Published on: February 2021
Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021
Second Reading Debate
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Mrs WENDY TUCKERMAN (Goulburn) (15:25:27):
I speak in debate on the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill. The bill provides for initiatives to support a reduction in drink and drug driving. The penalty framework includes the mandatory Alcohol Interlock Program and the education and behaviour change program for combined offence offenders, in addition to fines, licence suspensions and vehicle sanctions, as well as possible custodial sentences for more serious offences. The Alcohol Interlock Program was introduced in New South Wales in February 2015. Since then courts have been required to order offenders convicted of high‑range, repeat and other serious drink‑driving offences to complete a minimum licence disqualification period and a period of participation in the interlock program of at least 12 months. In 2018 we expanded the interlock program to include offenders convicted of a middle‑range prescribed content of alcohol first offence, or driving under the influence first offence where the offence involves alcohol and a motor vehicle.
Interlock programs are designed to enable offenders to return to licensing after an offence, but only if they completely separate drinking from driving. Participation in the program means an offender can only drive a vehicle with an interlock installed in his or her vehicle, which must be regularly serviced by an accredited interlock service provider. When an interlock is installed the driver must provide a breath sample that the interlock analyses for the presence of alcohol. If the driver fails the test, the vehicle will not start. Randomly timed breath tests must also be passed during a journey. He or she must also attend a medical consultation to specifically discuss alcohol use and health risks before an interlock licence will be issued by Transport for NSW. The interlock device records information, such as attempts to drive the vehicle with a positive blood alcohol reading, which is monitored by Transport for NSW. At the end of the court‑ordered interlock period, offenders are only permitted to move to a licence that does not have an interlock condition if they have complied with the program and their data indicates they can separate drinking from driving over a sustained period.
A 12‑month minimum interlock participation period ensures all offenders have time to learn to separate drinking and driving behaviour before moving to a licence without the interlock requirement. A person who receives an interlock order and does not enter the interlock program is disqualified from holding a licence—other than a learner or interlock licence—for a period of five years from the date of his or her conviction. This is a current feature of the Act and is not being changed by the bill. In June 2019 a process evaluation of the interlock program was completed. It aimed to assess program implementation, improve program delivery and refine policy settings. It found that the rollout of the program was an overall success and sentencing patterns reflected the intent of the legislation. The participant survey showed that 82 per cent of respondents approved of the program, though the take‑up rate for the interlock licence—54 per cent—could be improved. Participants said that the interlock licence helped them separate drinking from driving and maintain work and family commitments. The effectiveness of the interlock program reflects the results of other evaluations across Australia and throughout the world where interlock devices are mandated for drink‑driving offences.
In 2020 Austroads published a report on the effectiveness of drink‑driving countermeasures, which looked at best‑practice evidence from around the world. It found that alcohol interlocks are one of the most effective measures in preventing drink‑driving offenders from driving while impaired by alcohol. Since the introduction of the interlock program in New South Wales 31,000 interlock orders have been made by courts. Currently there are almost 10,000 active interlock participants, and in 2020 around 6,500 interlock licences were issued. In late 2020 Transport for NSW accredited a new interlock provider, increasing the number of interlock providers to four. Having four accredited interlock providers means that customers will have more choice about where they get their interlock service from and should encourage price competitiveness between providers for improved customer outcomes. Costs associated with installing and servicing alcohol interlocks must be paid for by the participant and are around $2,200 to $2,500 a year.
To increase accessibility to the program a lower rate is available for certain concessional healthcare card holders, while short‑term financial assistance may be available from Transport for NSW for participants in severe financial hardship. Although interlocks have proven to be effective at supporting offenders to separate drinking from driving, to entrench this behaviour change into the long term there is evidence that interlocks should be supported by an education and behaviour change program. As part of the 2018 drink‑driving reforms, the New South Wales Parliament passed provisions for a new education and behaviour change program, and committed to expanding the education available to drink and drug drivers. We also have the Traffic Offenders Intervention Program and the Sober Driver Program in New South Wales. Evaluations of the Sober Driver Program have shown that it reduces repeat drink‑driving offending by around half. However, currently the only people required to attend the program are those with an interlock exemption.
Best practice shows that to bring about sustained behaviour change, offenders should participate in both an education and behaviour change program and the interlock program. Therefore, we plan to extend the availability and requirement to complete a proven impaired driving education program to those with the combined offence. Drink and drug driving education courses using behavioural approaches have been proven to reduce recidivism, especially when combined with other penalties. This Government, which introduced the mandatory Alcohol Interlock Program and provisions for an expanded education program, is committed to building on countermeasures that are proven to deter drink‑driving behaviour and reduce recidivism. I support expanding those countermeasures to the combined offence to help reduce the tragic trauma outcomes we are seeing on our road network. I thank the Minister and his staff for their response to ensure that these measures are enacted for the safety of all.
I reflect on some of the statistics coming out of the Goulburn electorate. Some 60 people were killed and 318 seriously injured over the five-year reporting period from 2015 to 2019. The fatality rate of 17.5 per cent per 100,000 population is almost four times higher than the New South Wales State average, which is extraordinary. Some 10 fatalities were recorded during the first nine months of 2020. The age distribution was similar to the New South Wales State average, with 34 per cent of serious casualties aged 40 to 59 years. Males comprised 69 per cent of those serious casualties; 69 per cent of serious casualties were motor vehicle occupants and 24 per cent motorcycle riders; and 11 people were killed in crashes involving heavy vehicles. Speeding was a factor in 48 per cent of fatalities and 34 per cent of serious injury; fatigue was a factor in 25 per cent of fatalities and 23 per cent of serious injuries; alcohol was a factor in 15 per cent of fatalities and 7 per cent of serious injuries; and there were six fatalities from crashes involving a driver or motorcycle rider with the presence of an illicit drug.
The estimated cost to the community for the 410 serious casualties is around $620 million for the five-year reporting period from 2015 to 2019. Road trauma resulted in over 320 people being admitted to a health facility located in the electorate of Goulburn over the five-year reporting period. Those are phenomenal statistics. I commend the bill to the House for the good of all. Let us hope that safety improves for our road users.
Mr PHILIP DONATO (Orange) (15:34:59):
I make a brief contribution to debate on the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021, also known as the Four Angels Law. I begin by expressing my deepest sympathy and condolences to the Abdallah and Sakr families. Words cannot describe the loss and grief that they have suffered following the tragic events of February last year. The loss of four innocent young lives—the four angels referred to in the bill—is so terribly sad. The bill, in essence, closes a loophole that has existed in legislation for many years now. It is indeed unfortunate it took the tragic events of that day to initiate the bill. That is by no means a criticism, but rather an observation.
Prior to my arrival in this place, in a previous life as a police prosecutor I prosecuted hundreds, probably thousands of people—men and women, young and old—for drink driving offences. Unfortunately, despite the constant media campaigns, it is still a prevalent offence in the community—and especially in regional areas. I worked in both metropolitan and rural areas and there is, at times, a propensity for some selfish and reckless individuals to have a few drinks and then think it is okay to drive home. Maybe it is because of a lack of public transport in the bush or the "she'll be right" laid-back country attitude. Whatever the ill-informed reason, we, as a Parliament representing the community, need to send a crystal clear message: You need a plan B if you plan on having a few drinks.
