GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES SAFETY DRIVE

  • Jenny Shipley
Transport

"The Government is today launching a two part Safety Drive to make our roads less dangerous for all New Zealanders," Transport Minister Jenny Shipley said today.

"The Safety Drive proposes tough measures targeted at those who drink or speed to excess and repeat offenders. It also proposes positive changes to the driver licensing regime to make New Zealand drivers safer.

"The Coalition Agreement undertook to move firmly against unsafe drivers. My colleagues in the Coalition Government, especially Police Minister Jack Elder and MP Peter Brown have joined me in a major effort to achieve our goals.

"We want to get the most dangerous drivers off the road. We want to give the police extra powers to suspend licences and impound vehicles.

"The Government is making it clear it has a zero tolerance for dangerous and foolhardy driving behaviour. The individual rather than the taxpayer will suffer the inconvenience and the cost of unacceptable driving behaviour.

"New Zealand has made some significant gains in recent years, but the current road toll of 409 deaths so far this year is still unacceptable. We must do everything we can to save families from the tragedy of losing a loved one in such a pointless way, " Mrs Shipley said.

The initiatives agreed to by the Government tackle the following areas:

safer drivers
serious offenders
repeat offenders
the "hard core"
additional initiatives

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THE SAFETY DRIVE
SAFER DRIVERS
The Government will legislate to raise the minimum age for getting a driver licence to 16.

"The Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) recommended an increase to 17, but the Government had to balance the social needs of a dispersed population against road safety. On balance I believe the safety benefits of waiting until our young people are a little more mature outweigh any disadvantages," Jenny Shipley said.

"At the other end of the scale, we are amending the rules for older drivers. They will have to undergo a medical check at 75, then a practical test at 80, which will be designed to check whether they are still safe drivers.

"The Government has also agreed to put photos on driver licences. This will enable the police to effectively apply new enforcement measures detailed below.

"Drivers will be required to carry their licence while driving. Drivers stopped by the police who are not carrying their licence may be held at the roadside while checks are made to establish their identity. Police may also issue a $55 fine for not carrying a licence, if it is deemed appropriate.

"The new photo licences, replacing the existing licensing system, will be phased in from mid-1999.

SERIOUS OFFENDERS
"The Government has decided to deal firmly with drivers who do not heed road safety measures or court orders and continue to drink and drive, or drive at excessive speeds. The Government has no patience with this kind of high-risk behaviour, and is giving the Police extra powers to deal with these criminals at the roadside.

Jenny Shipley says the average driver in New Zealand has taken on board the message from measures such as random stopping and speed cameras, and is taking responsibility for getting the road toll down.

"Our goal is to get the most dangerous drivers off the road without disadvantaging the majority of drivers who behave responsibly.

"These new measures fit into a spectrum that sees progressively more serious penalties as offending worsens.

"The first tier measures include mandatory licence suspension in certain circumstances. The police will be able to take a drivers licence away for 28 days from drivers who commit a serious offence - defined as exceeding the speed limit by more than 50 km/h, having blood or breath alcohol levels of twice the legal limit or more, or refusing to undergo a breath or blood alcohol test.

REPEAT OFFENDERS
"The second tier will see immediate removal of the vehicle of a disqualified or unlicensed driver. Far too often people who have been banned from driving are simply ignoring the authorities. A driver who is pulled over by police for any reason who has previously been forbidden to drive, or whose license has been suspended or who is disqualified will have their car impounded for 28 days. There will be appropriate rights of appeal, as set out in the attached documents.

THE "HARD CORE"
"Finally, those who continue to offend may face a jail term, as already provided for in the law. In this area, the Government is working on a new sentencing regime that will provide a clear, fair and credible system of penalties. Details will be announced shortly.

ADDITIONAL INITIATIVES
"The Government has decided the police need extra tools to assist them in enforcing road safety. Police officers will be given the power to impound vehicles for up to 12 hours in the interests of public safety. They will also be able to demand immediately, from the owner of the vehicle, the identity of the driver of a vehicle used in fleeing a police pursuit. Police will also be able to impound a vehicle for up to seven days for analysis in certain circumstances, which include hit and run or fatal crashes or where the vehicle fails to stop in a police pursuit.

"There is also a new initiative to help road controlling authorities manage traffic congestion through the use of cameras. This is expected to be particularly useful in cities to ensure bus lanes designed to ease congestion are not abused.

