A BILL that will be tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly tomorrow (June 22) proposes to introduce an offence and penalty against negligent drivers who cause harm to vulnerable road users.
Greens MLA Jo Clay will table the bill, which would amend the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 to add an offence of "Negligent driving - harm to vulnerable road users" — such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists — and quadruple the maximum penalty to 50 penalty units, or a maximum fine of $1600.
Everyone is a vulnerable road user, according to Ms Clay, who says: “When we walk to school or ride a bike or motorbike to work, when we use a scooter to get to a meeting, cross the road to get on the bus or light rail — even if we drive most places — when we walk from our car to our final destination we are vulnerable road users.”
The push to change the legislation started after a video went viral late last year of a cyclist being knocked off a bike by a trailer, which led to Pedal Power ACT "discovering a major issue with the law".
The incident eventually saw the driver lose a small number of demerit points and fined $393 for negligent driving, however, the charge was in response to the driver travelling over an island, and not in response to it endangering the bike rider, according to a story published in "CityNews" in May.
Since this discovery, Pedal Power ACT has been calling for urgent changes to the current road transport legislation to better reflect the seriousness of endangering cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists through negligent driving.
It’s not uncommon for bike riders to get struck by vehicles in the ACT and Pedal Power ACT CEO Ian Ross says they receive at least one report a week about someone being hit.
“It is an ongoing issue,” says Ian, who also points to the data nationally, which reveals that bike-rider fatalities are on the rise.
Ms Clay said: “It’s an insult, frankly, that someone can inflict lifelong injuries and drive away with a fine not much higher than if they’d been speeding and didn’t hit anyone.
“Reducing harm to pedestrians, cyclists, people entering and exiting public transport and everyone else on or near our roads is so important."
Mr Ross welcomes the proposed legislative changes, saying it would significantly increase the penalties for negligent driving that injures a vulnerable road user.
“We know strong penalties act as a good deterrent. People’s driving behaviour changed when strong penalties were introduced for drink driving and speeding through school zones," he says.
Mr Ross says we needed a culture where all drivers automatically take extra care when driving near vulnerable road users.
“If they don’t, our police need to be equipped to impose high and immediate penalties,” he says.
“This proposed legislation will send a message that our community values people who ride bikes, and that we will protect our vulnerable road users."
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