Spend a morning in any Local Court on a busy list day and you will see dozens of people appear for drink and drug driving offences. I think the situation has improved compared with a decade or more ago, but there is still a long way to go. There have been technological advancements in drug detection and the introduction of the offence of driving under the influence of an illicit substance—which we are seeing more and more before the court. If a driver is involved in a motor vehicle collision and taken to hospital, they are subject to blood and urine testing and on occasion a result is obtained that they are suffering the effects and/or under the influence of both alcohol and an illicit drug. Ironically, the normal practice would be that a charge would be laid of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, with the usual statutory penalties of driving under the influence to apply, regardless of how many drugs were detected in a person's blood.
Until now, there was not a discrete offence to capture that criminality—which, when you think about it, is unusual. This new offence will close that loophole. A driver who gets behind the wheel of a motor vehicle affected by a cocktail of both excessive amounts of alcohol and illicit drugs is showing complete and selfish disregard not only for the law, but also for other road users and themselves. It is a disaster waiting to happen. Criminal behaviour like that means they forfeit their right to be able to drive and to be trusted on our roads. For those reasons I am comfortable in supporting this legislation.
community expectations and appropriately punish those who do thewrong thing.Those who are prepared to take their lives and those of otherroad users into their hands when they put the keys in the ignitionand drive down the road should be warned that they are facing significantpenalties and long periods off the road if they run the risk andare detected.
The introduction of a new offence of combined alcohol and drug driving and the significant increases in penalties that appropriately and adequately reflect the objective criminality and danger posed to other innocent road users are welcome. They will go some way to acting as a general deterrence, better reflect
It was concerning to hear the statistics the Minister referred to in his second reading speech that between 2015 and2019 there were 101 serious motor vehicle collisions involving drivers or riders with illegallevels of alcohol combined with prescribed illicit drugs present in their system. Those crashes resulted in 98 people losing their lives and 52 beingseriously injured.Some 84 per cent of the 101 crashes involved drivers or riders with mid‑ or high-range alcohol levels, with the majority occurring on country roads.I am a regional member of Parliament—as you are, Madam Deputy SpeakerI am sure you will agree that we are even more in tune with the devastating effects that road accidents have on families and the wider community we represent. Unfortunately, they seem to happen frequently and, in manycases,involve someone you know, directly or indirectly—such is the natureof life in smaller regional towns.
I also share the Minister's concerns that research has indicated that driving or riding with mid-or high‑range levels of alcohol combinedwith a mixture of illicit drugsincreases the risk of fatal collision by 23 times.I support the regime of increased penalties, disqualification and alsothe use of interlock devices for offenders, and believe compulsoryattendance at a traffic offender course is also useful.I appreciate that lawyers and others will be concerned that some drugs—for example, cannabis—may remain in a person's bloodstreamfor some days, weeks and possibly even longer and that, although itis present in the blood, it has no effect on their level of impairment. That may or may not be true; I am not an expert in the field. No doubt that argument will be raised in courts across the State. However, it is a moot point in my view.
If a driver is driving with a mid- or high-range level of alcohol—two or three times the legal limit, or possibly higher—with the cumulativepresence of an illicit drug in their system then the law should comedown hard on those individuals.Holding a driver licence is a privilege not a right, and other roadusers have a right to feel safe when using the road.We do not want to see another family go through what the Abdallahand Sakr families have had to endure. For those reasons, I commend the bill to the House.
Ms ROBYN PRESTON (Hawkesbury) (15:41:18):I speak in debate on the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021.The bill introduces important changes to drink and drug driving legislation to create a newcombined offence for drivers with prescribed concentrations of alcohol combined with thepresence of a prescribed illicit drug.In my electorate of Hawkesbury 36 people were killed and 395 seriously injured over the five-year reporting period from 2015 to 2019. Alcohol was a factor in 17 per cent of fatalities and 8 per cent of seriousinjuries.There were eight fatalities from crashes involving a driver or motorcycle rider with the presence of anillicit drug in their system. One death or injury is one too many and we must reduce the scale of road traumathrough the important initiatives included in the bill.
The intention of the bill is to increase deterrence and send a clear message to drivers that they are putting themselves and others at significant risk when mixing alcohol and prescribed illicit drugs, and that this high-risk behaviour will not be tolerated on New South Wales roads.The new offence is supported by an evidence-based penalty framework with penalties designedto deter people from driving after they have consumed alcohol or taken illicit drugs.As the Minister outlined in his second reading speech, the bill allows police to suspend thelicence of a driver who is issued with a court attendance notice for a prescribed concentration of alcohol [PCA] offence. This immediate suspension already occurs for PCA offences. It isdesigned to ensure that an offender cannot continue to drive until the matter is heard in court.Studies show that sanctions imposed immediately, such as a licence suspension, are a moreeffective deterrent than sanctions imposed weeks or months after the offence took place.
The licence suspension will remain until the offence is heard by a court. If the driver is convicted and disqualified by the court, the court will take the period already served under suspensioninto account when imposing the disqualification period.As with existing licence suspensions, drivers can appeal the suspension. The process for appeals will remain the same. In comparison, when a court disqualifies a person from driving, their licence is cancelled and theperson has to go through the process of reapplying for a licence.
The bill allows police to apply vehicle sanctions, which already apply in street racing, aggravated burnout, engaging in a police pursuit, excessive speeding by more than 45 kilometres per hour over the speed limit and repeat mid- and high-range drink driving offences. Vehicle sanctions also apply to instances where a person, when required by police after a failed breath test, refuses or fails to submit to a breath analysis or provide a blood sample. The Vehicle Sanctions Scheme is designed to immediately separate dangerous drivers from their vehicles, reducing their personal risk and the risk faced by others on the road.
While vehicle sanctions can apply only for second and subsequent mid- and high-range prescribed concentration of alcohol [PCA] offences—not first offences—they can apply to a first high-range combined offence. That reflects the seriousness and much-increased risk of driving with both high levels of alcohol and a prescribed illicit drug presence. Where a driver commits one of those offences and is the registered operator of the offending vehicle, police may confiscate the numberplates at the roadside or impound the vehicle. The confiscation of plates is a preferred and practical alternative to impounding the vehicle and is cheaper to administer. The numberplate removal is a swift and public penalty. Police immediately remove numberplates and attach a numberplate confiscation notice to the vehicle. The notice states that the numberplates have been removed and that it is an offence to drive the vehicle during the confiscation period.
Penalties are severe for those who choose to continue driving a vehicle that has had numberplates confiscated. A person convicted of an offence of operating a motor vehicle on a road during a plate confiscation period faces a maximum court-imposed fine of $3,300 and vehicle forfeiture. With a second or subsequent offence, the motor vehicle may be permanently confiscated. Numberplate confiscation or vehicle impoundment in New South Wales is usually for three months. It can be up to six months if the offender had been disqualified from driving at the time of the offence. There are current appeal rates to address concerns of potential family hardship. For example, a family member can apply to the local court to get a vehicle or numberplates back before the impounded or confiscation period ends. They need to show the court that they need to use the vehicle for specific purposes.
The court will consider whether it is reasonably likely that the vehicle will be used to commit sanctionable offences again or whether any extreme hardship will be caused to someone other than the registered owner because the vehicle or numberplates have been taken away. The court cannot release a vehicle or numberplates earlier than five days after they were confiscated. The initiatives in the bill to allow licence and vehicle sanctions to be applied to the combined offences are eminently sensible and in line with other comparable offences including drink driving.
