Frequently Asked Questions 15/07/2014

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1 CHANGES TO ROAD TRAFFIC PENALTIES 1. Why do the penalties need to change? Penalties for road traffic offences are reviewed every five years to take in to account emerging evidence and offence patterns. The amendment of road traffic penalties is consistent with the Government s Towards Zero Road Safety Strategy , in that penalties act to deter unsafe driving, particularly for behaviours with the highest risk of crashing or injury. Speeding, drink driving and other high risk behaviours, such as mobile phone use, non-use of restraints and failing to obey the traffic laws, continue to feature strongly in crash trauma statistics. 2. When were they last reviewed? Drink driving penalties were last amended in Penalties for speeding and some other traffic offences in the Road Traffic Code 2000 (Code) were last amended in January 2007 with additional changes to restraints and high level speeding penalties in March Penalties for many other road traffic offences have largely remained unchanged since 1997 and have not been indexed with inflation. 3. What are the main areas in which penalties are changing? The schedule of amended penalties is categorised into the following broad groups: 1) In-vehicle distractions including mobile phones and visual display units 2) Disobeying access control signs, e.g. failure to obey left turn only sign 3) Failure to give way offences: Failure to give way at intersections such as failure to stop for circular red signal; Failure to give way to vulnerable road users such as failure to give way to pedestrians at pedestrian crossings; and Other failure to give way offences such as failure to give way to vehicles when turning left at an intersection with traffic control signs. 4) Failure to keep left and overtaking offences such as failure to obey no overtaking or passing sign 5) Following too closely, e.g. failure to keep safe distance behind vehicles 6) Drink driving infringements 7) Failure to wear motorcycle helmet 8) Non-restraint use, e.g. failure to wear seat belt 9) Speeding offences General; and Heavy vehicles 10) Obscuring number plates

2 4. What is the extent of the increase in penalties? The changes in penalties vary from a $25 increase for low-level speeding offences up to a $450 increase for failure to wear a motorcycle helmet. On average, increases are of the order of $ Demerit points increases of 1 to 3 points are being introduced for high level speeding offences (general and heavy vehicles), specified offences at intersections, for offences at pedestrian and children s crossings, driving a vehicle not permitted according to a road access sign, overtaking when unsafe to do so, failure to keep a safe distance when overtaking a vehicle, following too closely, non-use of a motorcycle helmet and failure to comply with mobile phone laws. 5. Why aren t you introducing a demerit point for low level speeding? There are no plans to introduce a demerit point for low level speeding at this stage. The current focus has been on bringing several other traffic offences in line with the severity of the associated crash risk, such as high end speeding offences and failure to wear a motorcycle helmet, along with establishing consistency in the severity of penalties for different offences under each broad offence type. This review has achieved greater parity, in terms of penalties, with other jurisdictions with impressive road safety records. The Office of Road Safety (ORS) will continue to study the effectiveness of road safety laws in other jurisdictions that have a demerit point for low level speeding. 6. When will penalties change? The new penalties are expected to be implemented the day before the Queen s Birthday long weekend, 26 September Any offences incurred on or after the implementation date will be subject to the new penalties. 7. Didn t you introduce double demerits for red light offences? Yes. Successive evaluations have shown that double demerits reduce the number of crashes on WA roads during double demerit periods, in particular, in reducing the daily average number of fatal crashes overall and those associated with high-risk offences. Following community discussions in January 2014 on the risks associated with distraction, the government approved a RSC recommendation to add mobile phones and red light running to the list of double demerit offences. 8. How do these new penalties compare to those in other States? Penalties for many traffic offences in WA are significantly lower than those in other Australian jurisdictions. For instance, drivers exceeding speed limit by less than 9 km/h (the lowest speeding threshold in Western Australia and Australia as a whole), the existing lowest fee applying to that offence ($75) is in WA (new fee is $100). The fees in Victoria and the ACT are more than double this amount, while the fee in South Australia is more than triple the amount. WA court fines, for various road traffic offences, are also among the lowest in the nation and we are the only jurisdiction where demerit points are not applied to lower level speeding offences.

