NSW Premier Morris Iemma and Police Minister David Campbell sure can sniff a good PR opportunity. Rather than do something effective, such as remove roadside obstacles (collisions with which cause one-third of road death, the same as speeding, allegedly) or crack-down on unlicensed drivers (one in 10 among us, according to official estimates) they announced last week penalties for burnouts will treble under tough new (PR-driven) laws, and license disqualification will increase to 12 months maximum.
The announcement comes hot on the heels of a new policy to crush hoons’ cars in crash experiments in the RTA’s Crashlab facility, and possibly post the video footage on YouTube (though the Government is “still working on the details”).
Iemma and Campbell, who obviously fail to grasp road safety’s fundamentals, are on a roll. Obviously they retain great press secretaries, who have convinced the media there is a clear link between burnouts and street racing, although there’s no evidence burnouts are associated with much road trauma at all. Most burnouts occur when stopped or at walking pace. Street racing, though hard to prove in court, is clearly far more dangerous as it involves excessive speed and (often) a failure to observe ‘give way’ requirements at intersections – sometimes with tragic consequences.
This is not an apology for those who choose a public street of car park to perform burnouts. Burnouts are anti-social. But surely adequate enforcement provisions were in place already, such as negligent driving, or ‘manner dangerous’ charges. Why tar and feather a ‘burnouter’ when all an unlicensed driver gets is a slap on the wrist?
Surely, the punishment should fit the crime. Gaol sentences are rarely handed down to recidivist unlicensed drivers, drivers of unregistered vehicles, or those who flee police pursuit – unless somebody is killed or injured in the process. You have to ask yourself if a burnout is worse than these acts.
Another Iemma Government PR triumph with negligible road safety benefit.