I present the Road Rules Amendment (Slowing Down for Police and Incident Response Vehicles) Bill 2018 to the House. This week is National Road Safety Week so is timely that we are recognising those who have lost their lives on our roads and are working to make our roads safer. Last Sunday night the Sydney Harbour Bridge was lit up in yellow for the launch of National Road Safety Week; it will stay yellow all week as a reminder to us all to drive safely on our roads. National Road Safety Week is an annual initiative of the Safer Australian Roads and Highways [SARAH] group, road safety organisations and the New South Wales Government. The week highlights the impact of road trauma and ways to reduce it. I congratulate the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight for her support of this initiative. It was heartening to see the number of people who attended the launch of the lighting of the bridge last Sunday night. At the launch we heard from families who have been enormously impacted as a result of road accidents in New South Wales. We can always do more.
In National Road Safety Week Labor is introducing this bill, which seeks to protect those who assist motorists. We need to ensure that we put in place the best protections we can for our emergency and first incident responders when they are out on our roads in this State. That is what slow down and move over laws will help to do. These measures are long overdue. Emergency and first incident responders have waited a very long time for better protections and they have lobbied endlessly for change. This bill seeks to address the very serious safety issues they face on a daily basis when assisting motorists involved in accidents or car breakdowns on busy roads in New South Wales. Before I speak to the detail of the bill, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the tireless work of Peter Frazer and his family. Peter, who lives in the Blue Mountains, has made it his mission to see this road rule come into force. This morning I contacted Peter to let him know that Labor was introducing this bill to the Parliament today.
The Frazer family tragically lost 23-year-old Sarah in 2012, when she and tow truck driver Geoff Clark were killed after being sideswiped by a heavy vehicle on the Hume Highway. Sarah's car had broken down and although she had responsibly pulled into the breakdown lane it was too narrow. Sarah could not get her vehicle completely out of way of passing traffic. The speed limit in the area was 110 kilometres per hour. Unfortunately, the traffic did not slow down and Sarah and Geoff were struck and killed. Determined to prevent another tragedy, the Frazer family founded the SARAH group, which has tirelessly fought for protections for "first call" and emergency service personnel who provide assistance and protection on our roads and highways. The NSW Rural Fire Service Association, the Fire Brigade Employees Union and the NSW Police Association have also been campaigning hard for the safety of their members. They know road users present a safety risk to emergency responders when they fail to slow down and approach an emergency incident with due care and attention. It is well known that happens time and again. I thank them for their efforts to see the road rules changed.
Unfortunately, those organisations have reason to be concerned for the welfare of emergency responders. Earlier this year we saw a tragic incident at Leumeah, where two police officers were seriously injured when they were crushed between two cars by a speeding driver. Senior Constable Jonathon Wright and his colleague Senior Constable Matthew Foley were setting up a random breath testing site when a young driver allegedly ploughed into them at 60 kilometres an hour. It is also alleged that the driver was using his mobile phone and therefore not abiding by the road rules. That incident serves to highlight how vulnerable emergency responders are when performing their duties on roads in this State. It is not only the police who need protection but also our firefighters and paramedics. Tow truck drivers and roadside assistance workers also heed the call when motorists find themselves in trouble on the roads. We need to ensure that their roadside workplace is also safe.
I acknowledge the efforts of the NRMA and its affiliated organisations in support of the slow down and move over laws. Their advocacy has been comprehensive and ongoing. When Sarah's car broke down on the side of the Hume highway she called the NRMA and they sent the tow truck to her aid. Last week I attended a slow down and move over forum hosted by NRMA and its interstate colleagues. They all shared information on what is being done in each State and it was incredibly informative. For instance, I heard how the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia had surveyed its roadside assistance patrols.
They found that 91 per cent of patrols had experienced a near miss in the past 12 months and 20 per cent had experienced a near miss at least once a week. Those numbers highlight both the urgency of this bill and why similar research is needed. These measures also have strong community support. A change.org petition initiated by Michael Mills currently has more than 26,000 signatures, and it continues to gather support. I thank Michael for his work in raising awareness of this issue. More than 26,000 people are calling on the Government to act but the Government has been dragged to address this issue rather than doing it willingly.