3 9. I am driving on my overseas licence. Will these changes impact me? Everyone driving on WA roads is subject to local laws, including interstate and overseas visitors. You will be subject to tougher penalties and liable to pay the fine should you be detected disobeying any road rules. 10. Why are you announcing these changes three months prior to implementation? The Government wishes to provide plenty of lead time to the public so the information reaches all WA drivers prior to the implementation date. 11. Are there any new road traffic offences being created? A new offence associated with number plates and obscuring their visibility to enforcing authorities is being created. Police report that motorcycles and other vehicles are increasingly being used in organised crime and altered number plates are being used in fuel drive offs and speed-related offences. To combat this, a new offence is being created that carries a penalty equal to a high level speeding offence ($1200) where it appears that a number plate has been intentionally altered or had a device fitted to a vehicle that prevents the effective identification of a number plate. 12. My bike rack sometimes partially obscures my number plate. Will I be subject to a $1200 penalty? It is your responsibility to ensure your bike rack or anything else does not cover or obscure your number plates. However, in the event this inadvertently happens, the offence will only carry a penalty of $100. The $1200 penalty applies to those cases where it appears that number plates have been intentionally altered or had a device fitted. 13. What was the process for reviewing the penalties? In July 2011, the Office of Road Safety (ORS), on behalf of the Road Safety Council (RSC), commissioned research by the Centre of Automotive Safety Research (CASR) into the appropriateness and consistency of speeding and other traffic offences under the Code. The RSC consists of representatives of the Office of Road Safety, WA Police, DOT, MRWA, Department of Planning, Department of Health, Department of Education, the Insurance Commission of WA, WA Local Government Association and the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia representing road users. At its September 2012 meeting, the RSC endorsed the establishment of a Working Group to consider the CASR report and recommend changes to penalties under the Code for consideration by the Government. The RSC Penalty Review Working Group comprised of members from WA Police, DOT, Department of the Attorney General, RAC WA and the ORS. The RSC subsequently endorsed and recommended a suite of penalty recommendations to Government, which has considered the recommendations in detail.

4 The proposal for amended penalties was endorsed by the Ministerial Council on Road Safety on 13 May 2014 and subsequently by the Cabinet on 30 June The proposed penalty levels are, in many cases, lower than those suggested by CASR. A key proposition of the CASR report was that Western Australians had a greater ability to pay for traffic infringements (fines). While some sectors of the economy are showing strong incomes (e.g. mining, trades), other areas such as retail and hospitality are not. On this basis, the RSC advised that increasing penalties to the levels suggested could not be justified. It was agreed, however, that the monetary penalties generally needed to increase. 14. How will the new penalties improve safety? The rationale underpinning the increase in penalties is to deter unsafe driving leading to safer road user behaviours and a reduction in the number of infringements issued. Mobile phones The use of a mobile phone while driving increases the risk of being involved in a serious crash by up to 4 times. The negative effects include slower reaction times, less control, less attention for relevant visual information and increased mental effort. Visual display units (televisions, digital video, disc players etc.) are also a source of driver distraction. Intersection crashes Research shows that failing to stop at red traffic signals significantly increases the risk of crashes occurring on WA roads. Road trauma at Perth s intersections remains a concern, with 1,040 people killed or seriously injured in crashes at intersections in Intersection crashes accounted for 42% of all deaths and serious injuries in WA and 52% of those killed or seriously injured in the Perth metropolitan area in The failure to stop at red traffic signals has the potential to result in side-on, right-angle crashes which can cause serious injuries and these are often at higher speeds as drivers accelerate through intersections. Overtaking In 2013, 134 people were killed or seriously injured in head-on crashes in Western Australia. This represents 5% of all people killed or seriously injured of which 51% were in crashes in the Perth metropolitan area. Pedestrians Pedestrians do not have the same protection as someone in a vehicle and as a result are among the most vulnerable of all road users. In recent years pedestrians have made up about 10% of those killed on the roads and around 7% of those who are hospitalised after crashes in Western Australia. In 2013, 210 pedestrians were killed or seriously injured in crashes on WA roads. Following too closely Most rear end collisions are caused by drivers following too closely behind the vehicle travelling in front of them. Maintaining a safe following distance gives drivers sufficient time to react to emergency situations.