"The main focus of this whole safety drive is the dangerous driving criminals who think that laws on speed or drink-driving don't apply to them. They kill and maim people and it is time we all faced up to our responsibility to get them off the road," Mrs Shipley said.

THE NEXT STEPS
"Legislation is due to be introduced to parliament before the end of the year, and the public will be able to have a say through submissions to the select committee considering that legislation. In addition, there will be an opportunity for further public input as the LTSA finalises the Driver Licensing Rules.

"Further measures to put a brake on the road toll will also be considered by the Government next year.

"In a similar approach to the driver licensing review, we will be putting out a discussion document on a number of matters. These will include reducing the legal blood alcohol limit, encouraging low alcohol beverage consumption, mandatory detention in police custody of grossly intoxicated drivers, the application of demerit points to speed camera offences, the use of cellphones in vehicles, drag racing and refresher training for traffic offenders.

"What is clear is that we must keep considering new measures if we want to reduce the number of preventable deaths on New Zealand roads," Jenny Shipley concluded.

Ends

Inquiries:
Janice Rodenburg (Press Secretary) 04-4719113 or 025- 433760
Dave Jones (LTSA) 04- 4948634 or 025-763222
Jane Archibald (Police) 04-4749588 or 021-421055

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THE SAFETY DRIVE-BACKGROUND
CREATING SAFER DRIVERS
Key decisions

Raising the minimum driver licensing age to 16 years
Enhancing the requirements for novice drivers
Introducing photographic driver licences
Why target young and new drivers?

Research indicates that youthfulness, lack of driving experience and the conditions in which a person drives are the main risk factors contributing to crashes involving young drivers.

Raising the minimum driver licensing age to 16 years will make our roads safer by targeting the risk factor of youthfulness. Strengthening the graduated driver licensing system targets inexperience and minimises exposure to risky conditions such as night driving.

How many young New Zealanders are dying on our roads?

Road crashes are the number one killer for people between the ages of 15 and 25.

In 1995, this age group made up 15 per cent of the population, but made up 27 per cent of those killed on our roads and 35 per cent of those injured.

What is the minimum driving age in other countries?

There is no other country with a national driving age of 15. (Although several US states have a driving age lower than 15.)

In the United Kingdom and Ireland the age is 17
In Australia the age is 16-17
In France the age is 18
In Germany the age is 18
So wouldn't it be better to make the age 17?

The Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) recommended the minimum age be raised to 17 in its discussion document released in March.

Public submissions on this document showed that generally people thought that 17 was too high. The Government has therefore decided that 16 is the most appropriate minimum driver licensing age. This decision balances potential loss of access to job, social or school opportunities and the likely safety benefits from raising the age. This is also in line with the minimum school leaving age.

Will 15 year olds who already have their licences at the changeover be

affected?
15 year olds who already hold a licence will be allowed to continue to drive.

When will the age be raised?

The age will increase after the new legislation is enacted - possibly in the second half of 1998.

What other measures are being developed to protect novice drivers?

The Graduated Driver Licensing System (GDLS), which was implemented in 1987, is being improved.

What are the changes to the Graduated Driver Licensing System?

There will be greater emphasis on on-road driving experience.
The GDLS will apply to all novice drivers regardless of age. (One third of drivers - that is 23,000 - who obtain a full licence each year are aged over 25 years.)
A graduation test focusing on hazard perception, road awareness and higher level driving skills will be introduced at the end of the restricted phase before a person can move to a full licence.
Novice drivers will be required to display an identifying plate during both learner and restricted phases.
Why have photographs on a driver licence?

So that the Police can immediately and accurately identify the driver of a vehicle they pull over. Presently, there is little to stop people from using someone else?s licence.

How can this benefit drivers?

It ensures that no one is using your licence.
It will be easier to identify never-licensed and disqualified drivers.
It will be more difficult for offenders to give false information to Police.
What about other countries?

Every other developed country has a photograph on their licences.

Who will have to have a photographic licence?

Anyone who holds a driver licence.

What will it look like?

It will be the size of a credit card and will contain a photograph. It will include all of the information on the current licence except for details of the address and eye colour. The licence will also contain security features to stop people from duplicating licences.

When is the licence coming in?

There will be a one-year changeover period when a new computer system is in place. The changeover is expected in the first half of 1999, so it?s expected that all drivers will receive their new licence by mid-2000.

How do you get the licence?

The LTSA will use driver licence agents to give people their photographic licence. There will be extra requirements, depending on the licence class. All licence holders will be subject to a regular eyesight test and will complete a medical declaration when renewing their licence.

