VINTAGE CAR SEATBELT REQUIREMENTS
Mr THOMAS GEORGE
(Lismore) [11.49 a.m.]: On 30 June the Roads and Traffic Authority will implement new regulations requiring vintage cars to be fitted with seatbelts. I have not yet taken up this matter with the Minister, but I intend to do so. Vintage cars are treasured by their owners and admired by the community when they are displayed at vintage car rallies. The exact number of vintage car rallies held around the State escapes me, but I know there are a great many of them. Recently Garry Johnston of Clunes drew the effect of the new rules to my attention.
Garry fears that the new child restraint regulations could herald the end of his family's favourite pastime. We all recognise the importance of seatbelts generally. However, under the new rules, children under the age of seven will have to be restrained by seatbelts when they travel in vintage cars. Cars manufactured before 1978 require an engineer's report when modifications are undertaken because there is no appropriate structure to which to attach seatbelts. Many vintage cars have wooden floors, and safety standards would not be met by fixing seatbelts to them. Vintage car owners have grave concerns about the conclusions that may be drawn by an engineer's report. Some vintage cars have timber bodies and it is impossible to successfully fix seatbelts in such cars.
Many members of vintage car clubs attend rallies as family groups. The implementation of the new rule threatens to destroy that type of family outing. While I do not advocate that we dispense with seatbelts, I urge the adoption of a commonsense approach. When Garry visited me, he emphasised how he treasures his children and his grandchildren, but he pointed out that the design of the cars makes it virtually impossible to fix seatbelts, especially in cars made in the 1940s or the 1950s. The new regulations mean that cars made long ago will be forced to comply with modern rules. It is not that vintage cars are not strongly built: they travel long distances around Australia when they are participating in rallies.
I doubt that the new regulations are based on statistics that show that vintage cars are involved in a large number of fatal road accidents, but I will take up that issue with the Minister. Garry's family is a perfect example of families who participate in vintage car rallies. Implementation of the new rules will destroy that family interaction. Garry will be left to attend rallies on his own while his wife stays at home to look after their children or grandchildren, and that will break up the family unit. I acknowledge the importance of road safety and that a fatal vintage car accident would also break up a family unit. However, I doubt that there is statistical justification for the requirement.
Fixing seatbelts to vintage cars is not a simple matter. Engineers have indicated already that meeting the safety requirements of the Roads and Traffic Authority is not just problematic but perhaps impossible. Garry's daughter, Kristen, fondly remembers family outings to vintage car rallies when she was growing up and describes them as being a lot of fun. The six kids in the Johnston family and their cousins grew up with vintage cars and rallies, but all that will be lost when the new regulation is implemented. Many vintage car club members in my electorate have approached me because this is a significant problem. I will take up the matter with the Minister in an endeavour to arrive at an amicable solution based on a commonsense approach to devising a structure in vintage cars to accommodate seatbelts.