I congratulate Minister Constance on his rapid response to the devastating occurrence on 1 February last year when four angels had their lives taken. I know that the Minister has worked closely with the Abdallah and Sakr families and that this is a very important bill for him. Leila Abdallah and Bridget Sakr were in this House only last week to hear Minister Constance speak on the bill and of the tragic circumstances that caused us to come to this place and discuss this issue. These are sincere intentions to amend the law and to try to prevent any other families from having to go through such unspeakable grief and pain. The four angels are looking down on this House and relying on us to deliver changes in law that will protect others.
We have to create awareness in drivers, who must understand the consequences of drinking, taking drugs and getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. There is zero tolerance for such behaviour and the bill reinforces the Government's position. It is upon all of us to have a duty of care, and the bill is the first step to ensuring that we introduce further protection of lives, whether they are pedestrians, passengers or drivers. I stand here today to honour the four Angels: Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah and Veronique Sakr. Their tragic deaths are not in vain. I commend the bill to the House.
Ms TAMARA SMITH (Ballina) (15:49:10):
On behalf of The Greens, I contribute to the debate on the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021. We support the bill, but we would like to strengthen it and will seek to do that in the other place because we believe the bill should do exactly what it sets out to do. We recognise that over a year ago the tragedy occurred of the four young people who were killed in Oatlands and we understand that for their families, there is no second opportunity to get it right. We believe any death of any person or any harm on the roads as a result of someone being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or both, is a crime and should be punished with the full extent of the law.
The purpose of the bill is to amend the Road Transport Act 2013 and to introduce a combined alcohol and drug driving offence for drivers with prescribed concentrations of alcohol combined with the presence of a prescribed illicit drug. The bill introduces a new range of penalties attached to the offence, designed to better deter the high-risk behaviour and to reduce the number of vehicle accidents—and we get that. With the drink driving laws over the past 20 years-plus, we have seen that whilst deaths and accidents still occur, there has been a huge improvement in that it is a major deterrent to people that they will be pulled over and that they will be tested. The intention of the bill is to deter drivers from putting themselves and others at significant risk when driving with a mix of alcohol and prescribed illicit drugs in their system.
I note that the member for Goulburn spoke about the alcohol education programs that are very, very successful in changing the behaviours of offenders. The bill provides for higher penalties for the combined offence and, as well as high fines and custodial sentences, it includes licence and vehicle sanctions. The bill creates a new combined offence of mid- or high-level drink driving with the presence of drugs. The penalties are up to $5,500 and two years' imprisonment for a first offence. There is strong evidence that drivers who are significantly impaired by legal or illegal drugs while also having alcohol in their bloodstream pose a significant risk. But we, and certainly my community, want to see an impairment test included in drug testing.
The bill reinforces that it is an offence if there is any presence of a prescribed illicit drug, but there are only four prescribed illicit drugs—ecstasy, cannabis, cocaine and methamphetamine—and drug testing does not include a test for benzodiazepines, hallucinogens or opioids, which we believe is a problem. We would like to see the testing go much further, as it does in Norway, where 20 illicit drugs are tested for. But at the heart of that testing is an impairment model—scientific testing of the impairment level of a person who has consumed, for example, cannabis, which we know stays in the system for days, if not weeks. We are certainly not suggesting that people should be mixing a cocktail of alcohol and drugs, but we want testing to be expanded to focus on the actual significant impairment in the bloodstream of people who have consumed not just the four prescribed drugs but all legal and illicit drugs if they impair a person's driving.
I do not want to be on the road when someone, through a loophole, has had a drug test and drug driving is not picked up because the person is on a cocktail of pills that are simply not tested for. We would like to see the drug test expanded to other drugs. Unlike random breath testing for alcohol, which measures levels of alcohol in the blood that have been scientifically proven to impair driving, roadside drug testing detects the mere presence of a few select substances in saliva, meaning the drug could have been consumed days prior. As a result lots of people in the Northern Rivers are entering the criminal justice system, and when people enter the criminal justice system they often become hardened criminals. There is no deterrence. If the Minister is serious that this is about deterrence, then let us go all the way.
This is certainly not the fault of the police. This is the fault of legislation that is not grounded in the truth of impairment and treats trace as the same as impairment. We support this. We know we need to get this right. We want to see the community protected and never want to see a situation where the lives of four beautiful young people out for a walk—Antony, Angelina, Sienna and Veronique—are tragically cut short by a driver who is under the effects of both alcohol and drugs. But this legislation as it stands may or may not actually deter that kind of individual. We know we need to get this right and that there is still work to be done. The Greens are very willing to bring those amendments, because ironically the Norwegian Government has gone so much further and, as I said, is testing for 20 types of drugs and it is a much stronger set of laws. We think impairment levels and testing are at the heart of keeping the community safer overall.
Ms MELANIE GIBBONS (Holsworthy) (15:55:25):
I support the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021, and thank the Hon. Andrew Constance, MP, Minister for Transport and Roads, for introducing this bill to the House. It is important to acknowledge the reason why the Minister has introduced this bill. This legislation, also known as the "Four Angels Law", is in response to the horrific and tragic deaths of four children—Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah, and their cousin Veronique Sakr—who lost their lives this time last year in a crash at Oatlands. The bill's purpose is to introduce amendments to the Road Transport Act 2013 and, in particular, to introduce a combined alcohol- and drug-driving offence for drivers with prescribed concentrations of alcohol in combination with the presence of a prescribed illicit drug.
The bill also proposes a new range of tougher and higher penalties in an effort to better deter this dangerous type of behaviour and to avoid road trauma that stems from the number of crashes that are happening on our roads. Any death on our roads is a tragedy and we must head towards zero. Unfortunately, between 2015 and 2019 15 people were killed and 398 seriously injured within the Holsworthy electorate. Although the fatality rate of 3 per 100,000 population was lower than the State average, it needs to be lower and that is why I have and continue to support and advocate strongly for safety upgrades to our local roads, such as Heathcote Road. Of the people killed and seriously injured on my local roads during this period, alcohol was a factor in 13 per cent of fatalities and 7 per cent of serious injuries, and there were three fatalities from crashes involving a driver or motorcycle rider with the presence of an illicit drug in their system.
This bill's intention is to deter drivers from putting themselves and the wider community at risk when they drive under the influence of both alcohol and illicit drugs. Some of the penalties for the combined offence under the bill's proposals include higher fines, and licence and vehicle sanctions. It also expands the mandatory alcohol interlock order to the combined offence and requires offenders to attend a drug-driving education and behaviour change program. It is true that there are issues within society that contribute to this problem; however, this bill is a step towards reducing the number of tragic crashes on our roads and the loss of life as a result. The New South Wales Government along with emergency services and the wider community must work together to reduce road crashes and improve safety for all motorists in New South Wales. This bill seeks to do just that, with the new offence an example of the commitment this Government is making.
This bill is a response to the newly announced Saving Lives accelerated package, which introduced several measures to reduce problems on the roads that are consistent and dangerous. One of these problems included combined drink and drug driving. The driver who killed the four children in February last year was three times over the alcohol limit and was also affected by illicit drugs. This fatal crash touched the lives of everyone in Australia, as it simply should not have happened. This bill seeks to prevent more families from going through such a tragic and terrible loss. We are all part of that greater responsibility—to obey the rules and save lives on our roads. The New South Wales Government's Road Safety Plan 2021 featured targeted and proven initiatives to address specific areas of trauma and types of crashes on our roads. These included those that involved drink and drug driving. As part of this plan, penalties for drink driving have been increased considerably. Transport for NSW is also developing a drink- and drug-driving education strategy for offenders.
