Ms Jackie Gray Motor Vehicle Accident
Mr ROBERTS (Lane Cove) [4.57 p.m.]: On 22 January 2000 Jackie Gray, who is a young constituent of mine, was riding her motorbike along Boundary Road, Chatswood when a Tarago with a mounted bullbar, driven by a 19-year-old P-plate driver, turned in front of her, and changed her life forever. As a result of this accident Jackie received a below-knee amputation, a 12-centimetre compound fracture of her right femur, a broken hip, a broken pelvis, a lacerated bowel and liver, a collapsed lung filled with blood, a lacerated finger and a close head injury. Australian Design Rule 42.9.1 states:
No vehicle shall be equipped with any object or fitting, not technically essential which protrudes from any part of the vehicle so that it is likely to increase the risk of bodily injury to any person.
This is a Federal law, and it prevails over all State and Territory law. But it is rarely, if ever, enforced. This law has never been tested in court. Most claimants usually settle before setting a precedent. In September last year Standards Australia released its long-awaited bullbar standard. The short report by FORS, the former Federal Office of Road Safety, now the ATSB, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, examined the Australian fatal crash data for pedestrians for the year 1992.
It states that bullbars were involved in 12 per cent of fatal pedestrian crashes in 1992, but it was estimated that bullbar involvement could be as high as 20 per cent, due to the large amount of missing information on bullbar statistics in the fatality crash database. It included all the major stakeholders, among them being five representatives from the bullbar manufacturers. The standard, in simplified form, sets out three essential requirements. Bullbars should have no sharp edges; slope backwards towards the driver, not forward, so a pedestrian or bike rider is not forced under the vehicle; and fit within the profile of the vehicle. To quote Mr Harold Scruby of the Pedestrian Council of Australia:
It will not be good enough for governments to simply adopt this standard for new vehicles. All new vehicles must comply without delay. But, more importantly, this standard must be prospectively regulated, like gun laws, seat-belt laws and environmental laws and require ALL bullbars to comply with this standard within a reasonable period of time—but no longer than 3 years. From then, it must be vigorously enforced and stiff penalties must apply.
This is not an attack on bullbars, or their essential use, particularly in rural and remote areas. This will achieve compliance with Federal standards, to ensure that this sort of injury never happens again to someone like my constituent Jackie, whose life has changed forever. I thank Jackie for taking the time to come into this place. It is about time this Government took a firm stand on the issue. Finally, this begs the question: Why did not the Roads and Traffic Authority implement this standard for all new vehicles as from 1 January 2003, particularly as the standard was released in September 2002? And what has the authority done since? I pay personal tribute to Jackie, who has come back after this accident to make a strong and worthwhile contribution to the community, and particularly for having the guts to come and stand before this Parliament today to show us how important these standards and regulation changes are.
Mr SARTOR (Rockdale—Minister for Energy and Utilities, Minister for Science and Medical Research, Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Cancer), and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [5.02 p.m.]: I assume the House shares the concerns expressed by the honourable member and expresses its sympathy to Jackie Gray for what she has had to endure. It is a horrible thing to happen. She has been marvellous in the courage she has shown in dealing with this matter. I am not familiar with the law or the practice in this area. I know that it is a vexed issue in country areas, and that bullbars are designed for protection from kangaroos and other wildlife that might otherwise crash through windscreens. I will ask an appropriate question of the Minister.