Recent Demerit Points Changes in NSW
by Jonathon Taylor
The demerit points system for traffic offences in NSW has attracted a lot of criticism. Quite simply, it is one of the harshest systems of its type anywhere in the world. Very few jurisdictions have developed such an onerous, even punitive system that can leave many responsible, law abiding and cautious drivers in grave danger of being put off the road with all the associated implications. As we all know, the loss of one’s driving privileges can have a huge impact on work and family life. Indeed for many types of jobs it can mean that ongoing employment is no longer feasible. At any time, the loss of work is devastating. In times such as these, with the economy moving into recession, where it can be difficult, if not impossible to find an alternative position, the consequences can be truly life changing.
Recently the NSW Government has finally responded to public criticism and made some changes to the demerit points system. It should be noted, however, that the changes that have been made are minor and that even following the reforms the system remains one of the harshest in the world.
Lower level speeding offences will be defined in 10 kph bands (1-10, 11-20, 21-30). These means that NSW now falls into line with Victoria and most other Australian jurisdictions. Following these changes, a motorist exceeding the speed limit by less than 10 kilometres per hour will lose only 1 point and be fined $81. Up until now, that same motorist has lost 3 points, so these changes are (to a certain extent) reflective of greater flexibility within the system. A motorist driving between 11 and 20 kilometres over the limit will lose 3 points (the same as previously). A motorist driving over 20 kilometres over the limit will now lose 4 points. These motorists will actually be more harshly dealt with than previously.
A closer examination of the changes reveals the underlying rationale. While on the one hand the government wishes to be seen as being more flexible and understanding with respect to motorists who are caught driving at speeds only just over the limit, they are if anything being even harsher towards motorists who are driving more than 20 kilometres over the limit. The government views speeding at such levels as a serious offence.
The question remains: what can be done if a motorist is facing the prospect of licence suspension for demerit point offences? While the right of appeal has been removed for a motorist who accumulates 12 points over a 3 year period, there are still many situations where a motorist can successfully appeal and keep their licence. P-Plate drivers who accumulate 4 or more points (in the case of P1 drivers) or 7 or more points (in the case of P2 drivers) are still entitled to appeal the lose of licence at any Local Court in New South Wales. P-Plate drivers in this situation should seek legal advice immediately. Likewise, drivers who are caught speeding at 30 kilometres hour over the limit or 45 kilometres per hour over the limit (and who are facing three or six months off the road) are also allowed to appeal these suspensions, and if successful stay on the road. Again drivers in this situation, especially those who rely on their licences for their employment, should seek legal advice immediately.