Victoria Introduces Bill To Strengthen Penalties For Drink & Drug Driving Offences 

Wednesday 8 November 2017 @ 9.49 a.m. | Crime | Legal Research

Recently, the Andrews Labor Government in Victoria introduced the Transport Legislation Amendment (Road Safety, Rail and Other Matters) Bill 2017 (the “Bill”). This Bill was introduced into the Victorian Legislative Assembly as a next step towards reducing drink and drug driving on Victorian roads.

“Drink-driving remains a key cause of road trauma. Victoria has had great success over several decades in combating the trauma caused by drink-driving. We continue to lead the country in our strong stance against drink-driving. Sadly, despite our achievements in this area, last year we saw a rise in drink-driving deaths. This reversal is troubling and it must be halted.

The Andrews Labor government is continuing to work hard to address this important issue and the launch of Towards Zero in May 2016 reflects our determination to eliminate road trauma. It is simply not good enough in 2017 to accept any number of deaths or serious injuries on Victoria's roads. Towards Zerosets an ambitious target to achieve less than 200 fatalities and a 15 per cent reduction in serious injuries on Victorian roads by 2020.” [Mr Donnellan, Second Reading Speech to the Bill]

The Bill

With the proposed aim of improving road safety, the Bill amends a number of road related Acts including the Road Safety Act 1986, the Road Legislation Further Amendment Act 2016, the Rail Management Act 1996, the Rail Safety (Local Operations) Act 2006, the Raile Safety National Law Application Act 2013, the Tourist and Heritage Railways Act 2010 and the Marine (Drug, Alcohol and Pollution Control) Act 1988.

Driving safety amendments

The Bill amends the Road Legislation Further Amendment Act 2016 and the Road Safety Act 1986 with the aim on improving road safety by implementing harsher penalties and reforms to drink and drug driving offences. As stated in the purpose of the Bill in section 1(2):

  1. Chapter 2 amends the Road Safety Act 1986—
    1. to implement reforms aimed at reducing deaths and injuries on Victorian roads including—
      1. the cancellation of a driver licence or learner permit and disqualification for a minimum period following a finding of guilt or conviction for any drink-driving offence; and
      2. the imposition of a mandatory alcohol interlock condition on any driver licence or learner permit granted following a disqualification because of a drink-driving offence; and 
      3. the introduction of a behaviour change program for persons found guilty or convicted of drink-driving offences and certain other offences; and
    2. to introduce other reforms including—
      1. increased penalties for drug driving offences; and
      2. the simplification of the vehicle impoundment and forfeiture scheme; and
      3. reforms to the description of, defences to and penalties for, offences relating to unlicensed driving; and
      4. the simplification of the demerit points scheme; and
      5. the rationalisation of provisions relating to the service of notices under that Act; and
    3. to make other amendments to improve the operational effectiveness of that Act; and
    4. to make other technical amendments.
  2. Chapter 2 also amends the Road Safety Act 1986 and the Road Legislation Further Amendment Act 2016 in relation to the imposition of mandatory alcohol interlock conditions in relation to certain interstate offences.

Section 5 of the Bill inserts a new section 23A into the Road Safety Act which disallows the Corporation from granting a driver licence or learner permit to a person who:

  1. is currently disqualified from driving or from obtaining a driver licence or learner permit under the law of Victoria or another State or a Territory;
  2. has an Australian driver licence or an Australian learner permit that is currently suspended; or
  3. is currently disqualified from driving under the law of another country in circumstances that, if they occurred in Victoria, would have resulted in the person being disqualified from driving in Victoria.

Additionally, harsher impoundment conditions will be implemented. As stated in the second reading speech:

“Offenders caught driving unlicensed for the first time can lose their vehicle. In the same way, drink-driving offenders with a recorded blood or breath alcohol concentration between 0.05 and 0.10 can lose their vehicle if they have committed a prior drink-driving offence or impoundable offence in the previous six years. These changes better target patterns of high-risk behaviour.”

The Bill then inserts a new section 23B whereby, if a person is subject to an alcohol interlock condition, “the Corporation must not grant the driver licence or learner permit to the person unless the person provides to the Corporation a certificate from an approved alcohol interlock supplier certifying that, at the request of the person, the supplier has installed an approved alcohol interlock in a vehicle specified in the certificate.” [s 23B(2)].

Other provisions similar to this are inserted into the Road Safety Act, with an important amendment being in section 9 of the Bill whereby section 50 of the Road Safety Act is amended to provide for automatic cancellation of a driver licence or learner permit held by an offender who is convicted of a drink or drug driving offence.

Section 13 of the Bill then amends Schedule 1 of the Road Safety Act  and section 24 inserts a new Part 5A, to create a Behaviour change program for drink and drug driving offences. As per s 58C(1):

“The Corporation must not issue a driver licence or learner permit to a person whose driver licence or learner permit is cancelled, or who is disqualified from obtaining a driver licence or learner permit, on conviction or on being found guilty of an offence specified in subsection (2) unless the Corporation is satisfied that the person has completed the first-stage behaviour change program specified in the notice under section 58E.”

Amendments to rail legislation

Chapter 3 of the Bill entails amendments to rail legislation, including the Rail Management Act 1996. The rationale behind these amendments is as stated in the second reading speech to the Bill:

“The bill will also improve consistency between the road safety and rail safety drug and alcohol control schemes by enabling rail transport safety officers, police officers and other authorised persons to conduct a drug screening tests for rail safety workers under the Rail Safety (Local Operations) Act 2006. This will reduce the burden of these drug testing procedures by no longer requiring a medical practitioner or health professional to conduct tests. Blood sampling provisions for rail safety workers and marine vessel operators will also be updated by the bill to align with amendments recently made to equivalent provisions in the Road Safety Act 1986.

The bill will also include a public transport measure to reform the Victorian rail access regime in the Rail Management Act 1996 when the current rail access contracts expires. This regime will reduce red tape, enable administrative cost savings and facilitate improved transparency of access to rail infrastructure for rail freight services.

The current regime was designed at a time when Victoria's regional rail freight network was managed by a private rail freight operator. This regime is no longer appropriate given that the rail freight network has been bought back by government. The Minster for Public Transport will provide guidance to Public Transport Victoria and rail network managers on proposed access arrangements and set a maximum price that can be charged for access. To ensure fairness, formal processes will be in place in case of a dispute between access seekers and providers.”

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.


Transport Legislation Amendment (Road Safety, Rail and Other Matters) Bill 2017: Bill, second reading speech and explanatory statement as published on Timebase, LawOne.

Related Articles: