Loose on our roads
IF you are out on Tweed roads today, look closely at the person driving next to you - they may be unlicensed. Police pick up at least five unlicensed drivers in this area every day, but believe it may be the tip of the iceberg, while Ballina MP Don Page claims more than one in eight drivers are unlicensed. Mr Page, who is also the NSW opposition transport spokesman, made the claims while accusing the NSW Government of being weak on unlicensed driving and not tackling the issue in new changes to traffic fines he reckons are aimed at revenue raising. But State Labor MP Neville Newell has disputed those figures, saying the real number is closer to one in 60 drivers - still a large figure if you consider how many drivers you passed on the road today. A spokesman for the Tweed Byron Highway Patrol said about five unlicensed drivers were booked every day, with the Tweed a "really bad" area for the offence. He said some caravan parks in the region were full of unlicensed drivers. Often, he said, people simply could not afford a licence, then drove an unregistered and uninsured car as well. The Tweed faced an extra problem being close to the Queensland Border because some residents, especially those renting, hoped to move back to Queensland and kept their Queensland licence even though they had only three months to change to a NSW licence. And about half the unlicensed drivers are Queenslanders whose licences have expired, while others have been disqualified for offences such as drink driving. Voicing alarm over the high proportion of unlicensed drivers, Mr Page said they presented a real danger on NSW roads and a strong message needed to be sent that unlicensed driving was completely unacceptable. Mr Page said his estimates were provided by the NRMA and took into account people who had never had licences and were not in the system as well as court and accident statistics. However, Mr Newell said the RTA recently estimated 1.6 per cent of the driving population was unlicensed, based on a roadside survey and unlicensed driving offences.