NRMA president Wendy Machin prefers to focus efforts on education and raising awareness among young drivers.
NRMA president Wendy Machin prefers to focus efforts on education and raising awareness among young drivers.

Road safety idea 'unworkable'

LAWYERS, motoring groups and senior police have played down the feasibility of a radical proposal by road safety advocate Rob Wells to fine passengers in serious crashes involving L-plate or P-plate drivers.

Mr Wells’ son, Bryce, was one of four young men killed in a horror crash at Broken Head in 2006 and he has devoted much of his time since to raising awareness and improving the skills of young drivers.

Following a serious car crash at Evans Head on Sunday involving a young driver and four young passengers – that left one in a critical condition – Mr Wells suggested in yesterday’s Northern Star that passengers involved in car crashes with learner or provisional drivers should also be fined and perhaps even charged.

The Lismore man believes such a move could counter or reverse the peer pressure on young drivers to speed or skylark while others are in the car.

While the NSW Police Association’s Det Snr Constable Tony King suggested the idea would be difficult to legislate, enforce and prosecute, he said he was willing to listen to any idea that might reduce the road toll.

“Speaking as a parent, a copper and a member of the community, I believe anything that could reduce the incidence of road trauma is worthy of public debate,” he said.

“It’s often said you can’t legislate against stupidity, but we do need to keep up the message for young drivers to slow down.”

NRMA president Wendy Machin said the association preferred to focus their efforts on education and raising awareness among young drivers.

“A passenger does not have control of a driver’s behaviour, therefore there are too many possible ambiguities for such a law to come into effect,” she said.

“The NRMA believes good driver education, and access to resources such as driving schools, can contribute to young drivers and passengers feeling safer when they enter a motor vehicle.

“The onus is on the driver to ensure they are fit and capable to operate a motor vehicle. If a passenger does not believe the driver is fit to operate the vehicle legally, they should not get in the vehicle with them.”

Lismore solicitor and Southern Cross University law lecturer Ralph James commended the sentiment of Mr Wells’ idea, but described it as totally unworkable.

“I can see where Mr Wells is coming from, but when you’re dealing with young male passengers with equally under-developed frontal lobes as the driver, I don’t think it would work,” he said.

“And once you’re in the car and the driver puts the foot down there’s little you can do.”



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