Victoria closes 'loophole' to catch dodgy drivers

Companies face hefty fines if they fail to give authorities the details of drivers caught committing traffic offences

Victoria closes 'loophole' to catch dodgy drivers
Victoria closes 'loophole' to catch dodgy drivers
By Brad Gardner | December 3, 2012

A ‘loophole’ allowing companies in Victoria to shield their drivers from incurring demerit points for flouting traffic laws has been closed.

The Victorian Government has passed the Road Safety Amendment (Operator Onus) Bill to impose substantial penalties on businesses that fail to provide the details of an employee caught speeding, running red lights and committing offences at level crossings.

Government MP Andrew Elsbury says businesses have in the past paid the fine for the offence and a $717 penalty to avoid having to nominate the offending employee, saving them from being sanctioned.

Companies can now be fined up to $16,901 for failing to make a statement identifying the driver who committed the offence. The Bill also amends record keeping requirements so companies can no longer use a failure to keep records as an excuse for not providing a nomination statement.

"A failure to keep records of who had possession or control of the vehicle at the time of the offence will not be an acceptable reason for failing to identify the driver unless exceptional circumstances apply," Liberal MP Inga Peulich says.

She says 17.8 percent of companies that received infringements last financial year did not nominate the driver.

Labor MP Jaala Pulford says many corporations have hidden behind the excuse of not knowing who was driving the vehicle at the time of the offence.

"I welcome the closing of the loophole that has enabled corporations to hide behind a lack of information or a lack of record keeping to avoid paying penalties when drivers have done the wrong thing," she says.

"The penalties in the Bill give a significant incentive to organisations with vehicles within their control to be across the detail of who is driving those vehicles and when and where they are being driven, and it will encourage people to take responsibility for appropriate behaviour behind the wheel."

The Bill also increases penalties for heavy vehicle drivers caught exceeding the speed limit by 35km/h and will extend the time limit on prosecutions from one to two years for providing false or misleading nomination statements.

"The Bill closes a loophole to ensure that people who are in a position of authority in relation to vehicles which are involved in an incident where the law is broken will be forced to nominate the driver who was behind the wheel at the time," Kaye Darveniza, who represents the electorate of Northern Victoria, says.

During debate on the Bill, Liberal MP Craig Ondarchie listed the taxicab and trucking sectors as the chief culprits when it came to avoiding penalties.

Companies that fail to nominate a driver for speeding, red light and level crossing offences can be fined $2,817.

The figure increases to $16, 901 if the matter goes to court or if the company fails to provide a nomination statement for three or more infringements in the space of one year.

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