The NSW Police Force has also increased random breath and drug testing on our roads. While all of these strategies have proven successful, more work still needs to be undertaken to address the trauma that stems from road accidents and crashes. This bill is the first step in addressing this. The numbers and statistics of serious casualty crashes involving combined drink and drug driving are staggering. Between 2015 and 2019 there were 101 serious road crashes in which the offender was under the influence of both alcohol and illicit drugs. All of these crashes had an extreme impact on the community, whether it be the immediate families, emergency services, the hospital system and so on. Unfortunately, as a result of these crashes 98 people lost their lives and a further 52 people were seriously injured. Of the crashes between 2017 and 2019, 17 per cent included high levels of alcohol, 21 per cent involved the presence of illicit drugs and 6 per cent involved a combination of both. These numbers show that this is a serious issue within our community. The effects of alcohol and illicit drugs combined with driving put the community at significant risk.
As research states, the combination of both alcohol and illicit drugs increases the risk of a fatal crash by 23 times. This statistic is overwhelming. This is why we need to continue to deter drivers from getting behind the wheel and driving when they are under the influences of alcohol, illicit drugs and, most importantly, a combination of both. It is true that the current approach to decrease this dangerous and high‑risk behaviour is through deterrence. To maximise deterrence and stop offenders from engaging in such behaviour, the certainty of punishment, severity of punishment and swiftness of punishment need to be addressed. This bill seeks to strengthen these three points in an effort to toughen the deterrence methods. The New South Wales Government has committed an extra 200,000 mobile drug tests yearly to the NSW Police Force. Under the bill, if a driver tests positive to mid‑ or high‑range alcohol levels at a roadside breath test, they will then have to undergo a drug test. This is due to the increased crash risk that occurs when a driver is under the influence of alcohol at a mid to high level. If a driver tests positive to a low‑range alcohol level at a roadside breath test, they too will have to undergo a subsequent drug test. This is to combat repeat offenders.
The New South Wales Government is utilising resources on the most at‑risk drivers to ensure that the number of crashes is reduced. The bill's proposals also introduce tougher penalties for offences. Maximum fines are increased and minimum automatic licence disqualification periods are also increased. Penalties for second and subsequent offences have also been increased to around double that of first time combined offenders. The New South Wales Government is ensuring that swiftness of the penalty is also increased. Under the bill a driver's licence is immediately suspended, as this has shown to be more effective as a deterrent. This bill proposes that the drug test will test for the presence of illicit drugs that have been proven to significantly impair driving. That is tetrahydrocannabinol from cannabis, MDMA, methyl amphetamine—which is also known as speed or ice—and cocaine. As part of the roadside drug test, if it comes up as testing positive to the presence of an illicit substance, the driver will not be charged with a combined offence until results are received from the laboratory. Regardless of the results, the driver will be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
In the event that the driver's laboratory results test positive to the presence of illicit drugs, they will then be charged with the combined offence and the original offence of driving under the influence of alcohol will be withdrawn. The driver's licence will be suspended immediately until the court date. This is to ensure that they do not repeat offend during this period. The intention is clear: to increase deterrence and ensure that drivers are not putting others at risk by driving under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs. This is further shown through the bill's proposed increased, tougher penalties. They are designed to be much more severe. The penalty framework includes fines, licence disqualification, alcohol interlocks, vehicle sanctions, imprisonment, and the requirement to attend an education and behaviour change program. While all of these penalties exist for current separate offences, for the combined offence the maximum penalties will be much higher. This directly reflects the higher risk of driving under the influence of both alcohol and drugs.
The current maximum fine for a first-time mid-range drink driving offence is $2,200. However, the maximum fine for a first-time mid-range combined offence is $3,300. The minimum licence disqualification period for a combined offence will be 12 months, in comparison to six months for committing a drink driving offence. The penalties are significantly higher for second-time or subsequent offenders to acknowledge the seriousness of this offence and the issue of repeat offenders. As a community, we cannot continue to see tragic fatal crashes on our roads as a result of careless and reckless behaviour. This bill is definitely a step in the right direction and is at the forefront of tackling a major issue. I commend the bill to the House.
Dr HUGH McDERMOTT (Prospect) (16:05:03):
I support the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021, otherwise known as the Four Angels bill, which will provide for increased penalties for those who drive under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs. The bill is named after the Abdallah siblings—Antony, Angelina and Sienna—as well as their cousin Veronique Sakr, who were all tragically killed by a drug- and alcohol-affected driver in 2020. The families will carry this event for the rest of their lives and one can only imagine the deep hurt that this will cause for generations. They should never have had to endure that. I know that all our hearts across this Chamber go out to both families and to all those impacted by this tragedy. It is one of those events that causes the State to stop, pause and reflect on the horrific nature of this crime. The Government must continue to ensure that we head towards zero fatalities for drink driving and drug‑related incidents and deaths on our roads. Zero is the only acceptable number.
This is about protecting lives including the lives of children, both born and unborn, who have been cruelly taken from us by those types of horrific criminal acts. Sadly, the death of children by alcohol- and drug-affected drivers is an issue that continues to impact on our community in New South Wales and throughout Australia. I refer members to the recent incident in Queensland when young couple Matthew Field and Kate Leadbetter were killed whilst walking their dog on Australia Day by a young driver allegedly under the influence of both drugs and alcohol. Kate was carrying their unborn son, Miles, who was due to be born in three months.
Closer to home in New South Wales, Brodie Donegan was injured when Justine Hampson smashed into her car in 2009 whilst under the influence of drugs. Her child Zoe was stillborn and is another example of the loss of a young life. Ms Hampson was charged with dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm to Ms Donegan but faced no charge in relation to young Zoe's death. The protection of life must be paramount in everything we do in this Parliament. We must continue to ensure that we are fighting to protect all lives who are victims of crime, including those who are yet to born. The legal issues surrounding women's health care, reproductive rights and options are separate to this issue, which is about justice for victims and the loss of life from crimes committed on our roads.
We need laws in this State that protect against horrific crimes such as these and entrench within our community an understanding that anyone who commits such a crime will be dealt with harshly and justly. As we have often seen, it is not just the driver who is impacted by reckless and selfish acts on our roads. The Government has moved too slowly to protect our community in this space. The impacts of drink and drug driving on victims and their families will often stay with people for the rest of their lives. For too long now we have let our community down, with the Government not acting to protect us from drug and alcohol driving offences. By not acting, the Government has left families in New South Wales exposed.
Throughout 2020, with COVID-19 and the challenges that have been thrust upon the people of New South Wales, we have seen a rise in drink driving rates. In January and February last year, speeding was a factor in 30 per cent of road deaths. This percentage rose to 72 per cent in March and 54 per cent in April. This bill creates new offences for combined alcohol and drug driving offences, and outlines appropriate penalties for drivers convicted of either high- or mid-range drink driving while under the influence of drugs. Those convicted will face up to two years' imprisonment and a fine of $5,500 for the first offence, rising to $11,000 for the second offence. Those fines are appropriate and send a strong message to those who would potentially do us harm to think twice before getting behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both.
The bill amends the Road Transport Act 2013 to define the new combined alcohol and drug driving offence as a major offence. This increases the penalty for those offences and initiates automatic driver licence disqualifications. Section 205 of the Road Transport Act 2013 is amended to set out the disqualification penalties that apply for the combined drink and drug driving offence as part of its designation as a major offence. A driver can be disqualified from holding a licence for up to four years depending on the severity of the offence and the driver's history of offences. Drivers convicted of this new offence will also be subject to a mandatory interlock device order for a minimum period of up to two years for high-range first offences and four years for subsequent offences.
