It is a pleasure to stand here and make a contribution in relation to the Road Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 before the house this afternoon. As previous speakers have highlighted, this jurisdiction has been a world leader in terms of road safety when it comes to the introduction of the mandatory wearing of seatbelts, random breath testing, bicycle helmets and various drug-driving tests. I think that we need to spend some time reflecting on why we are at the top of the international benchmarking system — it is because we have had some serious issues in relation to road safety in this state and in other states of this country.
Indeed this house, along with the other place, has done an enormous amount of work with the joint parliamentary committee that has undertaken a number of inquiries into road safety. It has looked at a whole range of areas that are very, very important in this field, and it has looked at a whole lot of regimes that work in other states as well as overseas on an ongoing basis to ensure that we are aware of every single thing that is being done to save lives and reduce the number of injuries that flow as a result of road accidents.
We have also seen constant work done by local groups in our communities. Whether they be local councils or whether they be the Committee for Geelong or the Committee for Ballarat, a whole range of organisations have made sure that the issue of road safety is not just an issue for the police or for politicians; it is one that has its footing within the community on an ongoing basis. Community houses in various towns and regional cities have also played their role in this important issue. I do remember last year launching the L2P project in Colac. I must say that it was one of those occasions when, as a politician, you really do see the purpose of a community working really well together. We had at that event not just the volunteer instructors but also the young people who were learning how to drive, as well as police, local councillors and grassroots community leaders.
What it showed was — apart from young people having the opportunity to learn how to drive and learn about a safety culture when it comes to driving a car — that volunteer members of the community were building really good links with young people, some of whom were what would be classified as disengaged or having difficulties at home. Indeed the first reason that they were involved in the program was that there were no other people in their immediate network who would be able to teach them how to drive; hence they enrolled in the program. I think it is very important that we also make the connection to not just law and order but also the role of community and how it plays an important part in sewing the fabric of a culture of safety in our communities and also into the ongoing practices of young people in our communities.
When I think about road safety myself — apart from not wanting to receive any infringements — when I think about being behind the steering wheel, the things that come to mind for me when I am driving in metro Melbourne, particularly coming into this house in the morning when Parliament is sitting, is just the dramatic increase in the number of road users. I need to be incredibly vigilant and almost have 360-degree vision at all times, particularly in the inner-city suburbs as I approach Parliament house. With the number of cyclists, the number of motorists and the number of truck drivers — and then of course you have the pedestrians and the trams — it really, really is incredibly busy, and only one second of lapsed concentration could very easily result in injury or death.
Just in that respect I think it is incredibly important that people are aware of different road conditions as well. I often find when people who are Melbourne based drive on regional roads they are really not all that well acquainted with different road conditions in country Victoria. They do not seem to be all that aware about making sure that they have 360-degree vision — not so much in respect of the number of people on long country roads but in respect of ensuring that they know how to deal with overtaking, how they can protect themselves and be more vigilant in terms of overtaking trucks and trucks overtaking them, and how to deal with the different conditions of the roads in a whole range of areas in regional Victoria.
Of course the other thing that comes to mind when I think about road safety, or the lack thereof, is what is often on the news on our TV stations — on a Saturday or a Sunday, after there has been drag-racing on a Friday or Saturday night. It seems that there has been an increase in that behaviour; obviously the police and other authorities are monitoring that very closely and attempting to stamp it out. But like all sorts of other illegal practices, it is very difficult because they just change the location. However, I think there is a lot of good work being done to try to entice the people who are involved in that practice to do it in a legal arena that is clearly regulated and safer.
Whilst there has been a range of initiatives that have been undertaken by a variety of authorities, the fact is that we still have got a lot to do, and the Towards Zero campaign is an all-encompassing campaign to tell us that we really cannot stop or take our foot off the pedal, so to speak, when it comes to being vigilant about road safety. We still have 30 per cent of driver and rider fatalities that have drink-driving issues, and 11 per cent of serious injuries on Victorian roads are also related to drink riding or drink driving. As we also heard yesterday when we were debating the ice issue, 32 per cent of all fatalities in this state have ice in their system as well.
This is a timely piece of legislation that does reflect and recognise the situation that we have out there in terms of people’s daily lives, and we still have a situation where we have repeat drink drivers making up 30 per cent of all motorists detected drink driving. Again, it is about a culture, it is about education, it is about reform and it is about individuals taking responsibility, but it is also about the community reinforcing what needs to be best practice when it comes to road safety in this state.
Victoria Police conducts between 3.5 million and 4 million random breath tests a year in this state. One would have thought that alone would have been enough to get people to take more responsibility when it comes to getting behind the wheel if they have consumed alcohol or taken drugs. But that obviously has not been, or is not, the case, and clearly a lot more work needs to be done by a whole range of organisations to try to break that cycle. That is probably one of the most difficult things that needs to be done, and obviously it needs to involve the health sector because there are clearly issues of addiction within our community.
The bill also deals with the licensing of drivers 75 and older. It also deals with the use and disclosure of information by VicRoads. It clarifies the relevant factors that pedestrians and cyclists using the roads must have regard to that apply to motorists. I think that some of us in this chamber will have a nice smile on their faces because we think that is long overdue. I am also looking forward to the self-referenced inquiry of the upper house committee I am a member of. Yesterday we made a decision to have an inquiry into the safety of cyclists and meterage. I think that is going to be another positive way of engaging road users in this state in coming up with some improvements in relation to safety on our roads.
In the raft of changes in this bill we also deal with the issue of making disqualification periods for licensed vehicle testers consistent across the act and regulations. The bill also provides a court with powers to disqualify a person from obtaining a learner permit in addition to similar powers on drivers licences. It has references to tests: to extend to tests and assessments to better capture the range of activities that a person may undertake to determine fitness to drive, and it confirms the status of a learner permit or driver licence — that they remain the property of the state — plus makes minor amendments.
There are a number of other changes in the bill before us today, but given that I am probably the fourth or fifth speaker on the government side, the previous speakers — Ms Shing, Ms Pulford and Ms Symes — have all covered most of the key considerations in respect of that.
In closing I would like to congratulate the government on bringing this bill forward. The campaign that we are running is an excellent campaign, and I hope that every one of us in this chamber continues to do the good work that we do and to play our role in here and in the community to make our roads safer for all users in this state.