Govt to put brakes on traffic penalty dodgers

Christopher Knaus -Mar 26, 2012

The government will move to close a loophole allowing drivers to evade traffic penalties by falsely claiming someone else was behind the wheel.

The ACT government believes drivers are avoiding penalties by falsely signing legal documents stating that another person was driving at the time of an offence.

Currently, ACT authorities have little ability to track down an individual who has been named as the offending driver in a statutory declaration. But Attorney-General Simon Corbell will this week introduce legislation to strengthen the government's powers to obtain information from drivers trying to avoid being penalised.

''The purpose of this legislation is to reduce the number of statutory declarations being made that, on the face of it, appear to be designed to avoid taking responsibility for traffic infringement notices,'' Mr Corbell said.

''At the moment [there's] no legal authority to request further and better particulars to try and ascertain the identity of the driver or where they may live.''

He said there had been cases where multiple drivers had been nominated for the same offence.

The new powers would mean the registered owner of the vehicle will be required to ''take all reasonable steps'' to locate the person who was driving at the time.

The proposed laws are also designed to target businesses and corporate fleets, who are thought to regularly shield drivers from demerit point deductions.

The government would have the power to take corporate vehicles off the road for up to six months if the company fails to identify a driver after two or more requests.

''The changes of the law put the onus on the registered operator of the vehicle,'' the Attorney-General said.

''This is a particular issue in commercial operations where the vehicle is not owned by an individual but a corporation,'' he said

''A lot of fleet vehicles fall under that category, as well as vehicles that belong to corporations.''

The use of false declarations has been identified as a major problem across Australia.

Mr Corbell said that stamping out the improper use of declarations was vital in maintaining the deterrent effect of the demerit system

Other jurisdictions are taking similar steps to boost the powers of road authorities to clamp down on fine avoidance.

The ACT legislation also contains a provision allowing drivers to apply to have extensions on the payment of fines.

That is designed for those unable to respond to an infringement notice in the 28 day timeframe currently provided because to special circumstances.

Those circumstances might include illness, interstate absence, or other personal circumstances, Mr Corbell said.

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