Queensland's Premier Beattie appears to be responding to recent hit-and-run incidents in his state, telling a budget estimates committee that
tough sentencing guidelines will be introduced later this year for excessive speeding, racing, speed trialling and hit-and-run offences.
That's good to hear. The current maximum penalty of three years in jail for dangerous driving (or five years if intoxicated) will be increased:
Mr Beattie said under the proposed amendments the dangerous driving category would be widened and a five-year penalty also would apply to cases of excessive speeding, racing or speed trialling.
Dangerous driving causing death or grievous bodily harm, which currently carries a maximum seven-year penalty, will increase to 10 years.
In addition, the offence, which currently carries a 10 year penalty if the offender is adversely affected by alcohol, will increase to 14 years and also takes in excessive speeding, speed trialling or leaving the scene of an accident.
If I read this right, it means failing to stop at the scene of an accident could carry a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment. That's got to be a good thing, provided there is a realistic chance of it being imposed.
But I wonder if it wouldn't be more effective to make the penalty for hit-and-run even more severe than the other penalties. Aside from the basic "failure of humanity" that leaving the scene entails, all matters are resolved much faster if the police don't have to track down the offender. If someone has little to gain by running away — because of harsher penalties that arise if they do — then they may be more likely to stick around and face the consequences of their action.
And while he's at it, Mr Beattie ought to consider permanent license cancellations for hit-and-run offenders.
To my mind, part of the solution seems to be to make the consequences of running away noticeably more severe than those for staying and accepting one's responsibilities.