In February the Leader of the Opposition, Luke Foley, called on the Government to introduce slow down and move over laws. He was accompanied by Mr Frazer, Gerard Hayes from the Health Services Union representing paramedics, Scott Weber from the NSW Police Association, Leighton Drury from the Fire Brigade Employees Union, and Ken Middleton from the Rural Fire Service Association. In response to the New South Wales Government's failure to act, Luke Foley undertook to introduce legislation into State Parliament to protect emergency and first incident responders on our roads. This bill gives effect to his commitment. Under intense community pressure to do something, the Government finally announced its policy in April. The Government knew that we would push this issue in the community and in this Parliament. When the announcement was made I welcomed the New South Wales Government finally recognising that there is an unnecessary risk to emergency workers attending incidents on our busy roads.
But what concerns us on this side of the House and why we bring this bill to the Parliament is that the Government has announced a one-year trial, a trial that is very light on detail and is not slated to start until September this year, although we have not been told why. Most importantly, the trial fails to include first incident responders such as tow truck drivers or NRMA Roadside Assistance vehicles. Again, I draw to the attention of the House the accident involving Sarah Frazer when a tow truck driver went to her aid. This bill recognises that at times these workers put themselves in precarious situations in order to help others and that this Parliament has a responsibility to keep them safe too.
There is no mention in the bill of moving over to the next lane to put distance between the vehicle and the emergency or first incident responder. The Government has given no explanation as to why it values the efforts of these workers less. I ask the Minister: Is their safety less important? It appears that everyone except the New South Wales Government understands the importance of protecting these workers. On learning of the New South Wales approach, the NRMA sister organisation RACQ, in a media release, urged the Queensland Government not to adopt the proposed New South Wales approach, which the RACQ described in its media release as confusing and failing to offer proper protection to emergency services and roadside workers. As I said, it is not just Labor saying this. Organisations right across Australia are saying that New South Wales has it wrong.
Sadly, New South Wales lags behind. South Australia introduced similar laws in 2014; last year Victoria followed suit; and Western Australia has enacted the law to come into effect this month. These laws are not unique to Australia; similar laws exist in parts of Canada and the United States of America. It would be nice to see New South Wales as an early adopter in the road safety space, but in this case we are the laggard. I turn now to the detail of our bill. It is important to note that the safety measures provided in the bill apply to emergency and first incident responders.
Slow down, move over—or SLOMO—generally refers to laws requiring drivers to reduce their speed to a maximum of 40 kilometres an hour when passing stationary emergency or incident response vehicles and to take other actions to prevent injury. The bill defines an incident response vehicle as an emergency vehicle, a motor breakdown service vehicle or a tow truck. It is worth noting that compared with other types of roadside work, incident responders have almost no physical protection and rely on visual warnings such as flashing lights and cones. Therefore, their inclusion in the safety measures provided in the bill is absolutely critical. The term "emergency vehicle" is already defined in the Road Rules 2014 to mean any vehicle driven by a person who is an emergency worker and driving the vehicle in the course of his or her duties as an emergency worker.
Emergency workers include a member of the Ambulance Service, a member of a fire or rescue service operated by a New South Wales government agency, a member of the State Emergency Service, a member of a fire brigade—however referred to—a rescue service of the Commonwealth or another State or Territory providing transport in the course of an emergency, and a member of Airservices Australia providing transport in the course of a fire or rescue emergency. This bill provides very clear and unambiguous protection to emergency workers, tow truck drivers and roadside breakdown services such as the NRMA.
