Submitted by: Danny Saad
The NSW Demerit Point scheme is on the verge of being amended. We asked our leading traffic lawyer, Danny Saad a few questions on the changes.
Q: The demerit points scheme has been in place for over 40 years. What has triggered the changes now in 2010?
A: The changes were suggested following a study by the NRMA of over 1000 drivers in October 2010. Half of those who participated in this study thought it was necessary to increase demerit point allowances for drivers. There were also calls for a fairer demerit points system, as some opined that the NSW demerits points system was too harsh, with too many people losing their licences over minor offences.
Q: What are the changes and which offences will be affected?
A: Firstly, demerit points for unrestricted drivers will be increased by one point, from 12 to 13 demerit points. Professional drivers will receive an additional point, changing their demerit point limit from 12 to 14 demerit points.
Secondly, the demerit point weighting has been changed in relation to 22 offences. You will notice that there have been no amendments made to offences whose primary purpose is minimising threat and risk to others. Such offences include red light camera offences, speeding, and seatbelt offences.
Q: I am a provisional licence holder. How will these changes affect me?
A: Only unrestricted licence holders will receive an extra 1 demerit point or 2 demerit points (for professional drivers). Provisional licence holders and those holding a Learners Permit will still have the same amount of points allocated to them (Learners= 4 points, P1 drivers= 4 points , P2 drivers= 7 points).
Provisional drivers however will be subject to the new demerit point allocations for certain offences (ie, they will receive the same amount of demerit points as unrestricted drivers for driving in a bus lane- 1 demerit point).
Q: Since some offences incur 0 demerit points, does that mean that I will not be charged if I (for example) forget to switch off my indicator after turning a corner?
A: Although some offences have been reduced to 0 demerit points, they remain as ticketable offences, meaning that there are no demerit points attached to the offence, you may still receive a fine if you commit the offence. This is similar to how parking fines (no demerit points but fines may be incurred).
Q: When will the new demerit points scheme become effective?
A: Before suggestions to make or amend a law come into effect, the proposed bill is examined by the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council, which constitute NSW Parliament. The bill must be assented to by both houses.
The bill outlining the licensing changes has been introduced to the Legislative Assembly (lower house in NSW Parliament) as the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Amendment Bill 2010. The bill is yet to be assented as of 2 December 2010. Therefore, to date there have not been any legislative amendments and so the demerit points allocated to unrestricted drivers remains at 12 points.
Q: How will the demerit points scheme changes affect the way people use the road?
A: The changes in demerit points may have one of two outcomes:
a) Drivers may become more complacent on the roads as they know that there is less at stake (in terms of demerit points and loss of licence). Furthermore, the offences where demerit points have been reduced do not pose much of a threat to others (ie bus lane offences). Offences that are in place in the interest of safety are not affected, thus people may be more inclined to commit the lower weighted, less dangerous offences.
b) Drivers will not change their attitudes to driving offences and appreciate the purpose of the changes, to impose fair penalties for traffic infringements.
About the Author: Solicitor Danny Saad has many years experience in
working with the experienced
Sydney Traffic Lawyers
at Prime Law.