5 Motorcycle helmet use / restraint use Both seatbelts and motorcycle helmets serve to protect the road user in the event of a collision and lessen the injury that may be sustained. In 2013, 35 riders were killed or seriously injured not wearing a motorcycle helmet in a crash. Restraint non-use accounted for 204 people being killed or seriously injured in WA in In the two years prior to the introduction of the Towards Zero road safety strategy ( ) the number of motorcycle riders not wearing a helmet and involved in a crash has increased particularly in regional and remote areas of WA, while restraint non-use trauma has reduced significantly during the same period. Drink drinking Alcohol impairs the brain s ability to make judgments and process information and increases the crash risk. Studies have shown that compared to drivers with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of zero, drivers are two times more likely to crash with a BAC of 0.05g/100ml, seven times more likely to crash with a BAC of 0.08g/100ml and 25 times more likely to crash with a BAC of 0.15g/100ml 1. Young, less experienced drivers who consume alcohol before driving are at an even higher risk of crashing 2. Speeding Research tells us that for a 5 per cent decrease in average speed, there are typically about 15 per cent fewer serious injury crashes and 20 per cent fewer fatal crashes What are penalties ultimately trying to achieve? While it is up to every road user to obey the road rules at all times, penalties do act as a deterrent for those who break them occasionally. Research 4 shows that increases in fines lead to reductions in speeding behaviour and increases in seat belt use specifically although these may be limited in time and place. The size of fines has also been shown to have a direct effect on violation behaviour 5. International studies 6 show that the road safety benefits of demerits points systems can be considerable in the first few months following their introduction. Demerit point systems may affect violations and crashes in several ways. Drivers may become generally more cautious in order to avoid getting demerit points. Drivers who have gathered a number of demerit points may drive more cautiously in order to avoid licence suspension. The ultimate aim is to encourage compliance with the road rules and promote road safety. 16. Is this just revenue raising? The rationale underpinning a recommended increase in penalties is to deter unsafe driving (particularly speeding). Experience has shown that a reduction in the number of infringements issued can be expected. It is proposed that a reduction of 15 per cent across all speeding range offences during the first year and a reduction of 10 per cent in subsequent years is a reasonable and conservative estimate of the impact of revised penalties issues by speed camera on behaviour change.

6 Reduction in travel speeds on roads zoned at various speeds leads to corresponding reduction in fatal and injury crashes. To put this into a local context, a 1 km/h reduction in the mean travel speeds in WA could prevent approximately nine deaths (5.17% of fatalities in 2012) and 86 people from being seriously injured (3.54% of people who were seriously injured in 2012). Potential social savings in reduced deaths and serious injuries is estimated to be around $100 million. Increase in penalties will lead to inflows into the Road Trauma Trust Account (RTTA). However, it must be noted that the increase in the RTTA revenue must be utilised for the purposes of enhancement of Road Safety, as per the Road Safety Council Act Will people lose their licence more easily? Most traffic offences attract demerit points. Drivers who regularly disobey road rules risk losing their licence for three months if they accumulate 12 demerit points within a three-year period (please note: novice drivers are restricted to 4 or 8 demerit points, depending on their status). You may also lose your licence without incurring demerit points. For example, if you: are convicted of a drink driving offence offend repeatedly hold a provisional licence and are convicted of certain traffic offences. However, drivers who obey the traffic rules will not be impacted adversely. 18. What does the public think about this? In April 2014 the Federal Government released a report entitled Community Attitudes to Road safety 2013 Survey report. The report documents results from the latest national survey of community attitudes to road safety. The report revealed that WA drivers were more likely to report exceeding the speed limit in a 60 km/h zone by a significantly greater margin than other jurisdictions and WA drivers were more likely to have reported being fairly likely to have driven when over the BAC limit in the last 12 months. The survey also indicated that WA drivers thought inattention/lack of concentration as a factor was thought to most lead to crashes. Interestingly, a 2013 report documenting driver attitudes to speed enforcement reports that WA drivers think that the penalties for speeding by less than 10 km/h are not harsh enough. The media and the public have been largely supportive of this change as most people view it as a road safety enhancement measure.