The bill introduces rules regarding testing and evidence that are similar to the rules for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The amendments are sensible and ensure that offenders are treated in a consistent manner for those offences. Although offenders cannot be charged with this combined offence until a secondary laboratory test is completed, they will still be removed immediately from the roads. Their licence will be suspended while confirmation is sought for the drug offence, helping to keep our community safe. This is an important step for public safety, ensuring that drivers who have committed this act are immediately taken off our roads until a court has heard the case. The bill also amends the Road Transport (General) Regulation 2013 to ensure that offenders who have committed an equivalent offence in another jurisdiction will have it recognised in New South Wales courts as their first offence. That will allow for higher penalties if they commit a combined alcohol and drug driving offence in New South Wales.
The recognition of offences committed outside New South Wales when determining penalties will help to ensure that offenders are treated equally if they have shown a dangerous pattern of behaviour. The bill must form part of a strategy by the Government to change the culture of taking drugs whilst under the influence of alcohol and getting behind the wheel. We must engage further with the community to change this behaviour and ensure that no more lives are stolen from us, as we have seen with the Abdallah, Sakr and Field families. We must ensure that no more lives are tragically lost through the selfish acts of drug- and alcohol‑affected individuals who use motor vehicles as a weapon to kill. I commend this bill to the House and ask members to continue to implement legislative reforms that protect our children.
Mr MARK COURE (Oatley) (16:13:52):
The Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021 will introduce a combined alcohol and drug driving offence under the Road Transport Act 2013 and provide for the penalties for the offence. The bill also makes other minor and consequential amendments. Put simply, this bill is a no-brainer. The safety of motorists and pedestrians on New South Wales roads is of paramount importance to the Government and this Chamber as a whole. Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs of any kind has no place on our local roads and streets, and it will not be tolerated by the Government. We have made the commitment to lowering road trauma and moving our great State towards zero through education, awareness and harsher penalties. The bill is a strong and thorough reflection of that commitment and for that reason I support it.
In my local community, we place immense value on road safety and awareness. However, the reality is that road trauma can occur anytime and anywhere. Over a five-year period from 2015 to 2019, eight people were killed on the roads in my electorate of Oatley. A further 126 were seriously injured. This means that in five years 134 people were killed or seriously injured in the electorate. That number represents around one‑third of the students of any given primary school, a truly terrible statistic to reflect on. I am pleased to say that the fatality rate of 2.9 per 100,000 population was below the State average of 4.6. However, one death is one too many, and there is no room for complacency in our local community.
It is a worthwhile exercise to assess who is involved in local road trauma. Thirty-six per cent of serious casualties were people aged 60 and over. Males made up 61 per cent of serious casualties. Twenty-three per cent of serious casualties were pedestrians, and 8 per cent were bike riders. These statistics inform us where to direct education and awareness programs to ensure that we continue to move towards zero. It is equally crucial to analyse what was involved in road trauma in our local area. Speeding was a factor in five of the eight fatalities and 17 per cent of serious injuries. Fatigue was not a factor in any of the fatalities but was a factor in 6 per cent of serious injuries. Alcohol was a factor in two of the eight fatalities and 6 per cent of serious injuries. There were four fatalities from crashes involving a driver or motorcycle rider with the presence of an illicit drug, which means that six out of 10 fatalities in my local community were a result of drugs and alcohol. Seventy-five per cent of deaths could have been avoided if motorists were not under the influence. That statistic underlines the importance of expanded penalties for drink and drug driving, for which this bill is of enormous significance.
The estimated cost to the community of the 134 serious casualties was over $125 million for the five-year reporting period of 2015 to 2019. That $125 million could have been invested in local education, health and other projects. However, when it comes to serious casualties, money is the least of our troubles. Every death is an empty seat around a dinner table and has a very real effect on local families. The community has recently been saddened by the loss of a teenager from a local school in my electorate—Marist Catholic College Penshurst, where I went—in an incident on King Georges Road, Hurstville. We felt the extreme impact of this sudden, fatal crash. The Government should be doing everything it can to ensure that no family has to endure such trauma again. The bill is a big step on our journey towards zero. I commend the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021 to the House.
Ms JULIA FINN (Granville) (16:18):
I support the important Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021, known as the Four Angels Law, which introduces a combined alcohol and drug driving offence under the Road Transport Act. For the first time they will be considered together, and that is important because the effects of intoxication can often be magnified when alcohol is combined with another drug or multiple other drugs. This offence has been introduced in memory of the Abdallah siblings, Antony, Angelina and Sienna, and their cousin Veronique Sakr, whom we tragically lost on 1 February last year. In addition to the four angels, a number of other cousins were injured very badly in the same accident. It was absolutely horrific. I have spoken in this place before about the distress that the accident caused to the entire family. I know them through their work with Team Jesus, a group that feeds the homeless in Blacktown at a site owned by Danny Abdallah, where I have joined them on a number of occasions. I know that the family have become very well‑known to other members of this House over the past year since the tragic and horrific loss of their children.
This really important bill overcomes what I believe is a gap in our legislation that was horrifically highlighted by the actions of the driver that evening, who, in addition to driving under the influence of both alcohol and drugs, broke a number of other road rules. He was speeding, he ran red lights and he crossed over double lines to overtake people. His behaviour was absolutely disgraceful and it caused the loss of four lives. Under this legislation police will not require all drivers to undertake a drug test in combination with a breath test, only those with high- and mid-range alcohol levels, or those with low alcohol levels when they have had a previous offence. Drivers will be tested for THC from cannabis, MDMA, methylamphetamine and cocaine. I think it would be very useful if the police also tested for hallucinogens and opiates because it is becoming quite well known that people are able to pass a roadside drug test even though they have taken those drugs. That is particularly concerning because in some respects those drugs are far more likely to make somebody unable to control a vehicle.
The penalty framework for the new offence ranges from fines and licence disqualification to mandatory alcohol interlocks, vehicle sanctions, prison terms and, most importantly, a requirement to enter education and behavioural change programs. The new offence carries maximum fines of up to $11,000 and up to two years in jail. This is going to be very important for improving driver behaviour and sending a clear message to the community that this just cannot continue. Even very low ranges of alcohol in combination with other drugs can affect someone's ability to control a vehicle safely and that can cause horrific accidents, as we saw last year.
I reflect on the actions of Danny and Leila Abdallah immediately after the accident and in establishing the inspiring i4give Day with Veronique's parents, which was launched on 1 February this year. So many of us were touched by their capacity to forgive the driver so soon after the accident. They were able to understand that he would be dealt with by the legal system. They were not going to hold a grudge against him; they were able to forgive him, despite their grief, through prayer and through their strong faith. To look to people who have been so incredibly wronged yet who are able to forgive and leave the punishment to the legal system is a huge inspiration to many of us who can hold grievances for minor things. The Abdallah and Sakr families will never forget but they are able to forgive. That is an incredible legacy of the awful experience that they have been through. Another legacy is what we are debating today. It is incredibly important that we all support these changes to the road transport legislation so we make sure that in future people who drive under the influence of alcohol are dealt with appropriately because they are a danger to the entire community. I commend the bill to the House.
Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (16:24:50):
I speak in debate on the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021. A year ago this last month, four angels touched our hearts. The lives of Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah, and their cousin Veronique Sakr were tragically cut short by a driver who was under the effect of both alcohol and drugs. As the Minister for Transport and Roads said in his second reading speech, this bill is for them and will forever be known as the Four Angels law. The intention of the bill is to ensure that we deter drivers from putting themselves and others around them at risk. The bill introduces a new combined offence for drivers with prescribed concentrations of alcohol combined with the presence of a prescribed illicit drug. Research shows that alcohol and drugs separately increase the risk of crashing and together they amplify that risk. Trauma data tell us that the use of alcohol and the use of illicit drugs both appear in the top four factors involved in fatal crashes in this State.
As part of the Road Safety Plan 2021, New South Wales introduced reforms that strengthened penalties and enforcement of both drink and drug driving separately. This included ensuring that penalties including licence suspension and fines were consistently and swiftly applied to low-level first offences concerning prescribed concentrations of alcohol and the presence of drugs. It also expanded the Mandatory Alcohol Interlock program to include more offences, introduced vehicle sanctions for certain repeat drink driving offences and provided that drink and drug drivers may be required to complete an education course.
The impact on the road toll of the drink and drive reforms and other measures in the Road Safety Plan is positive. There were 297 fatalities on New South Wales roads during 2020. This is still too many, but it is 56, or 16 per cent, fewer deaths than in the same period in the previous year. It is the lowest end-of-year road toll since 1923. Though this may be in part due to reduced traffic volume due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have no doubt that the initiatives we introduced through the Road Safety Plan have also played a role. Over a five-year reporting period between 2014 and 2018, five people were killed and 210 were seriously injured on roads in my own community.
I know we focus on fatalities when we are talking about road safety; however, it is worth noting that serious injuries have also decreased. At the end of last year, the Government published the data on serious injuries up to 30 June 2020. It showed that, for the previous year, there were 14 per cent fewer serious injuries than in the previous 12 months and over 1,500 fewer hospitalisations. While that is an improvement, still too many people are dying or being injured on our roads. For the three years from 2017 to 2019, alcohol was involved in 17 per cent of fatal crashes and illicit drugs were involved in 21 per cent. That is 60 lives lost where alcohol was involved. Seventy-eight people died in crashes involving illicit drugs. Put simply, that is far too many avoidable deaths due to irresponsible behaviour. We need to do better.
Of the 210 serious injuries in the North Shore electorate between 2014 and 2018, 43 per cent of serious casualties were 30 to 49 years of age, with males making up 64 per cent of serious casualties. Motorcycle riders were 34 per cent of serious casualties, pedestrians 24 per cent and bicycle riders 18 per cent. Speeding was a factor in just 10 per cent of the serious injuries, fatigue was a factor in 6 per cent of serious injuries and alcohol was a factor in 3 per cent of serious injuries. The Government is committed to reducing fatalities and serious injuries on New South Wales roads. The Road Safety Plan 2021 features targeted and proven initiatives that are moving us toward our road safety goals by addressing key trends, trauma risks and the types of crashes that are occurring. The Road Safety Plan adopts the Safe System approach to road safety and aims to reduce road fatalities by at least 30 per cent from 2008 to 2010 levels by 2021. The plan also supports the longer term vision set by the Future Transport Strategy 2056 plan, which is zero road trauma by 2056.
I hope my fellow members have seen the "Road Safety Progress" report released in December that outlines how the Community Road Safety Fund, which was established by this Government, was expended in 2018 and 2019 in support of the delivery of the Road Safety Plan 2021. I will highlight some of the achievements of the plan. New South Wales was the first jurisdiction in the world to introduce a mobile phone detection camera program to enable camera-based technology to detect illegal mobile phone use by drivers. The program will progressively expand to perform 135 million vehicle checks annually by 2023. Independent modelling estimates that the program will contribute to a reduction of approximately 100 crashes causing fatal and serious injury over a five-year period. We are already seeing improved compliance with the law, with one in every 450 drivers being detected illegally using their phone compared with one in every 82 drivers during the pilot phase.
Two-thirds of all fatalities occur on country roads and the Road Safety Plan 2021 focuses on tackling the road toll on country roads by ramping up the rollout of road safety infrastructure. We committed to a record investment of $822 million over five years in road safety infrastructure under the NSW Safer Roads Program. It provides essential infrastructure to make roads safer through the Saving Lives on Country Roads program and Liveable and Safe Urban Communities initiatives. In 2019-20 the NSW Safer Roads Program delivered 199 projects by investing $168.2 million into life-saving infrastructure upgrades. The Saving Lives on Country Roads education program raises awareness of road trauma in country areas. It encourages country drivers to rethink the common excuses used to justify unsafe behaviour on the road and make safe, positive choices to reduce risk. The speed camera program continues to deliver high road safety benefits. At locations with fixed speed cameras, fatalities have fallen by 80 per cent and injuries have fallen by more than a third when compared with the five-year period before installation.
To build on the work done so far under the Road Safety Plan 2021, the Saving Lives accelerated package was announced in November. In addition to the new combined drink and drug driving offence, it includes further infrastructure improvement to reduce risk on country roads as well as enhancement of our mobile speed camera program, bringing it into alignment with other Australian jurisdictions and better practice. Independent modelling conducted by Monash University indicates that between 34 and 43 lives will be saved and 600 serious injuries will be prevented each year in New South Wales as a result. Transport for NSW has also led the development of the internationally recognised Motorcycle Clothing Assessment Program, or MotoCAP, which helps motorcycle riders to select the safest clothing and encourages manufacturers to produce effective protective clothing.
We also continue to prioritise community education about using roads safely. This includes a mandatory focus on road safety in the school curriculum and a range of social media campaigns about key behavioural road safety issues. The NSW Road Safety Facebook page reaches an average of 1.2 million people per week. The Cudal testing and research facility was launched in September 2019 and is capable of testing advanced vehicle and infrastructure safety technologies. Examples include autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance. It is currently being used to assist with providing vehicles with Australasian New Car Assessment Program [ANCAP] ratings and in future could be used to test emerging technologies such as vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems.
Extension of time
The New South Wales Government's fleet of vehicles is being made safer as a result of the updated policy for the purchasing of light vehicles, which are now required to have, in addition to the five-star ANCAP safety rating, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance and reversing cameras or sensors. This will also improve the safety of used cars in New South Wales in future years. We are also expanding the average speed camera network in metropolitan areas to address risks associated with greater truck movements. Despite these improvements, we still can and need to do more to reduce fatalities on our roads. The Government is working on the next road safety action plan, which is due to be released later this year. This will involve setting new targets that point to the Future Transport zero road trauma target by 2056 and determining the most effective countermeasures to target roads with the highest risk. The focus is on measures that will most reduce serious injuries and fatalities. Stakeholder consultation is proposed to be undertaken as part of the process. In introducing this bill, the Minister spoke quite emotionally about the impact of the loss of these four angels' lives, and it is important for us to recognise that tragedy of just over a year ago. We can never prevent all accidents on our roads, we can never ensure that all drivers will follow the rules, we can never ensure that people will not take illicit substances, and particularly that they will not mix those substances with alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car. What we can do is focus on a deterrence mechanism that ensures people understand the impact on them individually, and the risks to their ability to continue to drive on our roads if they do not follow the law. 
