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ACT to provide new protection for vulnerable road users

Date

Tom McIlroy

Driving that puts at risk the safety of a vulnerable road user will attract heavy fines, disqualification or even jail time.

Driving that puts at risk the safety of a vulnerable road user will attract heavy fines, disqualification or even jail time.

Drivers who endanger cyclists and other vulnerable road users in the ACT face tough new penalties including fines and up to two years in prison under new legislation.

The legislation introduced by Attorney-General Simon Corbell on Thursday creates offences of aggravated furious, reckless or dangerous driving.

Under the new rules, cyclists and motorcyclists would be recognised as vulnerable road users, along with riders of animals, riders of motorised scooters and Segways.

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson indicated he would seek clarification from the government on what behaviours would constitute causing risk to vulnerable road users.

Debate could also focus on the appropriateness of drivers facing jail sentences for travelling at 30 per cent above the mandated limit, including in school zones or construction areas.

Drivers could face aggravated charges for failing to comply with police, driving while drunk, driving 30 per cent above speed limits or putting vulnerable road users at risk.

They could be fined, jailed or lose their licence, with other factors including driving with a person younger than 17 years old or being a repeat offender being taken into account.

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury has signalled his support for the bill, which comes as an inquiry into vulnerable road users prepares to release its report next month.

Mr Rattenbury said he believed it was the first time vulnerable road users had been defined in any Australian legislation.

He has previously sought legislation to recognise the category of vulnerable road users and creating specific offences relating to their safety.

''I hope it signals that the ACT will lead the way in policy and reforms to protect and assist these road users,'' Mr Rattenbury said.

''The definition provides a foundation for ongoing refinements and improvements for these users in future ACT legislation and policy.

''I hope the changes will also help shift perceptions and improve awareness of the needs of these users.''

The Territory and Municipal Services Minister said prioritising and improving conditions for road users not driving cars was an effective way to improve Canberra's overall sustainability and character.

He said the reforms would be beneficial to all road users if passed by the Legislative Assembly.  

Pedal Power ACT executive officer John Armstrong welcomed the reforms.

''It is one of the multi-pronged elements that is required in order to gain effective road safety for vulnerable road users, including those who ride their bikes on the road,” Mr Armstrong said.

He said policy development as well as infrastructure and driver and rider education were critical to providing safe roads.

''Whether the person on the road is a cyclist, a motorcyclist, a pedestrian or anyone, no one likes to see harm come to anyone on the road. Good effective legislation to ensure that protection is there is always a good thing.”

Mr Corbell said the bill addressed high-risk driving behaviour with the potential to have catastrophic consequences for Canberrans and visitors.

''The increased penalties reflect how seriously the community regards anti-social behaviour that puts other road users at risk,'' he said. 

The inquiry into vulnerable road users received 60 submissions from the public and advocacy organisations and will present its report on June 5. 

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