Since 2016, Warragul driver Sean DeAraugo has been residing with a medical situation that requires him to report back to Victoria’s licensing authority VicRoads.
- The ABC has discovered seven drivers who say they weren’t instructed when VicRoads suspended their licence on medical grounds
- Peninsula Group Authorized Centre fears there are systemic communication issues with the federal government company
- They’re calling for VicRoads to urgently enhance how they notify drivers when their licence is suspended
Often, VicRoads requests a medical overview by publish, and Mr DeAraugo goes to his physician to finish the shape so he can proceed driving.
In 2020–21, Mr DeAraugo mentioned he didn’t obtain a letter from VicRoads requesting a medical overview.
“I did not discover on the time as a result of we had been within the midst of COVID, and regular life wasn’t actually taking place,” he mentioned.
“The subsequent factor I knew, I used to be pulled over by police in 2021, and I used to be knowledgeable by police that my licence was suspended.”
Mr DeAraugo was in shock.
Police charged him with driving whereas his licence was suspended.
He instantly contacted VicRoads, they usually emailed him the medical type.
“I mentioned, ‘Sooner or later are you able to e mail me this correspondence? As a result of I do not need this to occur once more,'” he mentioned.
“I used to be instructed that they’re legally required to request the medical evaluations by publish.”
Mr DeAraugo’s licence has since been reinstated.
Nonetheless, he’s nonetheless going through expenses and is because of seem earlier than the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court docket in February 2023.
If discovered responsible, Mr DeAraugo might have the fees famous on his legal document.
“I am discovering it fairly irritating,” he mentioned.
“Whereas widespread sense tells me I have never executed something unsuitable … I’m apprehensive that the result will not be nearly as good as I would love.”
VicRoads instructed Mr DeAraugo they despatched him one letter requesting the medical overview in February 2021 and one other in June 2021 to say his licence had been suspended as a result of he had not accomplished the overview.
Mr DeAraugo says he believes one thing went amiss with the mail at VicRoads’ finish.
“On this event, I have never obtained the letter in regards to the medical overview nor the licence being suspended,” he mentioned.
“I have never missed some other mail throughout that point from some other organisation.”
He’s not the one particular person to say they haven’t been knowledgeable by VicRoads when their licence was suspended on medical grounds.
Clare Ridgway instructed the ABC she solely found her licence had been suspended when police pulled over her husband on November 2, when he was driving a automobile registered in her title.
Regardless of receiving mail from different companies, she didn’t get something from VicRoads to inform her of the suspension.
‘One letter not adequate’
Derek Lightbody was pulled over on the 2022 Australian Day weekend and instructed his licence had been suspended on medical grounds.
“4 days later, I acquired a letter from VicRoads advising me my licence had been suspended,” he mentioned.
“I felt betrayed.”
Mr Lightbody was in a position to keep away from expenses after a lot backwards and forwards between him, VicRoads and the police,
However he says, “one letter is not adequate”.
“To depend on common mail, it is not a well timed course of. It did not require a signature,” Mr Lightbody mentioned.
“You would not serve a court docket summons like that.”
The motorists who spoke to the ABC known as for pressing enhancements to how VicRoads communicates.
They are saying requests for medical evaluations and notification of licence suspension needs to be despatched by registered publish, accompanied by follow-up notifications by way of e mail and textual content message.
“It would not matter to me how I get it so long as I get it,” Mr DeAraugo mentioned.
“One thing as necessary as a suspended licence needs to be despatched by registered mail.”
Publish a authorized requirement
Every year, VicRoads assesses about 90,000 folks’s health to drive by means of its medical overview course of.
A Division of Transport spokesperson mentioned it was “designed to maintain everybody protected on our roads”.
“We perceive how necessary having a licence is for therefore many Victorians, and that’s the reason we take this course of so critically, assessing each medical report on a case-by-case foundation,” a spokesperson mentioned.
“If VicRoads varies, suspends or cancels a driver licence/learner allow, the particular person can enchantment the choice.”
The ABC requested VicRoads if they’d contemplate sending discover of a licence suspension by way of registered publish, in addition to digital notifications, to minimise the possibility folks didn’t know their licence had been suspended. They did not reply to the precise query.
Present laws means a discover is simply deemed “served” by VicRoads whether it is despatched to an individual’s postal deal with — and there’s no requirement to ship a letter by way of registered mail.
If a medical report is overdue, VicRoads ship a reminder letter earlier than the licence is suspended.
The place VicRoads processing delays or errors have impacted a driver’s licence, the organisation mentioned it might all the time work with the affected driver to minimise the influence on their particular person medical overview case.
Legally drivers should replace their deal with inside 14 days of shifting.
A systemic drawback
Peninsula Group Authorized Centre’s follow supervisor for specialist applications Ash Galvin, mentioned VicRoads’ communication was not adequate.
“I believe it’s a systemic drawback. Typically, it appears, authorities companies are counting on the standard postal service to ship notifications to folks,” he mentioned.
“There may be the chance these notifications do not attain folks for numerous causes.”
Mr Galvin represented an 83-year-old lady who had her licence suspended by VicRoads in 2020 — she mentioned she was not notified and solely discovered when she was pulled over by police.
Mr Galvin mentioned if folks weren’t conscious their licence had been suspended, it might go away them inclined to expenses and a visitors offence on their legal document.
It might additionally influence their insurance coverage cowl within the occasion of an accident as a result of many insurance policies don’t cowl drivers with out a legitimate licence, he mentioned.
“It is actually necessary that persons are saved updated with the standing of their driver’s licence,” he mentioned.
“We would prefer to see VicRoads discover additional alternatives to higher talk to motorists.”
Coburg North driver Paul Carey found his licence had been suspended on medical grounds in 2018 when he was on his approach to the grocery store along with his two younger youngsters.
All of a sudden police pulled him over, instructed him he didn’t have a legitimate licence and charged him.
“After I noticed the most recent story, I assumed, ‘Oh, my gosh! That is nonetheless taking place to different folks,'” he mentioned.
Whereas the fees had been in the end dropped, Mr Carey mentioned it had a big impact on his psychological well being.
“I’ve a longstanding prognosis of complicated PTSD,” he mentioned.
“This actually took me down a notch in my life.”
Mr Carey is now calling on VicRoads to situation an apology.
“We had had our licence suspended with none precise communication or accountability from VicRoads,” he mentioned.
“It might be good to be compensated in a roundabout way for all the effort and heartache.”