It is particularly distressing when we see children affected by people making poor decisions when they get behind the wheel. The way the Abdallah and Sakr families have dealt with tragedy—their focus on forgiveness and their launch of i4give Day—shows the great human charity that comes from within. I think most of us would struggle to have that kind of empathy, kindness, compassion and forgiveness if we were to lose our own children. But there are many small things that we can continue to do in our communities, and I want to reflect on some of the changes we have introduced in my own community recently to try to protect children, in particular. One those is introducing new school crossing supervisors at our local schools.
My office on Yeo Street in Neutral Bay is just across and down the road a bit from Neutral Bay Public School. It is essentially a rat run for commuters into the city every single day. It is a narrow street with one lane each way, and is used by buses. There is a school crossing but it often feels quite risky, even for an adult. We recently installed another school crossing supervisor at the crossing. There are two other school crossing supervisors for the school. Ben Boyd Road—another busy road, particularly with commuters using it as a rat run into the city—has a school crossing supervisor. On Bydown Street, where we have always had a crossing supervisor, there was a very tragic accident just two years ago when a parent and a child were struck by a vehicle. That individual was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, but it shows that even when you are walking on what is the safest of those three streets—right outside the school, with a crossing supervisor—your life can be at risk.
We need to always acknowledge that driving a vehicle is putting what is potentially a very dangerous weapon in our own hands, and we must take responsibility for our behaviour while behind the wheel and as pedestrians. I know that the nature of impacts on pedestrians is also something that is considered quite broadly in my electorate. We often have very slow traffic speeds but we have a lot of cars, and that can create a risk of clash points with pedestrians. One of my constituents is Harold Scruby from the Pedestrian Council—whom many in this place would know—who is a lifelong advocate for pedestrians' interests and needs. When we see increasing levels of traffic on our roads and increasing risk because of that traffic, we need to make sure that we are focusing on pedestrians. When it comes to the risks associated with children and pedestrians, as I mentioned earlier, we need to focus on schools. That is why we also introduced a new school crossing supervisor at St Aloysius junior school in Milsons Point and at Redlands in Cremorne.
The Murdoch Street side of Redlands is another rat run into the city, so we see incredibly dense traffic volumes coming along Murdoch Street to Bannerman Street, particularly in the morning. While traffic can be very slow, people can often be impatient to get through it. There can be queuing across intersections, people not paying attention to the crossings, and sometimes people trying to push ahead just to get to work. As we know, during COVID we are seeing more people getting into their cars and off public transport in order to make sure they can get to work and feel safe about their commute. If we do not focus on safety in a very real, practical sense in our own backyard, we create a lot of risk for our community, and particularly for young people.
We have made a number of changes over time that have brought us to the position reflected in this bill, but we have also been heavily influenced by last year's incident that resulted in the loss of the four angels, Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah, and Veronique Sakr. We must continue as a government to show leadership in tackling unnecessary and tragic deaths on our roads. That is why I am pleased to support this new combined offence that targets drivers who put themselves and other road users at significant risk by driving with a combination of alcohol and illicit drugs in their system. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr JAMIE PARKER (Balmain) (16:39:39):
I address the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021. I have listened to the contributions today and it is moving to see all members focusing on respecting, acknowledging and having a sense of solidarity with the families who have suffered such a tragic and unthinkable loss. I am a relatively new father with a two-year-old child, and I could not imagine how shocking it would be to have her life taken in that way. Of course, it demonstrates the responsibility that vehicle drivers have and how dangerous cars can be. I often speak in this House about cyclists. Cyclists might make a bad choice that endangers them, but a driver makes a bad choice and it can kill other people. I think it is important to acknowledge from the outset that, if nothing else, this bill has started a very thoughtful and wideranging discussion about the importance of road safety and protecting pedestrians, and preventing unnecessary and tragic deaths like those that occurred as a result of an incident you cannot really describe in words.
It is important to drive people to make safe and positive choices, and we have heard from many members about ways we can do that. Of course, it is not impossible for us to address the behaviour of drivers, the quality of vehicles on the road, the importance of training and education, improving our road surfaces, improving blackspots—all of those things contribute. I do not propose to go through and re-emphasise all the issues that have been raised. We know there is very strong evidence that drivers are significantly impaired when they use legal or illegal drugs, and we want to make sure that we do everything we can to protect people in our community. But I want to take a few minutes while addressing that issue to address the other road toll. The other road toll is one that has too little focus, and that is air quality and the deaths we know are the result of the air quality in Australia.
Environmental ResearchThe Lancet
I note that in 2019—it seems like a long time ago given that 2020 was such a terrible year—the Melbourne University Energy Institute collated a range of international and domestic data and identified that, in that year, 1,224 Australians lost their lives due to vehicle accidents, but 1,715 died as a result of vehicle pollution. So it shows that a very significant proportion of people—almost as many as those who had their lives tragically cut short by vehicle accidents—died as a result of vehicle pollution. I draw the House's attention to the estimate of deaths published in the journal , which showed the significant impact on mortality of the burning of fossil fuels, and a major report by —a highly respected health journal—in 2019 that found around 4.2 million annual deaths from air pollution came from dust, wildfire smoke and fossil fuel combustion.
The Sydney Morning Herald
The Electric Vehicle Council and Asthma Australia produced an important report that found emissions from internal combustion engines in the Sydney-Newcastle-Wollongong area created $3 billion in health costs per year. Those worst affected were unborn babies, children and the elderly. There was a very interesting article in of June 29 2019 and also an opinion piece by the Electric Vehicle Council on 31 January 2019 that outlined why it is important we deal with the often unspoken road toll associated with poor air quality.
Official data from a New South Wales and Federal Government report estimates that air pollution from vehicle emissions caused the deaths of 1,715 Australians in 2015, including 650 in New South Wales. That is 60 per cent higher than the number of deaths from motor vehicle crashes in New South Wales that were caused by speeding, alcohol or other factors during that period. Those issues are always complex, but the issue of air quality is particularly important. We know that the road toll, like other State road tolls, is a "measure of the effectiveness of Government policy at keeping people safe New South Wales roads". I agree with many in the community, including Asthma Australia and advocates for electric vehicles, that deaths due to vehicle emissions should also be included in the road toll.
Members can address and deal with that quantifiable issue in a very positive way by supporting electric vehicles, improving fuel standards, improving air quality and decreasing the average age of the vehicle fleet in Australia. It is also important to minimise the use of diesel and improve the efficiency of vehicles. All of those factors must also be discussed as they are important matters. If the Government is concerned about addressing the road toll, we must address the issues that members have been debating today, and that includes air quality. There is a great deal of concern in my community about the exhaust stacks that will take unfiltered pollution from thousands of vehicles and emit them in one particular location. But that is not why I am talking about the issue today; I am raising it because issues that members have spoken about today have been very passionate and very positive.
We must take it to the next level and recognise the clear evidence that deaths occur from air pollution. Members must acknowledge those deaths as well, and then we can work to reduce the impact of emissions and we can maximise the opportunities for people to live in a healthy and positive way. I draw to the attention of the House those studies in particular and those issues that were raised in those journals. I encourage the Parliament to consolidate the efforts that it is already making and to address the issue of air quality in a way that is reasonable and practical and will make a significant difference. That means focusing on electric vehicles and minimising the amount of pollution that we see in our streets. A lot of people are talking about electric vehicles. We must address that as a State and as a country, not just because of the greenhouse benefits but also to reduce the impact of poor air quality. We should all support that.
