Students push for safe spaces for recreational hooning

Johnathan, Jack, Mads, Courtney, Lewis and Sarsura are part of the Overnewton youth parliament group.

A team of students from Keilor believe they have a solution to the state’s hooning problem, which they are taking to parliament.

Despite increasingly harsh laws against anti-social driving in Victoria, hooning is still common in many towns and suburbs across the state.

A team of six students from Overnewton Anglican Community College will present a bill calling for the development of safe spaces for recreational hooning to the YMCA Youth Parliament – a parliament sitting made up of 120 of their peers from across Victoria.

They say their proposal will reduce levels of dangerous and disruptive driving in communities.

The bill aims to provide a supplement to existing anti-hooning measures, which the team sees as being unrealistic and ineffective.

As it stands, anti-hooning laws in Victoria aim to prevent hooning through fines and seizing cars.

Hoon driving though is still a mainstay of many suburbs and towns, with almost 1500 vehicles impounded last year alone for racing, excessive noise and smoke, and speeding, according to Victorian Police’s impoundment statistics.

In contrast to these current laws, the bill put forward by the Overnewton team does not aim to prevent hoon driving entirely, but rather proposes giving drivers a place where they can partake in racing, dangerous and stunt driving, in a controlled environment off the streets.

“It’s impossible to stop hoon driving outright,” explains one of the team members Mads.

“We want to create an area where it can be done in safe practice and makes our roads safer as well as our drivers and innocents.”

The group said these areas would consist of dedicated facilities located at least 25 kilometres from residential areas.

They would require all drivers to hold, at minimum, a probationary licence, have a car that meets safety regulations and complete a round of safety training.

Emergences services would be on call at all times.

The Overnewton team argues these facilities would take dangerous and disruptive drivers off roads and make sure those who practise dangerous driving – as an outlet, for fun or for sport – do so safely.

“We can have the balance of people taking part in their hobbies, whilst as well not putting anyone else in danger,” Johnathan said.

They also argue their bill would support communities – giving both drivers a place to connect with like-minded people, and local businesses a new market.

The concept of spaces where dangerous driving is legalised is not a wholly new one.

The Overnewton team does not anticipate their bill to proceed without opposition, listing potential concerns.

For the team though, these criticisms can be addressed, for the most part, through research.

Along with statistics showing the effectiveness of safe injection sites, the team also points to the inclusion in their bill of plans for a six-month trial of one of their facilities, which they anticipate would prove the efficacy of their proposal.

“If we can provide a safe place for people to do this, then why shouldn’t we try something a little bit controversial?” Jonathan said.

Bills that are successfully passed in Youth Parliament are then passed on to be considered by Minister for Youth Ros Spence.

Youth parliament got under way last week.

Charlie Goldberg is a member of the YMCA Youth Press Gallery.