Saturday, September 12, 2009

Victoria's Oldest Hoon

New word! New word! Language is fun, isn't, it? The word for today is the Australian term hoon. Thought to originally be a contraction of Houyhnhnm, the race of horses from Gulliver's Travels, at the start of the 20th it was associated with purveyors of ill-repute, but has recently taken on a legally sanctioned definition that can be summarized as vehicular hooliganism: excessive speeding, burning doughnuts, loud noise or other anti-social vehicular behavior.

Starting in 2006, several jurisdictions across Australia have passed rather draconian laws to deal with the hoon problem. In Victoria, for example, the punishment for the first offense is having the car impounded for two days, second offense up to three months, and third offense can result in permanent loss of the vehicle. You can even be charged if you are a passenger. Punishment is obviously severe, but the really draconian part of it is that the charges are at the discretion of the police officer and there is no appeal. Wow. Once a penal colony, always a penal colony, I suppose.

The oldest hoon nabbed so far is an un-named 79 year old caught doing 160 kph (100 mph) in a 100km zone in July (car pictured). The previous oldest was a 78 year old who was caught doing 170 kph. On the other end of the spectrum, the youngest person so far charged was 5 year old Laney Franklin, who had her motorbike impounded for riding around a park (news coverage video below - and, yes, I think it's odd that the adults are not named, but the minor is).

Three months after the hoon laws took affect in Victoria, there had been an average of 4 cars impounded per day with 99% (437 out of 441) being male, 49% (217) were by drivers 18-21. And after 2 years, the Victoria police say that, surprisingly, only 39% of the perps were speeding, while more than 48% were charged with the incredibly vague "improper use of motor vehicle" - basically, they lost their cars (without appeal) because they were annoying. And the rate of impounding has climbed from 4 to 10 cars per day (I suppose kids are just more annoying these days - and stay off my lawn!).

I guess the really interesting thing I found was the incredible disconnect between the bloggers and the mainstream press. There is a lot of hoon law discussion, but about all the newspapers write about are "est" stories: oldest, youngest, fastest. Nowhere in the mainstream media is there a discussion of rights or due process or anything similar, but there are lots of blog posts about it.

If this were going on in the United States I'd say the terrorists had won, but I don't know of any terrorism going on in Australia. Their tragedy here is that they are choosing to erode their own freedoms for no particular reason. It is like they are doing a slow legal devo out of boredom.

World News Australia
Victoria Police
Victoria Police (again)
Car Advice
Herald Sun
3AW (via The Newspaper)
ABC News
Herald Sun (again)
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1 comment:

  1. BTW: "devo" is from the band Devo, which is a shortened form of de-evolution, so "doing a devo" would mean "regressing".