A new punishment process to keep first-time, low-range drink drivers out of court is being considered by the New South Wales Government.
If passed, the new process would see first offenders given punishments including a fine and the loss of demerit points rather than a mandatory court appearance.
Chief executive of the Department of Transport’s Centre for Road Safety, Bernard Carlon, said the process would be more streamlined.
“At the moment we have a court process — around 50 per cent of the [first-time] low-range alcohol offences get a Section 10, so they get no penalty,” Mr Carlon said.
He said the draft proposal would guarantee a more certain punishment outside the courts.
“We may introduce a more swift and certain penalty including a fine and demerit points,” he said.
Mr Carlon said Victoria already has a process in place where first-time, low-range drink drivers are stripped of 10 demerit points in place of a court process.
However, the draft proposal has been criticised as a backwards step.
“It’s a travesty and an absolutely retrograde step in terms of road safety,” Armstrong Legal managing partner John Sutton said.
Mr Sutton said the process of fronting a court is what makes people accountable for their actions.
“The bite is in going before a magistrate, facing the embarrassment of the community, telling your loved ones, your friends, your family what you’ve done wrong as opposed to just receiving a ticket,” he said.
Draft proposal still open for discussion
The Centre for Road Safety said the penalty regime has not been explored completely, but could include a disqualification period, a criminal infringement notice or a penalty infringement notice.
“The only thing that makes people take notice about what it is they’ve done is the fear and apprehension and then finality of facing court,” Mr Sutton said.
The NRMA said new measures must not reduce the public’s clear understanding of the dangers of drink driving.
“If you are going to change something this serious, it needs to be evidence based,” NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury, said.
Mr Khoury said the NRMA acknowledges the number of people getting off with Section 10 is too high.
“In far too many cases, clearly somebody has done the wrong thing and we want to see the law enforced,” he said.
“You shouldn’t be getting off just because you’ve got a good lawyer.”