I turn now to the actions drivers will be required to take under this proposed legislation. When approaching a stationary or slow-moving police or incident response vehicle that is displaying flashing warning lights, drivers will be required to drive at a speed at which the driver can, if necessary, stop safely before passing the vehicle, and not exceed 40 kilometres an hour when passing the police or incident response vehicles. In other States, trials have been conducted around the colour of those flashing lights. As we know, the blue and red flashing lights in this State are only for emergency vehicles; but in other States blue flashing lights have been trialled on tow truck drivers and NRMA Roadside Assistance vehicles. There is no reason why that cannot happen here.
We know that in incidents involving a car and a person, speed has a massive impact on survival rates. When a person is struck by a car, the probability of serious injury or death depends strongly on the impact of speed. Reducing speed from 60 to 50 kilometres an hour almost halves the likelihood of death in an accident. Reducing speed to 40 kilometres an hour, as applies in school zones, reduces the likelihood of death by a factor of four compared with 60 kilometres an hour, and the likelihood of an impact is also dramatically reduced. It is very, very simple: Reducing the speed limit to 40 kilometres an hour will save lives and it will prevent injuries.
Drivers will also be required to move to another lane if a driver is travelling in the same lane as the police incident response vehicle and it is a multi-lane road. Emergency and incident response vehicles are often called to work in less than ideal locations, and many roads do not have sufficient shoulder space to offer protection—we saw that with Sarah Frazer's accident. This requirement to move to another lane is just as important as the reduction in speed. Finally, drivers must give way to any person who is on foot in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle and must not increase their speed until the driver is at a sufficient distance from the vehicle, so as to avoid causing a danger to any person in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle.
The bill contains a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units per offence, which is currently about $2,200. This is consistent with similar offences under the Road Rules 2014. New road rules should be complemented with a driver education and awareness campaign and we should explain these laws to the community—why they are needed and what is required to comply. In other States the responsibility for these education and awareness campaigns has been shared by government and stakeholders, and it has worked. When I speak to another group of vulnerable road users, cyclists, they tell me that the "metre matters" rule introduced by this Government has had little effect because motorists have not been properly educated on the steps they can take to help them comply. It is the same in this case: We must educate people on what is required, and that has been successful in other States.
There is always a place for enforcement, but if we want to keep police and other incident responders safe we must educate drivers and change their behaviour. That is what Labor is on about: We must change driver behaviour. We also need to measure our success. So far, the Government has not revealed what it will do to monitor its new road rule or how it will gauge the success of the new rule it will introduce on 1 September—and I note that the regulations for that came in last week. In Western Australia, the Road Safety Commission is overseeing a comprehensive two-year monitoring and evaluation of their laws. This will capture trends and issues in relation to the safety of incident response personnel, driver behaviour and changes over time, community education effectiveness, and any unintended consequences such as secondary crashes and impacts on traffic congestion. It is a comprehensive review that will look at the success as well as the deficiencies of the law. The New South Wales Opposition supports a similar review of the mechanism for New South Wales laws; but, as yet, it is not clear what that review will entail.
The time to act is now for all the emergency and first incident responders who risk their own lives to help others. This bill should be bipartisan and it should be passed by this House as a matter of priority. Road users lose nothing by slowing down to 40 kilometres an hour and moving over, but our emergency and first incident responders and drivers involved in an incident on our roads will benefit greatly. Nothing will be lost by introducing this. I know that the Government will not support this bill, but I urge the Government to consider a bipartisan approach to it. If the Government will not support the bill it must include first incident responders in its trial that will begin on 1 September. There is enormous community support for this and the Government has not given a reason why it will not support it—that is what is most frustrating and disappointing about this.
The Government might be dragging its feet, but we on this side will not ignore the emergency and incident responders who have been asking for this legislation, because at the heart of this bill is recognition and respect for the work they do. This is about giving them a safe workplace, something that we believe all workers have a right to enjoy. In this, National Road Safety Week—and I wear my yellow ribbon as a sign of respect for those people who have lost their lives and for those families who have lost loved ones, and for those organisations and emergency and first incident responders who work within this space—I commend the bill to the House and I ask the Government to support our efforts to protect emergency and first incident responders.