New South Wales Transport Minister has vowed the driver responsible for a crash which killed actress Jessica Falkholt and her mother, father and sister should not have been on the road.
Minister Andrew Constance said road laws must be scoured “closely across the board” following the horror Boxing Day crash caused by serial traffic offender Craig Whitall.
“What a sad day for our country yesterday after the passing of Jessica,” Mr Constance told The TODAY Show, saying he believed Whitall “absolutely should not have been on the road”.
The minister’s comments come as the State Government came under more pressure for halving penalties for motorists who drive while disqualified, despite rising numbers of banned drivers being caught on the state’s roads.
Its decision to halve maximum penalties for driving while banned to six months for a first offence was made last year, along with plans to ditch its Habitual Traffic Offenders scheme, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Statistics reveal there are 38,848 motorists in NSW who are driving disqualified, with almost one third of them declared habitual traffic offenders – those who have been convicted of three of mores serious traffic offences within five years.
This is a 26 percent increase from five years ago when 12, 121 banned drivers were caught on the roads.
“There are drivers out there who should never ever be on the roads,” Minister Constance said.
“But this shouldn’t be an argy bargy between politicians and the courts. We all need to work on this together on this.”
The offence of driving while disqualified (DWD) presents a major risk to road safety, with a US study cited by the NSW Bureau of Statistics revealing DWD offenders are nearly three times more likely to be involved in and responsible for fatal crashes.
It has previously been revealed Craig Whitall had been given his licence back despite having 25 convictions and jail terms for driving while disqualified.
The 50-year-old had also been declared a Habitual Traffic Offender, raising questions about how he was allowed back behind the wheel.
Whitall was on his way home from a methadone clinic when he crossed onto the wrong side of the Princes Highway near Ulladalla on the NSW south coast, smashing his Toyota Prado into the Falkholt family’s car on December 26.
Whithall was killed in the crash, along with Jessica Falkholt’s parents, Lars, 69, and Vivian, 60, while Jessica and her sister Annabelle were pulled from the burning wreck.
Annabelle, 21, died in hospital from her injuries three days after the crash, while Jessica died yesterday, six days after her life support was switched off at St George Hospital.
The government’s decision to ditch the HTO scheme in October last year was based on the grounds the scheme, which automatically results in a five-year disqualification, “didn’t work”.
A 2007 BOCSAR report was cited, saying “longer disqualification periods have little to no deterrent effect” on traffic offenders”.
But a statement obtained by The Daily Telegraph yesterday said BOSCAR has never undertaken research into the scheme.
“There is an issue here,” Mr Constance told The TODAY Show, pointing to the role of the courts.
“Penalties might be discouraging people. There is a capacity for the courts to ban people for driving up to 50 years.
“What we have to look at is what is really going to be effective.
“I think the combination of the courts and the rules, community and societal behaviours is what we have to all work on together.”