Australia’s New South Wales implemented a new law last week which states any driver caught drink-driving – even if they are a first time or low-range offender – will receive a $593 fine and immediate three month licence suspension.
Some Rarotonga residents, who are concerned about the drink-driving trend on the island, believe such laws should be implemented here in order to curb this growing problem.
Pitt said Police Commissioner Maara Tetava has long supported tougher measures.
He said one which the police have discussed was the confiscation and crushing of vehicles driven by repeat offenders.
“As with any penalty adjustments of this nature, there would need to be broad buy-in by the community, particularly the political leaders,” Pitt said.
“Even when the police introduced a more stringent motorcycle handling component with a fee attached, this was knocked back for being too excessive and time consuming.
“Australia has been a world leader in terms of road safety and tougher penalties. Many years ago for instance, the Victoria road toll plummeted as a direct result of speed cameras and large fines in the thousands of dollars. This new initiative will no doubt make a significant impact.”
However Cook Islands Road Safety Council president Brent Fisher said the penalties in the Cook Islands were much harsher than the one implemented in NSW.
People caught drink driving here get a $500 fine and a year disqualification of their driver’s licence. They have to serve a minimum of six months before applying for a work driver’s licence.
“Personally I don’t think taking a licence away from a person for a first offence is the answer and there are moves in place to rethink this policy. All you do by taking the licence away is punsh other family members and friends who end up transporting them around.”
Instead Fisher said those found drink-driving in the Cook Islands should serve community service.
“It’s a win-win for the community and the fines imposed would be used to pay for the scheme. That’s the direction we are looking to head in.”
As a core criticism, Police spokesperson Pitt said many road safety measures discussed and prioritised in past years have not received any funding resources despite those measures being costed.
He also said there were additional criticisms related to the leniency of the court when it comes to penalties.
“But there are a lot of competing interests here, including those of the lawyers, who fight to get their clients off drink driving charges with a technicality,” Pitt said.
“Police prosecution is always under pressure from legal representation, which look for loopholes and inconsistencies to implement new and tougher measures to combat drink driving.”