Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021

16th February 2021

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (13:02): It is a great shame to debate the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021 in response to such a tragedy in our community. It is incredible that we have to chase down the issues in this way. It is particularly sad when families lose their children. In this case, in February last year at Oatlands the Abdallah and Sakr families lost their children as they walked innocently to buy an ice cream from the local shop. That was an unspeakable tragedy. I lend my voice to those of the many who have extended their thoughts and best wishes to the Abdallah and Sakr families. Everyone in Lake Macquarie and around New South Wales was heartbroken by the incident that claimed the four angels and share the families' grief. However, they have been uplifted by the families' strength, capacity for forgiveness and willingness to seek change.

I will not speak about the bill in great detail because the Minister and previous speakers have done that. The bill introduces a combined alcohol and drug driving offence for a person who has both a prescribed illicit drug and a prescribed amount of alcohol in their system. Each single offence is bad enough, but the bill provides more significant penalties when both are detected, including licence and vehicle sanctions, an extension of mandatory alcohol interlock orders, higher fines and requirements for offenders to undertake education and behaviour-changing programs.

Between 2015 and 2019, 98 people died as a result of New South Wales road crashes caused by drivers affected by a combined cocktail of drugs and alcohol—not one or the other but both. That is a significant number, given that the State's annual road toll is down to about 350. As I have mentioned before in this House, the Lake Macquarie electorate has a significant problem with driver behaviour. In fact, the fatality rate on Lake Macquarie roads is still one and a half times that of the State average. We do not have localised data on how often drugs and alcohol were involved in those fatal crashes but we know it played a significant factor in many of them.

Every death on our roads affects families, friends, first responders and many people within the orbit of those who are lost. For families and friends, it is a loss that will never be healed or forgotten. Every attendance at one of those fatalities chips away at the ability of the first responders to attend the next time there is a call out. It just breaks them down and they suffer post traumatic stress disorder as a result of cleaning up that mess. Very often the driver knowingly and sometimes wilfully made the choice to drive. There must be a cultural change and that is why I will be supporting the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021. I note that it has been forecast that further amendments may come from the Legislative Council. Let us look at them objectively to see if they add value to the legislation. We must change the culture on our roads. I commend the Government and the Minister for the bill.

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