Renewal of the licence will take place every ten years around the time of a person?s birthday.

How much will the new licence cost?

It is expected that a 10 year licence will cost around $60.

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TARGETING SERIOUS OFFENDERS
Key decision

Police can suspend a serious offender?s driver licence for 28 days.
What is the goal?

To improve public safety by reducing the incidence and severity of high-risk driver behaviour.

Will law abiding drivers be affected?

No

Who will be affected?

Drivers who have been found driving with more than twice the legal alcohol limit.
Drivers who refuse to supply a blood sample.
Drivers driving at more than 50 kilometres per hour (kph) over the posted speed limit.
What will happen to these people?

A driver who drinks or speeds excessively (according to the above definitions) will have their licence suspended on the spot by the Police for 28 days.

The police officer will immediately seize that driver?s licence and send it to the LTSA.
The police officer will issue the driver with a temporary licence and suspension notice informing them that their driving privileges will cease in seven days time.
During this seven day period the driver can appeal to the Director of the LTSA. The only grounds that the Director may consider are wrong identification of the driver or incorrect procedures followed in the suspension procedure. The driver cannot appeal the suspension on the grounds of hardship.
The LTSA will advise the suspended driver of the outcome of the appeal within five working days of the appeal request being received. The driver will then have a further right of appeal to the District Court.
If the driver does not have the suspension overturned on appeal their licence will be suspended for 28 days.
The 28 day suspension will not replace the court procedures that currently apply for these offences. These will follow on as usual.
Why target these offenders?

Speed and alcohol are lethal on the road. Of the fatal crashes that occurred during 1996, 28 per cent were suspected to involve alcohol and 34 per cent involved speed.

What is the most effective method of stopping dangerous driving

behaviour?
Research (Nichols and Ross, 1990) shows that strong deterrence measures that are certain, severe and swift will deter drivers from driving dangerously. Measures enforced at the roadside are more likely to satisfy those criteria. For drivers who refuse to heed the warnings, actions can be taken to make it harder for them to continue to offend.

What improvements have already been made?

Deterrence is a key factor in improving road safety. From 1993 to 1995 compulsory breath testing reduced night time (10pm to 3am) serious and fatal crashes by 35 per cent in urban areas, and by 38 per cent in rural areas. Crashes at other times declined by 17 per cent in urban areas and 26 per cent in rural areas.

Speed cameras have reduced crashes at urban sites by 23 per cent, and at rural sites by 11 per cent. This is an overall reduction of 20 per cent.

To keep gaining ground we need to find new ways of tackling poor driver behaviour.

How will these new measures affect most people?

Reducing serious and high-risk offending will make the roads safer for everyone.
Drivers, their families, and their friends will need to take greater responsibility for road safety.
A very clear message will be sent to high-risk drivers that dangerous and anti-social driving behaviour is not acceptable.
What happens if the driver is caught driving again within the 28 day

period?
They will be on a suspended licence and Police will have the power to impound their vehicle.

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TARGETING REPEAT OFFENDERS
Key decisions

Police can impound the vehicle driven by a repeat offender for 28 days.
Who will be targeted?

Drivers who continue to drive when they have been ordered not to by the Police , LTSA, or the courts. There are five main groups of disqualified drivers:

Drivers who have been disqualified from driving by the courts as a result of having committed a serious driving offence but continue to drive in defiance of the disqualification.
Drivers who have accumulated so many demerit points that they have had their licence suspended by the Director of the LTSA but continue to drive in defiance of the suspension.
Drivers who have had their licence suspended by the Police for 28 days under the new licence suspension regime but continue to drive during this suspension period.
Drivers who have never held a licence and have been told by the Police not to drive but continue to drive in defiance of the Police order.
Drivers who have had their licence revoked by the Director for medical or other reasons but continue to drive in defiance of the Director's order.
How will disqualified or unlicensed driving be dealt with?

Research (Nichols and Ross 1990) shows that the threat of loss of driving privileges is the most effective way of deterring the general population from serious traffic offending.

A person who continues to drive when they have been ordered not to will have their car impounded for 28 days.
Police officers who pull over a disqualified driver or an unlicensed driver who has been forbidden by the Police to drive will call a tow company to take the vehicle away. The vehicle will be stored in the tow company?s premises for 28 days.
The Police will assist the driver to make arrangements to get home if necessary.
The driver whose vehicle has been impounded will have to pay for the tow and for 28 days storage before they can get the vehicle back.
The 28 day impoundment does not replace the court procedures that currently apply for these offences. These will follow as usual.
Can impoundment be appealed?

