The Christmas-New Year period in NSW not only involves a general winding down of daily life as people take their annual holidays, but it’s also a period that sees more traffic on public roads, and, in order to curb the enhanced risk to road safety, double demerit points apply.
Demerit points are penalties that a driver receives for committing road offences. Drivers begin with no demerit points on receiving their licence, and if they accrue more than their limit of demerit points, their licence can be suspended or disqualified.
Double demerit points this holiday season commenced on 22 December 2023, and they continue to apply until 11.59 pm on Monday 1 January 2024.
A driver holding a regular unrestricted licence can accrue up to 13 points without losing it. Those who drive for a living and, therefore, have a professional licence have a 14 point leeway. And for those on provisional or learner licences, the number of points available is much less.
Demerit points last for 3 years from the date of committing the offence that warrants their application. And those who clock up more than their permitted number of demerits receive either a suspension notices or a refusal to renew their licence from Transport for NSW.
But for those who find that the extra traffic and their need to be out on the road over the New Year period results in a road incident that takes them over their demerit point limit, all is not lost, as most unrestricted and professional licence holders are permitted to apply for a good behaviour licence.
How does a good behaviour licence work?
A 12-month-long good behaviour licence is only available to drivers holding an unrestricted or professional licence and whose suspension letter states that they can apply for a good behaviour period. This extension can only be obtained prior to the suspension period commencing.
On exceeding their demerit point limit, provisional and learner licenced drivers automatically receive a right to appeal the TfNSW suspension decision to the courts, with the application to do this having to be lodged within 28 days of issuance. This is a form of driver licence appeal in New South Wales.
Section 36 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW) details the circumstances in which a driver may obtain a good behaviour licence, which includes those informed that they are eligible for a 12 month good behaviour period, then being able to decide whether they want to opt in.
The good behaviour period commences from the date that the suspension was to begin. Those eligible must apply for the good behaviour licence prior to the suspension date.
Service NSW permits eligible drivers to apply for a good behaviour licence online, which must be lodged at least two business days prior to the suspension date, or if it is sooner, the application must be lodged in person at a Service NSW Centre.
Some suspended drivers are required to undertake the driver knowledge test. In this case, the good behaviour period commences on the suspension date, unless the driver takes the test after this, and in that case, the period begins on the day they pass the knowledge test.
If the individual receives a notice of driver licence ineligibility, similar terms hold when applying for a 12-month good behaviour period if they’re eligible for such an interim licence.
Individuals on a good behaviour licence who then go on to breach the traffic rules and receive at least 2 demerit points, then go on to have their licence suspended for double the timeframe that was originally applied.
After a suspension period, all accrued demerit points are wiped from an individual’s record, unless they received one demerit point during their good behaviour period, in which case it will continue to appear on their record.
Thirteen to 15 demerits result in a 3 month suspension. But if 2 more points are received over the good behaviour period, a 6 month suspension then applies. For 16 to 19 points, 4 months applies, which can jump to 8 months, while 20 points or more sees a 5 month suspension, which jumps to 10.
And demerit points that are more than 40 months old are automatically wiped from a driver’s record.
Points related to traffic offences
Road traffic offences appear under various pieces of legislation in NSW. These include the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Regulation 2017, the Road Rules 2014 (NSW) and the most frequently prosecuted road traffic offences are contained in the Road Transport Act.
Rule 264 of the Road Rules 2014 (NSW) contains the offence of driver not wearing a seatbelt, which occurs when behind the wheel of a vehicle that’s moving or stationary but not parked. And it makes a driver liable to a fine of $352 and the loss of 3 demerit points and double demerits can apply.
Rule 300 of the Road Rules makes driving whilst using a mobile phone illegal, unless it’s secured. If a driver is found to be using their phone in an unlawful manner whilst driving, it can see them fined $352 and losing 5 demerit points, which goes up to 10 during holiday double demerit periods.
Rule 20 of the Road Rules makes it illegal to drive over the speed limit. In terms of a driver of a class C vehicle – a car, a ute, a van or some light trucks – who exceeds the speed limit by over 30 kilometres an hour, they can be fined $1,479 and lose 5 points, which doubles during holidays.
TfNSW provides a search page for the various traffic offences that outlines specific fines and demerit points that apply.
The search engine reveals that a number of traffic offences related to crossings, keeping left, overtaking and parking don’t carry the dreaded double demerits during holidays.
If you have been charged with a traffic offence or have had your licence suspended and would like to challenge this, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime on 9261 8881 to arrange a free first conference with one of our experienced defence lawyers, who will assess the case and advise on your options.