Legislation, enforcement, and penalties

Overseas research suggests that there is a clear connection between countries with good enforcement levels and good road safety performance (Janitzek and Townsend 2006, p6).

While education and engineering countermeasures help provide longer-term road safety improvements, effective enforcement can achieve crash reductions in the shorter term and is viewed as a cost-effective means of enhancing road safety (Janitzek and Townsend 2006, p9).

General traffic enforcement consists of on-road activities to discourage unsafe and irresponsible driving behaviour by detecting a range of offences and applying penalties including a demerit point scheme and monetary fines. Deterrence-based enforcement by conventional means can be very effective in achieving behavioural change (Edmonston, Dwyer and Sheehan 2002, p37).

Technology to monitor and detect traffic infringements has assisted in the enforcement process and provided the potential to free up police for deployment to other duties. It is expected that there will be wider application of these technologies in the future (e.g., fixed speed cameras at high-risk locations), point-to-point cameras and other automatic number plate recognition devices.

It is important, however, that enforcement measures be balanced between:
  • Camera-detected and face-to-face interventions, particularly for speeding offences to promote deterrence; and
  • Resources devoted to speeding offences and other risky driving behaviours. 
RACQ member research conducted in 2011 found that 53.57% of members believe that speed cameras are only effective in slowing them down when they pass them, but do not affect their general driving speed.
Members were also asked to rate the efficacy of speed enforcement methods in terms of slowing them down and raising revenue.  In summary, members believe that on-road police patrols are the most effective at slowing drivers down, while they are least likely to view them as “revenue raising”. Covert/unmarked mobile speed cameras, on the other hand, are viewed as the least effective in slowing drivers down, but the most effective in raising revenue. 

RACQ members clearly support an increased, visible, on-road police presence on Queensland’s roads. The RACQ agrees that this physical presence should be complemented, not replaced, by automated/remote enforcement methods.

The loss of demerit points and monetary fines can have a limited effect as a deterrent for repeat offenders who continue to drive unlicensed after they have lost their licences, as well as for those drivers who have a lack of transport options.

There is currently only limited use of other intervention programs in Queensland. Although there has been an expansion of the number of offences for which vehicles can be impounded/forfeited in recent years (e.g., ‘hooning’ offences, driving an unregistered and uninsured vehicle, driving while unlicensed or disqualified, driving with a BAC of 0.15% or more, driving while under 24 hour suspension from another drink driving offence, failing to supply a specimen of breath or blood, or driving an illegally modified vehicle), other possible interventions include incentives for displaying improved behaviour and mandatory attendance of driver improvement/rehabilitation programs for multiple violations/crashes.

    1. Enhance the use of police resources and enforcement efforts, using both conventional and automated methods, to target high-risk groups and problem locations while achieving a more widespread coverage of Queensland’s vast road network.
    2. Increase high-visibility, year-round on-road police patrol presence, targeting high-risk days, times and locations (particularly weekends), and enforcing all road rules – not just speeding and drink driving.
    3. Set penalties appropriate to the severity of the offence, improve awareness of penalties, and apply them swiftly and uniformly all-year-round with minimum use of exemptions.
    4. Consider introduction of a speeding education intervention as an option for first time speeding offenders, or infrequent speeding offenders as an optional alternative to the normal fines/demerit point penalty.
    5. Research and trial alternatives to demerit points and monetary fines as penalties, while considering incentive programs to more directly reward motorists for safe driving.
    6. Coordinate enforcement with public education activities that focus on safe interaction of road users.
    7. Re-evaluate existing methods of enforcement, e.g., red light/speed camera programs, and modify the programs to ensure that they offer maximum road safety benefit.
    8. Roll out mobile Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology to assist in deterring and detecting drivers who drive unregistered or stolen vehicles, or drive while unlicensed.
    9. Examine the application of other technological options to monitor and improve road user behaviour, especially for repeat offenders.
    10. Expand application of point-to-point speed camera systems, e.g., to more motorways and highways across Queensland.
    11. Make it compulsory for all drivers and riders to carry a valid driver’s licence and produce it on demand to curb unlicensed driving, e.g., smart licences to display current status.
    12. Develop and implement best practice rehabilitation programs for repeat offenders.
    13. Direct all net revenue from traffic enforcement back into road safety initiatives.
    14. Ensure that introduction of new enforcement technologies does not diminish the role of the police officer as a deterrent.
  • Edmonston, C., Dwyer, J. and Sheehan, M., 2002, Progress Report 1: Literature Review - Road Safety in Rural and Remote Areas of Australia, CARRS-Q, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

    Janitzek, T. and Townsend, E. 2006, Traffic Law Enforcement across the EU: Time for a Directive, European Transport Safety Council, Brussels, Belgium.

Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.