Social Implications of Driver Disqualification: Reality and Road Traffic Laws*

Date01 June 1975
Publication Date01 June 1975
DOI10.1177/000486587500800211
AuthorC. D. Robinson
AUST. &N.Z. JOURNAL OF CRIMINOLOGY
(June,
1975) : 8,2 169
SociaL
ImpLications
of
Driver
Disqualifi-
cation:
ReaLity
and
Road
Traffic
Laws
*
C. D. ROBINSON
**
ABSTRACT
MOTOR vehicle accidents constitute one of the
major
health hazards
in urban societies, and it has been widely argued
that
some drivers
are
worse accident risks than others due to factors such as personality,
attitude or lack of ability. On this basis, it is reasonably tempting to
suggest
that
the accident problem can
best
be solved by removing the
unsafe motorist from the driver population.
The present
paper
explores the legal sanction of
driver
dis-
qualification in
terms
of its
deterrent
effects, and some social factors
which limit these effects. In particular, four types of factors
are
examined which limit the effectiveness of this sanction: the low prob-
ability of apprehension of disqualified driving offenders; the uncer-
tainty and inconsistency of punishment of these offenders; the
attrac-
tiveness of this unlawful behaviour; and the inadequacy of alterna-
tives to the unlawful behaviour.
After consideration of these factors, it is evident
that
the penalty of
licence suspension
can
have
at
best aminimal effect on road safety,
and it is suggested
that
there is a need for a re-examination of the
rationale underlying present traffic laws and penalties given the social
value placed on motor vehicle operation. '
Anumber of previous authors have
already
produced excellent papers on
driver
licence disqualification, notably the eminentcontributors to a
Department
of Transport
seminar
on Road Safety and the Law (1973), but many of these and
other authors have concluded their utterances by recommending
that
research
be
done on the effects of this sanction. The present author has begun
research
on the
effects of licence disqualification, and this
paper
represents his perceptions of
the likely difficulties with this sanction, and the theoretical basis for an exam-
ination of these problems.
The situation under study is conceptualised as one in which a person can, or
must, make adeliberate and identifiable decision about several possible courses
of
action, and one or
more
of the available alternatives is an unlawful one. Thus,
It can be postulated
that
there is a choice facing adriver who, as a result of some
offence he has committed, has had his licence to drive cancelled or suspended: he
can, on any particular occasion, either not use a vehicle which is at' his disposal
or he can drive and thus
commit
an offence.
Authors such as Shaw and Sichel
(1971)
and Whitlock
(1971)
have advocated the
suspension of unsafe or unlawful drivers, and the use of such a sanction is pre-
dicated on the assumption
that
the suspended driver does, in fact, stop using his
vehicle. If this assumption is correct, then it would appear
that
disqualified
• This report has been compiled as
part
of a study funded by the Commonwealth Government Department of
Transport under grant number
711-503.
·*Department
of Criminology,
University
of Melbourne

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