Anti-Hoon Laws – Making Americans Thankful for Speeding Tickets
The next time one of you Americans gets a speeding ticket, be thankful you do not live in Australia. With the popularity of movies such as “Fast and Furious” whatever-number-they-are-on-now, and the natural instinct of the human male to have a fast, loud car, I do not think anyone (even females) can say that they have not squealed their tires or driven excessively fast. In America, depending on the particular mood of the officer that day, you may get a warning, maybe a ticket if it is not your first offense, or maybe even you license suspended for a few months. I know in my particular state, Ohio, one has to rack up 12 points, are caught driving under the influence, drive without insurance or not pay your child support to lose your license. Accumulating 12 points in three years takes some effort and every three years your points drop off, so you really have to want to be pulled over to “point out” and lose your license. In Australia, however, it is a completely different ballgame, where the police do not seem to play fair. The entire country has enacted strict “Anti-Hoon Laws”, which are targeted directly at those who speed, squeal tires or are caught street racing.
First, let me explain what a “Hoon” is for those of you who think I am kidding. A “Hoon” is a derogatory term used in Australia and New Zealand to refer to those who just do not follow the “norms” of society. This includes such anti-social behavior such as driving (on land or water) fast or dangerously, or having a “noisy” vehicle. While “Anti-Hoon Laws” have generally been used to refer to road vehicles, they are in the process of extending the laws to boats, jet skis or anything else with a motor. Moreover, just to add a little more discrimination into the equation, those who are the most highly targeted are males from ages 17 to 34, with an increasing number of females the same age being included. These laws are to be carried out by police with a zero tolerance policy, even for first time offenders.
While the original “Anti-Hoon Laws” were enacted as early as 2000, in July 2012 more offenses were added to the already long list to include “engaging in a police pursuit” and “speeding by more than 45km/h (28mph)”. Now you may say this is a good idea to have these laws to keep the roads safe, and yes, they are good in theory, it is the punishment that far exceeds the nature of the offense. I know many people who have been pulled over for exceeding the speed limit by more than 28mph in the great State of Ohio, and other than getting an expensive ticket and an increase in insurance rates, have continued on their merry way after the ticket is issued. In Australia, there are an entirely different set of procedures.
If you are caught violating an “Anti-Hoon Law”, the Police have the right to confiscate your license plates on the spot for three months. The catch to this is, when they remove the plates, there is now an unregistered vehicle on the side of the road, therefore they can impound it as well. So for three months, no exceptions, you have no license plates and your vehicle is impounded racking up ridiculous fees. While people can apply for early release of the plates or the vehicle, the vehicle cannot be released without the plates and it is rare that the plates are released prior to the three-month period. Even if you do happen to catch a break and get the vehicle out of impound, but cannot get the plates, you are still unable to drive it. When the police remove the plates, they affix a “production notice sticker” in place of the plates. This means that if you attempt to drive the vehicle without plates, alter, or remove the sticker, you will receive large fines and can forfeit your vehicle entirely. Think about that the next time you put a little extra on the gas pedal because you feel like it.
Punishment for any “Hoon” offenses such as burnouts, street racing, speeding, or a police pursuit range from a $2,530 fine, 3 months of license plate seizure, vehicle impound and 6 months suspended license to 5 years in prison and 5 year license suspension for your second offense of a police pursuit. Keep in mind that if the vehicle cannot be released from impound in three months, or it is not released because you are unable to pay the impound fees; your vehicle will be destroyed. If you think that car crushing is an uncommon occurrence reserved for just the repeat offenders, from 2008 to 2010 in Victoria, Australia alone, over 11,000 “Hoon” vehicles were crushed, and the numbers continue to rise. Queensland, who was the first to enact “Anti-Hoon Laws” in 2000, estimated that in an eight year period from 2000 to 2008, they impounded over 20,000 vehicles. The number of vehicles being impounded and crushed all over the country continues to rise, with seemingly no effect to the violators.
“Hoons” have united all over Australia to show their support for what is considered by some to be “typical behavior for a male”. They have their own websites, Facebook pages and forums online. While it makes sense to punish the “serial Hoon” as they are called, for others that customize their car to make it what we call a “hot rod” should not be singled out as troublemakers. Yes some of these cars may be loud and their driver’s may occasionally squeal the tires to show off, this is by no means reason to impound and possible destroy, in some cases, brand new cars. One vehicle that was recently crushed was reported to have only 55km (34 miles) on the odometer. How much trouble can you really cause in 34 miles on a brand new car?
By no means am I condoning those who habitually break traffic laws and put people’s lives in danger, but for the person who owns a high performance car or “hot rod” they are proud of, chances are they are going to show off at some point. Human curiosity can also sometimes lead us to see “how fast can my car go”. Just because a car is loud, it does not mean the driver is going to do burnouts until the wheels fall off and let the police chase them at high rates of speed. If they laws are not working, as it is apparent that they are not working as intended, perhaps they should try a different approach. Doing the math on what they are collecting on fines and impound fees they certainly have the financial means to hire someone that is knowledgeable enough to come up with a better solution. Until then, I will be a “Hoon” supporter, as I am partial owner of a “Hoonmobile” myself. Sometimes things just make no sense when the government gets involved, and it is not just in America.