KEITH LOCKE (Green)
Just following on from the last speaker, the Green Party supports much better access to good driving programmes. In some ways, the younger people whom we are talking about here have more recent training, have to study the road code, etc. to get their licence, and have a learner-driver period. They are able to develop skills at a young age.
I got my driver’s licence 44 years ago and on no occasion in those 44 years have I been required to do any additional driving course, to do a defensive driving course, to look at the road code, or to do any tests; absolutely nothing.
We have provisions in Part 1—for instance, clause 52, “Compulsory attending at driving improvement course or dangerous goods course” whereby the court may order compulsory driving tests, and things like that—and it is good that those provisions are in the bill, because if people have committed offences they clearly are not up to it, in terms of safe driving. Sure, they should be put through a course. But what about the rest of the community?
There should be courses available and encouragement for people to attend them. As the last speaker Steve Chadwick said, the Government is cutting back on funding for courses—in this case, for younger people. There should be more financial provision for driving courses for the whole community, and encouragement for people to attend them. At the moment these courses apply only at a very young age—when getting one’s licence—or at an older age when one’s sight might be going a bit and there is a driving test that a lot of older people undertake. But in the many decades in between there is no requirement to do anything or any encouragement to do anything, and I think that is pretty bad.
There is a provision in this part about heavy traffic that states that there can be a restriction on having heavy traffic on certain roads. Well, it is also good that that provision is there, but what the Government is doing and what it has done over the last little while? It has extended the allowable weights for trucks so that we have bigger trucks and longer trucks on certain roads, and that provision has come in from the Government’s decisions. That is creating a very unsafe environment, where the longer and heavier the trucks are the more danger there is on the road. Obviously, the longer the truck the more difficult is it to overtake it, so we will have more cars taking the risk of overtaking a long truck and occasionally being caught up in a head-on collision with people dying, which is what happens too frequently on our roads. No matter which braking system heavy trucks have on them, the heavier a truck is the more difficult it will be to stop it. It will take that bit longer to stop it, which creates more dangers.
Often I have noticed, unfortunately, that one of the problems we have on our roads is people who drive too close, including truck drivers. I often see trucks driving a very short distance behind much smaller cars and I think: “Oh, God, what happens if that car in front stops very suddenly?”, which now and again happens. The heavier our trucks are the more we get into that problem of accidents. With those few comments, I do support having much more resource being devoted to driving courses being made available—free, hopefully—to members of the community to give them that encouragement.