Driving while disqualified or suspended in Victoria: When little works.
All Australian jurisdictions currently use licence disqualification and suspension as a sanction for traffic offences and, increasingly, for non-payment of fines. While these sanctions are not new responses to aberrant driving behaviour, the mechanisms triggering them have changed and increased over the years, particularly licence suspensions for excess demerit points. Over recent years, the number of disqualifications and suspensions has dramatically increased and with them, convictions for the offences of driving while disqualified or suspended.
National and international studies indicate that drivers convicted of these offences pose a greater crash risk to themselves and community. Many suggest that they will often engage in dangerous and/or illegal behaviours while behind the wheel. Investigations on both recidivism and the attitudes of disqualified or suspended drivers themselves demonstrate that many, perhaps even most, do not comply with their driving prohibition. Disqualification and suspension are failing to achieve their sentencing purposes.
The Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council is conducting a review of the causes, consequences of and responses to driving disqualified or suspended in Victoria, with a view to producing a final report in late 2008. This report will provide a review of Australian and overseas studies on the issue and will include Victorian statistics on disqualifications, suspensions and on sentencing for this offence. Additionally, it will evaluate the appropriateness of rehabilitative sanctions to this behaviour and explore ways of better achieving deterrence. This paper will discuss the issues that arise in this area and provide a brief overview of the consultations conducted by the Sentencing Advisory Council and the work it is currently undertaking.