7 19. How did you identify which penalties needed to change? Speeding, drink driving and other high risk behaviours such as mobile phone use, non-wearing of restraints and failing to obey the traffic laws continue to feature strongly in crash trauma statistics. For each offence category, CASR reviewed the severities of the penalties in accordance with the following principles: the severity of the penalty to reflect the road safety risk associated with the offence (i.e. the relative risk of a crash occurring and relative risk of injury in a crash); consistency in the severity of penalties for different offences under each broad offence type; consistency in the severity of the penalties with those imposed for a range of other traffic offences under the Australian Road Rules; and penalties imposed in Western Australia should be consistent with those imposed for similar offences in other Australian jurisdictions. 20. I do not clearly understand the meaning of some of the listed traffic offences. How do I seek clarification? You may wish to use Drive Safe and Ride Safe Handbooks that clearly present information in plain English. Should you wish to check the exact legislation, you may also access the latest copy of the Road Traffic Code (2000). Available at: The Office of Road Safety will conduct a community education campaign in the weeks before the new penalties are introduced to explain the new rules and penalties. 21. Are you penalising WA people? The enhanced penalties in WA are comparable with those existing in other Australian jurisdictions including those with a similar cost of living and those performing well with regard to road safety outcomes. Penalties for seat belt non-use and non-use of motorcycle helmets will exceed those in other jurisdictions to reflect the seriousness with which these offences are regarded in WA. However, those who follow the road rules will not be impacted by this penalty increase. 22. I do not agree with increases in penalties. We are all humans and can occasionally make mistakes. We should not be penalised so heavily. Driving on public roads is a privilege and it is each driver s responsibility to obey all road rules at all times. Driver errors and non-compliance with road rules can have far reaching human, social and financial consequences for individuals and the wider community. Those who obey road rules will not be impacted by these penalty increases. Additionally, it must be noted that the increase in the RTTA portion of the revenue is utilised for the purposes of enhancement of Road Safety, as per the Road Safety Council Act (2002). This enhances road safety for everyone.

8 23. Why don t you focus on fixing roads and cars rather than focussing on driver behaviour? A holistic approach is the key to maximising road safety. To this end, Western Australia s Towards Zero Road Safety Strategy employs a safe system approach, which aims to eliminate death and serious injury from road crashes by seeking to manage the interaction between the road user, the road, travel speed and the vehicle. The safe system approach embraces the notion of shared responsibility amongst various road users and those that design, maintain and operate the transport system. To date this strategic approach appears to be paying dividends with the number of deaths on Western Australian roads in 2013 (162) being the lowest since records began in 1961 and a 20 per cent decrease since the commencement of the strategy in Research suggests that the issues at play are complex and responses need to extend beyond behavioural approaches alone. However, driver behaviour does play one part in this holistic approach. 24. Where can I find out more information? A specific community education campaign advising the motoring public on the revised speeding and other penalties will be undertaken by the ORS in the lead up to the introduction to the new penalties. This campaign will draw heavily on media interest in the penalty review, coupled with press ads, brochures and online information. In the interim information on the new penalties is available on the Office of Road Safety website at au/penaltychanges. References: 1 Compton et al., 2002: Keall, Frith & Patterson, Keall, M.W., W. Frith and T Patterson (2004). The Influence of Alcohol, Age and Number of Passengers on the Night Time Risk of driver Fatal Injury in New Zealand, in Accident Analysis and Prevention. Vol 36, Issue 1, pp Nilsson G (2004) Traffic Safety Dimensions and the Power Model to Describe the Effect of Speed on Safety, Doctoral thesis, Department of Technology and Society, Traffic Engineering, Lund, Sweden. Available: tec_733.pdf [01/07/08] 4 The Handbook of Road Safety Measures: second Edition R. Elvik et.al, 2009, p Source: SWOV Fact Sheet Penalties in traffic, August, 2013, p.3, available at: 6 SWOV Fact Sheet Demerit Points Systems, September, 2012 available at:

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