Queensland parliament passes tougher laws for serious traffic offences

PENALTIES: A family's loss resulted in harsher consequences for careless or dangerous drivers.
PENALTIES: A family's loss resulted in harsher consequences for careless or dangerous drivers.

THE government has passed new laws in parliament increasing maximum penalties for some driving offences that result in death or grievous bodily harm.

Scenic Rim MP Jon Krause said he fully supported harsher laws for careless or reckless drivers who cause injury or death on the roads.

“Putting tougher penalties on these drivers is an important step because it is a tragedy when a family loses a loved one as a result of their behaviour,” he said.

‘Of course there are degrees of carelessness to take into account but a car can be a dangerous weapon and when someone dies that is a serious crime that hasn’t attracted enough attention in the judicial system.

“I would like to see the government have another look at these laws in the future and see if we can increase the gravity of these offences that result in death.”

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the government introduced the new laws following a review of existing maximum penalties.

“Every life lost on Queensland roads is a tragedy and community concern has been heightened understandably following a number of incidents where Queenslanders have lost loved ones at the hands of careless or dangerous drivers,” he said.

“These incidents are tragic and I extend my sincere sympathies to everyone affected by them.

“After thorough consultation with stakeholders, including a number of families who have lost loved ones in road crashes, the Palaszczuk government has passed legislation to significantly increase the penalties for certain driving offences resulting in death or grievous bodily harm."

Mr Bailey said the new laws were in line with recommendations handed down by the state coroner as a result of the inquest into the death of Audrey Ann Dow.

Mrs Dow, who had a flawless driving record for more than 60 years, was killed in 2013 after a head-on collision with a disqualified driver who was using his mobile phone and adjusting his seatbelt at the time of the accident.

Police could only charge the 28-year-old man with driving without due care and attention, to which he pleaded guilty.

He was fined $4000 and again disqualified from driving.

He had lost his license on four previous occasions before the accident and was back behind the wheel within four weeks of Mrs Dow’s death.

This lead to calls for tougher penalties for people who disregard driving bans and go on to cause death or injury to others.

“I want to thank Audrey’s family and many other families who during their time of grief brought about a campaign for change to help other families from being in the tragic circumstances they found themselves", Mr Bailey said.

“I am also extremely thankful that they took the time to meet with me to discuss these proposed legislative changes.

“I would also like to acknowledge the work of the Member for Burnett in highlighting how important these changes are to the community.”

New penalties

The changes include two new offences of careless driving causing death or grievous bodily harm and careless driving causing death or grievous bodily harm while unlicensed.

Mandatory minimum licence disqualification periods will also be applied to these new offences.

The current maximum penalty for careless driving is $5,046 or six months imprisonment (three demerit points) with no minimum licence disqualification period.

New offences include careless driving causing death or grievous bodily harm, which carries a maximum penalty of $10,092 or 12 months imprisonment (three demerit points) and a minimum licence disqualification period of at least six months.

The new maximum penalty (with circumstances of aggravation - unlicensed) is $20,184 or two years imprisonment (three demerit points) and minimum licence disqualification of at least six months.

Dangerous driving causing death or grievous bodily harm currently carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and a minimum licence disqualification period of at least 12 months.

The current maximum penalty for unlicensed drivers for the same offence is 14 years imprisonment and a minimum licence disqualification period six months, with the new maximum penalty carrying 14 years with a minimum licence disqualification period of at least 12 months.