After months of COVID restrictions, it’s no surprise a recent PD Insurance survey found 50% of Australians will be holidaying here in the next year rather than travelling overseas. And of these, 23% will road trip – with many travelling to bushfire-affected areas to drop dollars where people really need it. Sound familiar? So is it time to check your demerit points?
While it’s great to see Aussie mateship is well and truly alive, this means lots of people will likely be heading out onto roads over the coming months. And now several state borders are open (to most of us anyway), we thought it a great time to talk about the demerit point system.
In this blog article we help you get to grips on, and understand how to check your, demerit points so you can avoid adding them to your tally. And hopefully avoid a nasty fine too.
Why Do We Need a Demerit Point System Anyway?
We all want safe roads and while fines do hold people accountable for bad behaviour, money is not the great equaliser. However, a national demerit point system certainly is.
According to the Transport NSW website:
The Demerit Points Scheme is a national program that allocates penalty points (demerits) for a range of driving offences. The scheme is designed to encourage safe and responsible driving. Along with financial penalties, demerit points provide a strong incentive to drive within the law.
While the fines and points allocated to offences vary from state to state, the demerit point scheme is uniform. So, no matter what state you’re from or where you commit the offence, you’ll be fined, and points added to your licence.
All Demerit Points Are Not Created Equal
You may be surprised to learn we don’t start out with demerit points and ‘lose them’ for driving or traffic offences. In fact, the opposite is true.
We start with zero demerit points and, depending on the type of licence held, once certain demerit point limits are reached, your driver’s licence will be suspended.
In some cases, you might be able to make a choice: take the suspension or keep your licence under the threat of losing it for a much longer period if you offend again within a certain period.
In each Australian state and territory, the most demerit points a full standard licence can incur before facing a licence suspension are:
- Demerit points ACT – 11 points within a three-year period
- Demerit points NSW – 12 points within a three-year period
- Demerit points VIC – 12 points within a three-year period
- Demerit points QLD – 12 points within a three-year period
- Demerit points SA – 12 points within a three-year period
- Demerit points TAS – 12 points within a three-year period
- Demerit points WA – 12 points within a three-year period
- Demerit points NT – 12 points within a three-year period
However, if you have a Learner (L plate) or Provisional (P plate) licence please know you have fewer demerit limits to work with.
To check your demerit points total, contact the transport website for your state. Some transport authorities will also let you apply for your traffic offence history.
By this stage you may be wondering ‘how long does it take to get demerit points back?’ In each state and territory, a demerit point lasts for three years from the date of the original offence. So, if you get booked on January 1, 2017, those points will sit on your licence until midnight on January 1, 2020.
Wait – I Can Get Fined for That?
Every driver knows you can be fined and build up points for things such as speeding, not wearing a seatbelt or failing to obey traffic signs and signals.
But what are some other things you may not know about?
Sure, we should all know about double demerits. But looking at the fine stats, you’d be forgiven for thinking not everyone does.
Double demerits are exactly what they sound like. At certain times of the year, your state or territory may decree a double demerit period. Generally around holiday periods when traffic is heavier than usual.
During this time if you offend on the road you’ll lose twice as many points.
Not sure when they’ll be? There’s usually a media blitz, signs set up on major roads and lots of notice on police force social media pages. And sometimes, the social media posts are not only informative, they’re funny and clever. You should follow their socials. We do.
Eating while driving
While not technically something you can be fined for, eating while driving becomes an issue if it affects your concentration.
In NSW for example, police can fine you if they believe you aren’t in proper control of the vehicle. You can also be done for negligent driving if you crash into someone while fishing around for the stray hot chip you just dropped into your lap.
Mindlessly dipping your hand into a bag of lollies is likely to only affect your waistline… but trying to eat a burger while driving? The nice police officer who just pulled you over may feel a little differently.
Using a mobile phone
You shouldn’t be using your mobile phone to call or text while driving. At all. Not ever. But did you know using your mobile phone as a navigational device, when not secured in a proper docking station, is also an offence? In NSW, you’ll cop a $298 fine and lose three demerit points. Ouch!
Over the first three months of hidden mobile phone detection cameras in Sydney, drivers caught using their phones racked up fines to the tune of $15.8m. (That’s a lot of $298 fines!)
You might also be stunned to know you’re not necessarily allowed to use your mobile phone in a drive-through. Victorian police recently revealed it’s an offence to pay via phone in a drive-through if your engine isn’t turned off!
Best to put your phone on silent and stash it in your glovebox to remove any temptations while on the road.
Tooting your horn
We’ve all done it. We’ve all tooted the horn and waved out the window to say goodbye. We may’ve also beeped the horn to encourage others to pay attention to the green traffic light. Or perhaps to indicate general displeasure at their driving skills.
All these things are a big no-no and will see you issued with not just a fine but the loss of demerit points as well.
Don’t use your horn unnecessarily – it’s there to warn other drivers, and animals, that your vehicle is approaching. You can also use it as part of an anti-theft or alcohol interlock device. And that’s it.
Zipping through the orange traffic light
The traffic light moves to orange and you’re in a hurry. Traffic is mounting behind you and, as you’re already in the wrong lane, getting across to turn will be a nightmare.
All these thoughts run through your brain in 2.7 seconds. So you decide to ‘gun it’ and zip through the amber traffic light.
What happens next? Yep, you guessed it. That’ll be close to $400 in fines and the loss of 3 demerit points, thanks very much.
Know this: when you approach an orange light you must stop if you can safely do so before reaching the line.
Be a Safety Sam
Far from being a punishment for bad driving, the national demerit system is in place to encourage safe driving behaviour. Which means we’re all safer on the roads.
The rules may only vary slightly from state to state or territory but it’s your responsibility to know what they are as you start your next road trip. Or even your next trip around the corner. We’re sure you’ve better things to spend your hard-earned money on than filling the state coffers.
So, before driving off check your demerit points, understand how easy it is to rack them up and then be proud of your less-at-risk licence!
Demerit Points and Car Insurance
At PD Insurance we want you to be safe (and demerit free) on the roads. Not only does your impeccable driving record help keep your insurance premiums down, but it helps ensure that you and your car reach your destination safe and sound.
Over to You – Check Your Demerit Points
Did any of these offences surprise you? Might be time to check on your demerit points. Let us know how you go.