Ms STEPH COOKE (Cootamundra) (16:47:12):
I support the Road Transport Legislation (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021. I thank the Minister for Transport and Roads, Andrew Constance, for introducing the bill to the House. It is important to acknowledge the reason why the Minister has introduced the bill to the House: This legislation, which is also known as the Four Angels Law, is a response to the horrific and tragic deaths of four young children. This time last year Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah and their cousin Veronique Sakr lost their lives in a crash in Oatlands. The purpose of the bill is to introduce amendments to the Road Transport Act 2013 and, in particular, to introduce a combined alcohol and drug driving offence for drivers with prescribed concentrations of alcohol in combination with the presence of a prescribed illicit drug. The bill also proposes a new range of tougher and higher penalties in an effort to better deter this dangerous type of behaviour and to avoid road trauma that stems from the number of crashes that are happening on our roads.
Today I support the 67 families from the electorate of Cootamundra who lost loved ones on our roads between 2015 and 2019. I also support the families of the seven people who died on our roads in the first nine months of 2020. I also acknowledge the tragic losses that we have seen at the start of 2021, including that of a 17‑year‑old boy who consumed more than 20 schooners before getting behind the wheel. Each and every one of those losses is a tragedy, and many could have been prevented. The electorate of Cootamundra is the seat of small communities. Our largest town has around 10,000 people. Everyone knows everyone, and every loss reverberates through an entire community. Our road toll is four times higher than the State average. Families in the communities that I represent are four times more likely to get that devastating phone call or knock at the door. These are people, our people.
We cannot bring back those who have been lost, but we can do our part to ensure that no more names are added to the list. Of those 67 daughters, sons, sisters, mothers, brothers, fathers and friends who lost their lives on our roads, alcohol was a factor for 13 of those deaths, or 19 per cent. A further 13 people lost their lives in crashes involving a driver or rider with the presence of an illicit drug in their system. It has been known for years that alcohol and illicit drugs separately increase the risk of road accidents. Successive governments have invested millions in raising awareness of the dangers of drink driving and asking people to have a plan B to get home. However, people still engage in that risky and at times deadly behaviour. Slower reaction times, risk-taking, impaired vision, loss of concentration and coordination—that is just the alcohol. Together, alcohol and illicit drugs amplify the risk of a fatal crash by 23 times—and the message is still not getting through to some people. We must increase the deterrence for people who combine alcohol and illicit drugs and then make the reckless decision to get behind the wheel. Clearly they are not listening to the awareness campaigns and they are putting the lives of people on our roads at risk.
The New South Wales Government, the emergency services and the wider community must work together to reduce road crashes and improve safety for all motorists in New South Wales. The bill seeks to do just that, and the new offence is an example of the commitment that the Government is making. The bill is a response to the newly announced saving lives accelerated package, which introduced several measures to reduce problems on the roads that are persistent and dangerous. One of those problems is drink and drug driving. The driver who killed those four children in February last year was three times over the alcohol limit and was also affected by illicit drugs. That fatal crash touched the lives of everyone in Australia, and it simply should not have happened. The bill seeks to prevent more families from going through such a tragic and terrible loss. We are all part of the greater responsibility to obey the rules and save lives on our roads.
The New South Wales Government's Road Safety Plan 2021 featured targeted and proven initiatives to address specific areas of trauma and types of crashes on our roads, including those that involve drink and drug driving. As part of that plan, penalties for drink driving have been increased considerably. Transport for NSW is also developing a drink and drug driving education strategy for offenders, and the NSW Police Force has increased random breath and drug testing on our roads. While all of those strategies have proven successful, more work must be done to address the trauma that stems from road accidents and crashes. The bill is the first step to addressing that. The current approach to decreasing dangerous and high-risk behaviour is through deterrence. The certainty, severity and swiftness of punishment must be addressed to maximise deterrence and to stop offenders from engaging in such behaviour. The bill seeks to strengthen those three points in an effort to toughen the deterrence methods.
The New South Wales Government has committed to fund the NSW Police Force to conduct an extra 200,000 yearly mobile drug tests. Under the bill, if a driver tests positive to mid- or high-range alcohol levels at a roadside breath test, they will then have to undergo a drug test. That is due to the increased crash risk that occurs when a driver is under the influence of alcohol at a mid to high level. If a driver tests positive to a low-range alcohol level at a roadside breath test, they too will have to undergo a subsequent drug test. That is to combat repeat offenders.
The New South Wales Government is utilising resources for the most at‑risk drivers, to ensure that the number of crashes are reduced. The bill's proposals introduce tougher penalties for offences. Maximum fines and minimum automatic licence disqualification periods are increased. Penalties for second and subsequent offences have been increased to around double that of first time combined offenders. The New South Wales Government is ensuring that the swiftness of the penalty is also increased. Under the bill a driver licence will be suspended immediately, as that is shown to be a more effective deterrent. The bill proposes that the drug test will test for the presence of illicit drugs that have been proven to significantly impair driving: THC from cannabis, MDMA, methamphetamine—also known as ice—and cocaine.
If a driver tests positive to the presence of an illicit substance during the roadside drug test, they will not be charged with the combined offence until results are received from the laboratory. Regardless of the results, the driver will be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. In the event that the driver's laboratory results test positive to the presence of illicit drugs, they will then be charged with the combined offence, and the original offence of driving under the influence of alcohol will be withdrawn. The driver's licence will be immediately suspended until the court date, to ensure that they do not repeat offend during this period.
Extension of time
The intention is clear: to increase deterrence and ensure that drivers are not putting others at risk by driving under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs. That is further shown through the bill's proposed increased, tougher penalties. They are designed to be much more severe. The penalty framework includes fines, licence disqualification, alcohol interlocks, vehicle sanctions, imprisonment and the requirement to attend an education and behaviour change program. Whilst all of those penalties exist for current separate offences, the maximum penalties will be much higher for the combined offence. That directly reflects the higher risk of driving under the influence of both alcohol and drugs. I seek an extension of time. 
The current maximum fine for a first time mid‑range drink driving offence is $2,200; however, the maximum fine for a first time mid‑range combined offence is $3,300. The minimum licence disqualification period for a combined offence will be 12 months, in comparison to six months for committing a drink driving offence. The penalties are significantly higher for second time or subsequent offenders, acknowledging the seriousness of the offence and the issue of repeat offenders. As a community we cannot continue to see tragic and fatal crashes on our roads as a result of careless and reckless behaviour.
In closing I return to the road fatality figures for the Cootamundra electorate. Twenty‑six people lost their lives in accidents where alcohol and/or illicit drugs were present, which is one more than the entire student enrolment at Eurongilly Public School last year. One is too many. In the five years between 2015 and 2019, 413 people were seriously injured in road accidents in the Cootamundra electorate. In the reporting period just prior to 2015, my own mother was one of those people. Some of those serious injuries have left survivors with lifelong challenges and changed their lives irrevocably.
Combined with fatalities, more than 480 people have been killed and seriously injured on our roads. Those people are overwhelmingly under the age of 26. We are not just losing lives on our roads; we are losing our future. The cost to our communities is vast. Those accidents come with a price tag of $725 million for our communities. There are no figures for the emotional toll they take on families, friends, loved ones and communities. We must create deterrence for those who choose to mix illicit drugs and alcohol and then get on our roads. We must have a combined alcohol and drug driving offence. We must have offending drivers go through driver education courses before they get back on the road and we must work towards zero fatalities on our roads. The bill is a step in the right direction and I commend it to the House.