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Should vehicle rego be paid via the petrol pump?

By Paul Davies - posted Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Police data suggest that a surprisingly large number of vehicles on the roads are unregistered. The Commonwealth and States need to think about how this problem should be addressed.

Selected offences detected by Victorian Police in Operation Raid, Nov-Dec 2014


Victoria Police released information last week on the number of traffic offences detected in the first 24 days of this summer's annual road safety blitz.

There're the customary offences like speeding and drink driving that the mainstream media like to highlight (see here and here), but what shocks me is the number of drivers who were driving unregistered vehicles (and/or were disqualified from driving or had a suspended licence).

Driving an unregistered vehicle was the second most common offence after speeding. There were three times as many unregistered vehicles on the road as there were drink drivers.

A qualification. It can't be assumed that these numbers are an entirely accurate reflection of the scale of this offence across the state. For one thing, the sort of driver who's prepared to take to the road in an unregistered vehicle might also be the sort of risk-taker who's over-represented among speedsters.

Even so, an average of 162 offences per day suggests the number of unregistered vehicles in active use across the state could be a very large number. It's likely to be a national issue with hundreds of thousands of unregistered vehicles being driven regularly.

A key problem is that these drivers are using the roads without paying their way; they're freeloading. They're also harder for Police to collar if they commit other offences like running red lights.


If they have a minor collision with another vehicle it may be difficult for the other driver, or her insurance company, to pursue any claim. This cost is passed on in higher premiums.

There's also evidence that unregistered vehicles aren't as safe on average as registered vehicles. Moreover, the NSW Department of Roads & Maritime says unregistered vehicles aren't likely to be covered by compulsory third party insurance:

If you have an at-fault accident while driving an unregistered vehicle, you could be held personally liable for compensation to any person injured.

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This article was first published on The Urbanist.

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About the Author

Paul Davies is Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University. His latest book is How to Build a Time Machine, published by Penguin.

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