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16 Mar 2020

Radar detector ban ‘by stealth’

By Olga de Moeller - The West Australian

The State Government has been accused of trying to take a backdoor approach to banning radar detectors in vehicles.

The Liberal Party and the Australian Drivers Rights Association have both criticised a section in the proposed Road Traffic Amendment (Impaired Driving and Penalties) Bill 2019, which adds in regulations on the use of devices in cars.

The Bill was passed in the Lower House in November and would give police powers to stop a motorist from driving for 24 hours after a positive drug test; target people who drive with both an illegal level of alcohol and illicit drugs (known as polydrug offences); increase penalties for drink and drug-driving; and provide for new blood testing procedures.

It also includes Section 41, which amends Section 111 of the Road Traffic Act to give the Governor powers to “regulate and prohibit” the use of a vehicle with a device attached to it or removed from it and “using or possessing” a device while a person is in or on a vehicle.

ADRA’s Glenn Secco claims Section 41 is a “Henry VIII clause”, which takes its name from King Henry VIII who granted himself the power to make statutory changes by public pronouncement.

Mr Secco said it allowed the Road Safety Commission and the police to decide what devices should be banned or become mandatory in WA and gazette them.

“It must then be opposed by the MPs or it becomes law,” he said.

“What happens if they’re too busy with other business and it gets through?

“We all suffer for it.”

Mr Secco said “device” wasn’t defined in the Bill, arguing in a letter to MLCs it could include radar detectors, mobile phones, navigation systems with Waze or Google Maps, bull bars, side awnings, GoPros on a motorcycle helmet or, perhaps, window tinting.

“The legislation would also ban a passenger from using or having in their possession a prohibited device, like a mobile phone, DVD, navigation system, PC or radar detector,” Mr Secco wrote.

ADRA opposes both the legislative process and the ban on radar detectors in WA, notwithstanding they are disallowed in other States and contrary to the National Transport Commission’s Australian Road Rules that form the basis for all legislation.

Mr Secco estimates there are 50,000-60,000 radar detectors in WA, mostly used by people who are on the road all the time and need to drive for a living.

“Everyone inadvertently speeds at some stage, so a radar detector acts as a reminder to check your speed — and a driver will get about 50 false alerts to an actual camera,” he said.

“The bottom line is if you’re speeding, you’re going to get caught and a radar detector won’t stop you getting picked up by a cop with a laser.”

He claimed no study, report or finding in the past 20 years had found any correlation between the use of radar detectors and speeding or road safety.

ADRA has made a submission on the continued use of radar detectors in WA to the bi-partisan parliamentary inquiry on personal choice and community safety. Its findings are yet to be tabled.

However, Police and Road Safety Minister Michelle Roberts said drivers bought radar detectors for one reason.

“And that’s to think they can drive at extreme speeds,” she said.

“We won’t tolerate people using this technology to speed with impunity — putting themselves and other innocent road users at risk.”

She said the regulations could not be used to ban mobile phones in cars, explaining they were intended as a commonsense provision to save lives and prevent serious injury.

“The Road Safety Commission has advised that updating the regulation-making power under Section 111 ensures that legislation is robust enough to keep pace with changes in driver technology,” she said.

“It will mean that any future reforms to address technological changes and trends can be enacted in a timely manner.

“Executive government cannot make regulation changes. Any change to regulations requires the consent of both houses of State Parliament.” The Bill is currently in the Upper House.

Shadow minister for police and road safety Peter Katsambanis accused Ms Roberts of trying to introduce a “ban by stealth” on radar detectors without any evidence or public debate.

“In fact, she did not make any mention at all about radar detectors in the legislation she introduced to Parliament until it was exposed by the Liberal Party,” Mr Katsambanis said.

“The minister should not be sneaky or tricky when it comes to road safety. If there is good evidence that shows a ban on radar detectors would help reduce speeding and reduce our road toll, then she needs to produce it so the public can be confident that any ban would be beneficial and not simply another revenue-raising measure.

“The clause that the minister has said she would use to introduce the ban is so broadly drafted that it goes well beyond simply banning radar detectors. This clause, if it becomes law, would allow bureaucrats to ban a wide range of devices by regulation in the future, including popular navigation apps and even devices that are being used by passengers in motor vehicles.”

Mr Katsambanis urged the Government to wait for the findings of the select committee before proceeding.

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