Health Minister Roger Cook has warned against watering down penalties for P-platers after a WA magistrate called for the licences of offending young drivers to be disqualified rather than cancelled.
Magistrate Robert Young’s view — that it was too harsh to force provisional licence holders to reapply for their licences after serving a penalty — has also been rebuked by a leading crash researcher.
Mr Cook backed Police and Road Safety Minister Michelle Roberts, who said there was “no room for error” on the roads and Mr Young’s suggestion was too soft.
“Safety on the roads is paramount,” Mr Cook said. “I commend the minister for taking such a tough stance in relation to that.”
He said too many young drivers in WA ended up dead or injured in hospital.
“There are too many deaths on the roads and I speak to too many doctors and nurses who are confronted by the trauma of what occurs on our roads and so we have to maintain a tough stance,” Mr Cook said.
Mr Young made his comments during a recent case in Busselton Magistrate’s Court which saw involving a P-plater who was charged for driving without a licence when he failed to reapply for it after a period of disqualification.
The university student had lost his licence because he had reached his demerit points limit, and had served a three-month penalty.
Under current laws he had to reapply for his licence after completing the driving ban.
“The law of P-plate cancellation versus disqualification is arbitrary and needs to be changed,” Mr Young said. “It’s harsh and I sympathise.”
Curtin Monash Accident Research Centre senior research fellow Kate Brameld said drivers who broke road rules as novices were more likely to be repeat offenders later in life.
“Young drivers have a greater risk of crash involvement and injury for a number of reasons,” she said.
“Foremost among these is their lack of experience and associated skills deficits.
“In addition to this, their developmental immaturity and youthfulness can lead to greater intentional and unintentional on-road risk-taking behaviours such as speeding, close following, drink-driving, and failure to wear a seatbelt.”
Mrs Roberts was critical of the magistrate and said the Government had no intention of changing the penalties or process for P-platers who lost their driver’s licence.
“Unlike Magistrate Young, our roads can be unforgiving,” she said.
“There is no room for error. A provisional licence is just that — provisional.”
Road Safety Commissioner Iain Cameron said the current measures targeting young drivers were working.
“We’ve seen a 60 per cent reduction in the number of young drivers involved in serious crashes aged 17 to 20,” he said.