those sentiments. Since coming to government we have worked diligently to ensure that is the case, and I commend the Minister for Roads for his work on this legislation as well as on other legislation we have introduced.

Victoria’s road strategy, which was released in 2012 to come into effect in 2013, gives us a 10‑year strategy to deal with reducing the road toll. As part of that strategy the government introduced a Ministerial Council for Road Safety chaired by the Minister for Roads. Also on the committee are the Attorney‑General, the Assistant Treasurer and the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. It comprises ministers who are involved in legislation from law and order to crime and from Treasury to roads. They are all involved in an effort to coordinate measures to reduce the road toll, to keep our roads safe and to ensure that Victoria continues to lead the way with our road safety laws.

As part of that we have seen the introduction of a number of measures, including speed limit reviews. In my electorate, prior to our coming to government Balaclava Road had 11 different speed limits, which was confusing for individuals. That has been reduced to four limits on that small stretch of road. We are making speed limits consistent and ensuring we have cameras in place to ensure people are doing the right thing. Our hoon legislation ensures that people drive safely on our roads and, importantly, as part of that legislation vehicles are able to be crushed. Vehicles are given to the Country Fire Authority and the State Emergency Service volunteers to do their work to ensure they are better equipped to deal with emergencies.

Driver education and motorcycle safety are two things for which I would like to commend the Road Safety Committee, which does a great job. This is another example of members from both sides of the Parliament working together to ensure that we get the very best planned policies for the future. The Road Safety Committee is chaired by the member for Sandringham, and it only recently completed a report on motorcycle rider safety. A number of recommendations from that report were taken up as part of the VicRoads safety strategy and by the ministerial committee. I have had the opportunity to be involved in the ministerial committee and to see some of that work being done, and it is certainly great to see that discussion and research followed through into the implementation of policy.

This particular legislation focusing on drink driving is a very important measure not only because it sends an important signal to drivers saying that if they get caught drinking they will have an interlock device imposed on their vehicle which will lead to them being embarrassed by others for having to use it every time they start their vehicle but also because there is a cost associated of up to approximately $1000 to have it installed. There are a lot of barriers there to ensure that people do not drink and drive, and that is really what we should be doing: ensuring that we are sending the right signals through both education and law enforcement to make sure that people actually get the message. That is what this legislation is about.

I will share a brief story of a constituent who was going for a job. She was in her 20s and had an interlock device fitted to her vehicle. I was talking to her about this, and I expected her to be quite angry about the whole situation as it came at a huge cost to her. It took her a while to get a job because she initially had to declare that she did not have a licence and later had to drive with an interlock device on the vehicle once she got her licence back. In fact she was very thankful because it resulted in her saying, ‘I will never ever drink and drive again; this has been a very important lesson for me’. The fact of the matter is that drink driving accounts for 25 to 30 per cent of deaths and 11 per cent of serious injuries on Victoria’s roads. Repeat drink drivers account for up to 20 per cent of drink drivers detected by police and up to 30 per cent of people involved in fatal crashes.

Those figures suggest that this is still a very big problem on our roads, and we need to ensure that we do whatever we can to reduce that. There is also research to suggest that interlocks reduce the number of repeat offenders by around 60 per cent when drink drivers are required to use them, just as in the example I gave, so it is an effective measure to ensure that people do not commit the offence again. There are plenty of examples of people reoffending, particularly when it comes to drink driving, making this a very important measure.

As I mentioned earlier, we have an international reputation when it comes to road safety — our Transport Accident Commission has done a huge job. A $1 billion investment over 10 years has been made as part of the road safety strategy to help VicRoads ensure that our roads are safe and to deliver ways of ensuring that our drivers stay safe. Our reputation extends all around the world, and this legislation also extends that international recognition. An article in the UK Daily Mail quoted the Minister for Roads as suggesting that in the future, possibly by 2016, we will have new vehicles being manufactured potentially with interlock devices already installed.

The article goes on to say that this is certainly a thing of the future and something we can expect from technological advances to ensure that we keep people safe. The reason we are talking about that is because we know, from the research I have mentioned, that these things are effective and that they work. To further reinforce that, the program has seen some 35 000 interlock devices installed in vehicles. There have been many instances where we have seen a reduction in drink driving as a result. As I said, up to 60 per cent of drink drivers are required to use them, and that has led to a huge reduction in drink driving.

The Road Safety Amendment Bill 2014 is a very good piece of legislation. As I said, each year about 6500 drivers commit an offence that carries mandatory installation of an interlock device. The interesting thing about this legislation is that this figure would increase to about 17 000. We are potentially expanding the number of people who will be required to use an interlock device from 6500 to 17 000. Victorians will feel safer on our roads because people are using these interlock devices. VicRoads has said this policy could save between 10 and 20 lives annually in Victoria, while the RACV and Victoria Police have also supported this policy. Some 30 per cent of first‑time offenders continue to drink drive and become repeat offenders. We have seen from the road safety survey that 83 per cent of Victorians believe more drink drivers should be required to have alcohol interlock devices fitted to their vehicles.

The research suggests that Victorians think this is a very good policy. The government is working to deliver on this policy, and I am glad the opposition is supporting it. I commend the bill to the house, and I thank the Minister for Roads for his great work in this area.

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