Government gains backing for new transport laws

Victorian Liberals and the Greens back new transport laws targeting drug-affected drivers and tollway offenders

By Brad Gardner | October 8, 2010

The Liberals and the Greens have backed new transport laws proposed by the Victorian Government targeting drug-affected drivers and tollway offenders.

Liberal MP David Koch says the Road Legislation Miscellaneous Amendments Bill has the Opposition’s support and is long overdue.

Once the Bill is passed, drivers who test positive will lose their licence for a minimum of three months for a first offence and at least six months for a subsequent offence.

The Bill removes the power of the courts to rule on whether a driver should keep their licence and ends existing provisions that mandate a maximum disqualification period for failing a drug test.

Those who refuse a roadside test will also have their licence suspended immediately.

"This bill ensures the automatic suspension of drug-affected drivers, which parallels the situation for drivers found to be alcohol affected," Koch says.

"Importantly, this bill will not be setting any maximum disqualification period, compared with the present options for a court that may impose cancellation periods of up to 12 months."

Currently, a court can impose a six month disqualification period for a driver who fails their first and a one year period for subsequent infringements.

While supporting the Bill, Greens MP Greg Barber has urged the Government to make sure its testing methods are accurate.

"As penalties have increased, the government should be confident of the reliability of the testing equipment," he says.

Barber raised concerns about the accuracy of the testing technology, referring to trials conducted by the Government before it was introduced.

"One of the first tests on someone who was pinged for drug driving turned out to be a false positive," he says.

Barber has questioned the omission of prescription drugs in the Bill, which he says can be dangerous.

"People’s driving can be impaired because of non-illicit prescription drugs such as tranquillisers and so forth and that can be a danger to other road users," he says.

Drivers who pass through a toll without an active account will also be affected by the Bill.

Roads and Ports Minister Tim Pallas says they will not be able to use a suspended account as a defence if caught driving an unregistered vehicle through a toll zone.

VicRoads will have the power to charge a fee if officers are forced to impound a vehicle parked illegally or causing a road hazard. The department will be able to sell, destroy or give away the vehicle if the fee is not paid within 60 days.

Pallas says the Bill will improve road safety and help the Government meet its Arrive Alive commitment to reduce road deaths and serious injuries by 30 percent between 2008 and 2017.

"Arrive Alive recognises that driving while affected by illicit drugs is a growing problem and can be as dangerous as drink driving," Pallas says.

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