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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

Hoon Laws (ACT)


In the ACT, anti-hooning laws are contained in the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999. Hooning offences are street racing, burnouts and menacing driving (“road rage”).

Street racing

Under section 5A of the Act it is an offence in the ACT to participate in street racing other than with the written approval of the road transport authority. It is an offence to organise, promote or otherwise take part in:

  • a race between vehicles;
  • an attempt to break a vehicle’s speed record;
  • a trial of maximum speed or acceleration; or
  • a competitive trial to test the skill of a driver, the reliability or mechanical conditions of a vehicle.

When giving written approval to such an event, the authority can impose any conditions that it believes is necessary. It must consider the views of those who would be affected by an event, and how the safety and convenience of the public will be affected. It is also an offence to contravene any condition of approval.

Penalties

The maximum fine is 20 penalty units ($3200). For a first offence, the automatic period of disqualification is three months. For a repeat offence, the automatic period of disqualification is 12 months but the court can impose a longer ban.

Regardless of how bad a person’s traffic record is, the court has discretion as to whether to record a conviction for a hooning offence. If the court decides not to record a conviction, the person will not be disqualified from driving. Section 17 of the Crimes (Sentencing) Act 2005 allows a court the discretion to not impose a conviction against someone found guilty of an offence.

Burnouts

Under section 5B of the Act, it is an offence to perform a burnout in a motor vehicle on a road or road related area, unless it is done with the written approval from the road transport authority for the purposes of a race, attempt or trial.

The definition of a burnout is determined by the type of motor vehicle being driven. On a motorbike a burnout is deemed to have occurred if the vehicle is operated in a way to cause the motorbike to undergo a sustained loss of traction by the driving wheel. In any other motor vehicle, a burnout is deemed to have occurred if the vehicle is operated in a way that causes a sustained loss of traction by one or more of the driving wheels.

The Act defines a road related area as:

  • an area that divides a road; or
  • a footpath or nature strip adjacent to a road; or
  • an area that is open to the public and is designated for use by cyclists or animals; or
  • an area that is not a road and that is open to or used by the public for driving, riding or parking vehicles; or
  • a shoulder of a road.

Any other area that is open to or used by the public can from time to time be declared a road-related area by the Minister for Transport, under the Road Transport (General) Act 1999.

Penalties

The maximum penalty if you are convicted under this section will depend on the particulars of the offence. If a burnout has occurred because you have placed a “prohibited substance” on the surface of the road or road related area, or near one of the vehicle’s tyres, the maximum fine is 30 penalty units ($4800). If no prohibited substance was involved, the maximum fine is 20 penalty units ($3200). Automatic disqualification is the same as for street racing.

A prohibited substance is defined as petrol, oil, diesel fuel or any other flammable liquid; or any substance that increases the risk of death, injury or damage to property from the burnout.

Defences

It is a defence for a charge of performing a burnout if the driver shows that although a burnout occurred, the motor vehicle was not deliberately operated to cause that effect.

Menacing driving

Under section 8 of the Act, a person must not drive in a way that menaces someone else with the intention of menacing them, or where the person ought to have known that the other person might be menaced.

The menace can be a threat of personal injury or of damage to property, and applies when the other person or the property is on a road or road related area.

Penalty

The maximum penalty is a fine of 100 penalty units ($16,000) and/or imprisonment for one year. Automatic disqualification is the same as for the other hooning offences of street racing and burnouts.

Defences

The Act provides that a person does not commit menacing driving if the person “could not, in the circumstances, reasonably avoid menacing the other person”. It states that a person cannot be found guilty from the one incident of both having intent to menace and simultaneously assuming to know the other person might be menaced. Similarly, a person cannot be found guilty of either negligent driving or dangerous driving and menacing driving arising out of a single incident.

Seizure and impoundment of vehicles

Police have the power to seize and impound a vehicle if a driver is caught committing a hooning offence. If a court convicts a driver of a hooning offence, the vehicle can be impounded for up to 3 months. For a repeat offence, the vehicle can be forfeited permanently, or impounded instead if forfeiture would cause excessive hardship or injustice to anyone. The vehicle can be sold by public auction or tender, or destroyed if it has little monetary value.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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