Following on from an article in today's Border Mail I have re-affirmed my commitment to lowering the probationary driving age to 17 to fall into line with the rest of the nation and as recommended by the Law Reform, Road and Community Safety's recommendation contained in a report tabled in parliament in March.
Do you stand by the committee recommendation that the driving age be lowered to 17? Why is it so important?
That report was the result of investigating, listening and questioning experts, authorities and the kids themselves – I absolutely stand by that report and its recommendations.
It was thorough, rigorous and the facts pointed overwhelmingly to the need for change.
Every other jurisdiction in this country trusts their 17-year-olds to do the right thing – we need to show the same level of trust.
I also don’t accept the police, VicRoads or the TAC’s default position that lowering the age would dramatically increase the number of fatalities and serious injuries. The evidence tendered to the committee didn’t support that either – have a look at the data from other states.
You add in the graduated licence that limits first and second year drivers, the improvement to motor vehicles that make them safer in an accident and to drive and it seems these changes have to happen – I say why not now?
This anomaly is a huge burden to young people and their families. It affects their job prospects, ability to travel for education and training and their general social mobility. The committee heard from families and children who are ferried to sport, school and jobs at all hours of the day or night – otherwise responsible young men and women who are isolated by a law that is outdated.
Is there any hope the Victorian government can change its mind and consider the change?
The present Victorian Government doesn’t want to hear the argument or listen to the facts.
Their members opposed the idea from the outset and ultimately the recommendations made by the bulk of the committee.
Within two hours of it being tabled, without having read a word, Daniel Andrews and his minister were on the front steps of parliament saying it was dead in the water, never going to happen.
But if we are to win office at the end of next year I will be lobbying for the recommendations made by that committee be returned to the house.
What can be done to support the Beechworth students who want to take on the issue?
We will investigate what form of petition can be used to table theirs and other students support for lowering the probationary age.
We will have something up in the coming weeks and I promise to see this through.
Would pressure from Cathy McGowan help to make this a federal issue of consistency across the states?
But there is a process underway that is looking at creating a cross Border commissioner for Victoria, similar to the position already established in NSW, and I have already written to the minister urging her that that person should be based in Wodonga – in the biggest population catchment along the Murray River.
The difference in P-plate age is a classic case of anomalies being exploited.
At the forum the parliamentary committee held at Wodonga Senior Secondary College we asked the students whether they had considered using an address in Albury to get their P-plates at 17 and nearly every arm in the room was raised.
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