With the holidays nearly over, Operation Safe Return behind us and the release last week of NRMA’s Funding Local Roads report, road safety has had a prominent place in the spotlight in recent weeks.
In her role as NSW Roads Minister, the Member for Oxley, Melinda Pavey, highlighted the latest $600 million funding boost specifically targeted at dedicated road safety improvements and enhanced enforcement, which is part of the Government’s Road Safety Plan 2021 ($1.9 billion over five years).
The list includes:
$640 million to save lives on country roads through infrastructure safety upgrades.
$250 million for enhanced enforcement, including 50 additional highway patrol officers in regional areas, roadside alcohol testing and a doubling of mobile drug testing.
$180 million for infrastructure safety upgrades for pedestrians, cyclists and other road users.
But wait, there’s more …
The NSW Parliament has also passed new laws that:
Enable testing of emerging camera-based technology to detect mobile phone offences.
Increase penalties for driving under the influence to align with high-range drink driving.
Add cocaine to the roadside mobile drug testing program – a first for Australia.
This last law was welcomed by Greens Police and Justice spokesperson David Shoebridge.
“I welcome cocaine being included in the roadside drug testing scheme,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“Its original exclusion and the continued exclusion of benzodiazepines however shows how skewed the drug driving policy of the NSW government is.
“It focuses on a handful of illegal drugs rather than keeping drug-affected drivers off the road.”
He said that even with the inclusion of cocaine the roadside drug testing scheme remained deeply flawed.
“Unlike breath testing for alcohol, it does not test for impairment, just the presence of a substance. Cannabis consumed days, or even a week, ago can still trigger a positive test.
“Police are testing and charging people who smoked a joint last week but letting drivers impaired by benzodiazepines slip through tests undetected.
When a magistrate can’t tell whether a person who failed an RDT was an impaired driver or just had a tiny trace of cannabis in their system it is irresponsible and unjust to increase penalties.David Shoebridge
Other additions include:
Extending the mandatory alcohol interlock program to middle-range drink driving first time offenders.
Allowing vehicle sanctions to be applied for high-risk, repeat drink driving offenders.
And from May 20 this year:
On-the-spot fines and three-month licence suspensions for low-range drink driving and drug presence first offences.
NSW Road Rules have also been updated:
Demerit points for mobile phone offences have increased from 4 to 5.
Following a two-year trial the Minimum Passing Distance Rule for cyclists now applies – it is one metre and 1.5 metres at speeds above 60kph.
Children under 16 years are now allowed to ride bicycles on the footpath, up from the current limit of under 12 years, with a supervising adult also permitted.
Roadside drug testing will be doubled to reach the target of 200,000 tests annually by 2020.
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