First-time offenders would be either fined or be disqualified through penalty notices. Picture: iStock.
First-time offenders would be either fined or be disqualified through penalty notices. Picture: iStock.

Controversial changes to drink driving laws

DRINK-DRIVERS could be given on-the-spot fines for low-range and first-time offences rather than facing court.

It means those caught without previous convictions in NSW and those who register blood alcohol levels under 0.10 will never have to face a magistrate. It is hoped the NSW Government proposals will declutter the court system.

The proposals under draft Road Safety Plan 2021 would bring the state in line with Victoria and save court resources for more serious offences, Fairfax Media reported.

First-time offenders would be either fined or be disqualified through penalty notices. However, not everyone is in favour of the changes with some in the legal profession saying it would not discourage people from reoffending.

In Victoria, drivers aged over 26 who register a blood alcohol limit of between 0.05 and 0.07 only receive an on-the-spot fine and lose 10 demerit points.

"Currently, half of all low range drink driving first offenders in NSW do not receive a conviction or licence disqualification for their first offence," Centre for Road Safety executive director Bernard Carlon told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Generic photo to illustrate drink driving. Picture: iStock.
Generic photo to illustrate drink driving. Picture: iStock.

"We have come a long way in shifting attitudes over the last 40 years - it's no longer OK to make excuses and drive after drinking."

However, former police officer and managing partner of Armstrong Partners Law Firm, John Sutton told the newspaper that drink drivers should not be allowed to avoid the "shame" of dealing with their matters publicly in court.

It comes as two people lost their lives following two separate fatal crashes across NSW yesterday as police continue to see dangerous behaviour on roads.

"It is disappointing to see a number of incidents of drink driving. You will be caught, or worse still, end up killing yourself or a loved one," Commander of the Traffic & Highway Patrol Command Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy said.

"We have had 13 people die during Operation Safe Arrival, which means more places will be empty at the family Christmas table tomorrow."

In November, Victoria's Government passed new laws which means first-time drink-drivers will lose their ­licences and have interlock devices installed in their cars.

Up to 3000 full licence-holders are caught drink-driving with a blood-alcohol content between 0.05 and 0.07 each year, the lowest punishable level.

The changes will mean drink-drivers in this range, including first-time offenders, will have their licences cancelled immediately and they will be disqualified from driving for three months.

Every drink-driver in the state will also be required to have an interlock fitted to their car for at least six months and must complete a behavioural change program.

Minister for Roads and Road Safety Luke Donnellan told The Herald Sun the low-level drink-driving was a serious danger.

"We make no apologies for toughening penalties for drink-drivers who continue to put the lives of Victorians at risk," he said.

"Drink-driving at any level is incredibly dangerous - even at 0.05, drink-drivers double their chances of crashing, risking not only their lives but the lives of others."

Meanwhile, a disqualified driver has been caught behind the wheel at nearly five times the legal limit in Tasmania.

The 63-year-old male driver was intercepted on Saturday on the Esplanade, Turners Beach, in the city of Devonport, and returned a reading of 0.231. The man, who police say has numerous prior drink-driving convictions, was arrested and is set to face court on Sunday. His car was impounded.

In Queensland, 3,294 people were caught speeding on day one of the Christmas Road Safety campaign.

The state's most high-risk speeding motorist on day one was captured allegedly travelling at 180 km/hour in an 80km/hour zone in the Airport Link Tunnel at Wooloowin.

The driver will receive an infringement with a penalty of $1,177, eight demerit points and an automatic 6-month suspension.

Police conducted almost 5,000 RBTs (Random Breath Tests) with 72 drivers charged with drink driving.

Benjamin.graham@news.com.au or follow @bengrahamjourno on Twitter.



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