Police departments across Australia have responded to a learner driver being handed a hefty $1600 fine for breaching stage three coronavirus restrictions.
Hunter Reynolds, 17, was learning to drive in wet conditions in Victoria with her mother supervising in the car when a police officer pulled them over on the weekend.
The pair had travelled about 30 kilometres from their Hampton home to Frankston.
Despite insisting they had not stopped or come into contact with anyone else, the teen was given a $1652 on-the-spot fine for breaching the stage three restrictions.
"We didn't think for one minute that we would be doing anything wrong," Sharee Reynolds told 3AW on Monday.
"She (the officer) said we were too far from home and we would cop a fine, and that Hunter would be the person to receive that fine."
After publicly sharing their story, the police hierarchy reviewed the fine.
Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton told 3AW on Tuesday that blatant rule-breakers should be fined but there was community confusion.
"We will withdraw it because clearly that wasn't widely understood by the public," he said.
"Undertaking a driving lesson by itself, to go out and simply drive off somewhere to undertake a driving lesson with your parent – you are not able to do it."
Earlier, a Victoria Police spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia learning to drive was not an essential activity under the four exemptions set out by the Chief Health Officer.
NSW police and SA police have both since revealed they would not issue a fine in such circumstances.
NSW police: ‘a reasonable excuse’
NSW Police said on its Facebook page on Monday night it would not fine learner drivers during the coronavirus distancing rules.
“Under the Public Health Orders, a person cannot leave their place of residence without a reasonable excuse. A reasonable excuse includes travelling for the purposes of work where you cannot work from home, so driving instructors can leave their house for their work – to teach people how to drive,” the post read.
“We consider that it would be a reasonable excuse for a person to leave their house to receive driving lessons (either from a driving instructor or a member of their family), given that this is a learning activity that cannot be done from home and is akin to the listed reasonable excuse of travelling to attend an educational institution where you cannot learn from home.”
“Learner drivers could also continue to drive with a supervising family member for any of the listed reasonable excuses for leaving the house – for example, driving to the supermarket.”
SA police: ‘Two members of the same family’
South Australia police said the state’s virus restrictions would not prevent “two members of the same family group from being together in a motor vehicle for the purposes of a driving lesson.”
“In South Australia, directions currently in place under the Emergency Management Act provide restrictions in relation to gatherings and to the closure of non-essential business and other activities,” a SA police spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.
“The purpose of the directions are to limit the spread of COVID-19 in South Australia and to ensure people adopt the recommended social distancing measures.
“These restrictions in South Australia would not prevent two members of the same family group from being together in a motor vehicle for the purposes of a driving lesson. Naturally both people would still need to fulfil their obligations under the Australian Road Rules and the Road Traffic Act and Regulations.”
Individuals caught violating the state’s restrictions will be fined $1000. Businesses face a fine of $5000.
Yahoo News Australia has contacted Queensland Police, NT Police, WA Police and Tasmania Police for comment.
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