Yes it can. An appeal should first be made to the Commissioner of Police and if unsuccessful, the person can appeal to the District Court.

The grounds of appeal against impoundment are:

incorrect identification of the driver
incorrect procedure used by the Police
that the vehicle has been stolen
that the owner of the vehicle could not reasonably be expected to know the driver was disqualified or unlicensed
that the owner of the vehicle could not reasonably have prevented the driver from driving
There are no grounds for appeal based on hardship.

Why is impoundment effective?

Impounding a vehicle removes the means by which a disqualified/unlicensed driver continues to drive.
Owners of vehicles will need to be much more careful as to whom they lend their vehicles.
This regime encourages drivers, vehicle owners, their friends, family and employers to take greater responsibility for road safety.
The impoundment regime will increase the credibility of licence disqualification and suspension as a penalty for serious traffic offending.
Why crack down on disqualified/unlicensed drivers?

Drivers who have had their driving privileges removed are dangerous and not safe to drive. These drivers also challenge the integrity of the driver licensing system.

Last year there were about 11,000 convictions for driving whilst disqualified. Over half of these drivers had been convicted at least once before of driving whilst disqualified.
Over one third of disqualified drivers are also convicted of drink-driving.
An additional 3000 drivers were suspended under the demerit points system.
Police stopped 36,000 drivers who were unlicensed.
What is the disqualification treadmill?

Many serious offenders who are disqualified from driving continue to drive again and again in defiance of the disqualification order. Each time they are caught driving while disqualified they are likely to get an extension to the disqualification period. After a time the disqualification loses its impact.

For example one offender has been convicted more than 37 times on drink-driving related charges. Each time he was disqualified from driving, yet continued to drive and to drive drunk.

A new approach is needed.

What if a disqualified driver has access to another vehicle?

Every time a disqualified/unlicensed driver drives a vehicle, that vehicle is at risk of being impounded if the driver is stopped by the Police. Having had one vehicle impounded does not prevent subsequent vehicle impoundments if the driver fails to obey the court order not to drive.

The courts may also take other action against repeat disqualified drivers on convictions such as permanently confiscating their vehicles. Confiscation involves the sale of the vehicle by the Courts.

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OTHER IMPROVEMENTS TO THE ROAD SAFETY REGIME
What about older drivers?

The new system will require drivers to have medical checks at age 75, 80 and then every two years. Practical tests will be every two years from age 80.

This is a change from current rules which have seen drivers tested at age 71, 76 and every year after that. This will reduce the costs for older drivers.

What about overseas drivers?

Overseas drivers do not contribute significantly to road accidents. From 1988 to 1995 fewer than two per cent of drivers involved in crashes were driving on an overseas licence.

Therefore there is no change to the requirement that they hold an international driver licence.

And new residents?

It is important that new residents know the New Zealand road rules. The period that these residents are allowed to drive on an overseas licence before obtaining a New Zealand licence is being reduced from 12 months to 3 months.

What is being done to improve commercial driver safety?

Commercial drivers are expected to meet higher safety standards than private motorists.

Changes will include:

a streamlined graduated licence classification system
introducing ten yearly medical examinations for drivers of heavy vehicles
applying the fit and proper person test to driving instructors and testing officers
not allowing disqualified drivers of passenger service vehicles, driving instructors and testing officers to apply for a limited licence
Are there going to be changes to what the Police are empowered to do?

Yes, the Police will be able to stop a driver for a maximum of 15 minutes to establish that person?s identity. Drivers will now be required to produce their licence to the Police on the roadside. They will no longer have a seven day grace period.

Where the licence is not carried the Police will be able to impose a $55 fine. This is the same as it is currently for failure to present a licence. The Government has decided against the $500 fine that was suggested in the March discussion document.

The Police will be able to impound a vehicle for 12 hours if they consider there is a risk to public safety and other measures to disable a vehicle, such as confiscation of keys and forbidding the driver to drive are unlikely to be effective.

Police will also be able to impound a vehicle for analysis if it was involved in a serious crash including those causing death or injury, hit and run crashes, or where a vehicle has been involved in a Police pursuit.

Will the photo licence be able to be used for proof of age?

Yes. In addition, people who do not have a licence but want a photo ID as a proof of age document will be able to get a non-licence photo ID from LTSA.