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New driving laws in South Australia in response to death of Sophia Naismith

New driving laws in South Australia in response to death of Sophia Naismith
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New driving laws have come into effect in South Australia.

The rule changes are in response to the death of 15-year-old Sophia Naismith, who was hit and killed when the driver of a high-powered Lamborghini mounted a kerb on June 22, 2019.

The driver, 37-year-old Alexander Campbell, avoided jail and was handed a five-month suspended sentence.

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The state government said the sentence “highlighted deficiencies with the laws as they stood.”

Sophia’s Law follows campaigning from the Naismith family to fix the “broken system” which saw Campbell acquitted of his initial death by dangerous driving charge, and sentenced for aggravated driving without due care.

When Campbell’s car lost control and hit Sophia and her friend as they walked along a Glengowrie footpath, he was driving in sport mode with the electronic stability system deactivated.

This made the Lamborghini’s handling more unpredictable, issues which Judge Paul Muscat decided were known to Campbell.

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This is just one area that the new laws focus on, by “preventing drivers of ultra-high-powered vehicles from disabling an automated intervention system,” the South Australian (SA) government said on Monday. This new offence alone is punishable by a fine of up to $5000.

Another new offence, causing death or serious harm by careless use of a vehicle or vessel, will come with a penalty of up to seven years in jail for an aggravated offence, and a licence disqualification of at least three years.

“For a basic offence, the penalty will be up to five years in jail with a licence disqualification of at least 12 months,” the SA government said.

The new laws will also give police greater powers to suspend a driver’s licence on the spot if they are involved in a serious crash.

A new licence to be introduced later this year will be required for drivers of ultra-high-powered vehicles, which are defined as having a power-to-weight ratio of 276 kilowatts per tonne or more.

The parents of Sophia Naismith (pictured), 15, campaigned for new laws. Credit: 7NEWSThe Lamborghini in sports mode had the automated intervention system disabled, an act now prohibited under new SA rules. Credit: 7NEWSAlexander Campbell was found not guilty for causing death by dangerous driving after the accident. Credit: Supplied

SA Attorney-General Kyam Maher said the new laws are designed to ensure motorists driving dangerously can be held to justice.

“The new offence will give authorities greater flexibility when considering charges against those whose careless behaviour has a devastating, irreversible impact on others,” he said.

“At a time when our road toll is unacceptably high, these laws will send a clear message to all road users that we will not tolerate this kind of behaviour on our roads.

“The loss of any life on our roads is a tragedy, and we are seeking to do everything in our power to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”

Sophia’s father Luke Naismith said previously of the changes, as they were being passed through parliament, that they should prevent others from experiencing some of the heartache he was unable to avoid.

“The reforms won’t bring Sophia back, but it will make drivers more accountable for their anti-social behaviour and will reduce some of the trauma of families navigating the legal system,” he said.

The new laws on SA roads

New offence for careless driving: Causing death or serious harm by careless use of a vehicle or vessel is a new offence which comes with varying penalties, depending on the severity of the offence. The penalty for a basic offence is up to five years in jail and a licence disqualification of at least a year. For an aggravated offence, the penalty is up to seven years in jail and a licence disqualification of at least three years.Greater police powers: Police will now be able to suspend a driver’s licence on the spot when they are involved in a serious crash.Restrictions on ultra-high-powered vehicles: A fine of up to $5000 will now be handed out to motorists who disable an automated intervention system in an ultra-high-powered vehicle.

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