‘Safe Drivers’ Will Soon Have One Demerit Point Erased

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NSW drivers licence

More than one million drivers will have a demerit point wiped from their licences, on 17 January 2024, provided they have not committed a traffic offence for the year leading up to that date.

The removal of one demerit point from the driving record for ‘safe drivers’ is part of a trial announced by the NSW State Government last year.

To be eligible, drivers have been required to NOT commit a traffic offence in the period from 17 January 2023, through to the same date this year.

Encouraging safe driving

The trial is intended to encourage safer driving – for years the demerit point system has been in place to punish poor driving, and the government hopes that by turning the philosophy around to reward good driving instead, it may have a positive effect, resulting in less accidents on our roads. 

The Demerit Point Scheme in New South Wales 

In New South Wales, all drivers start with zero points on their driving record. Unrestricted licence holders are allowed to accrue up to 13 points, professional drivers 14 points and provisional P2 licence holders 7 points, provisional P1 licence 4 points and learner drivers 4 points. 

Unrestricted licence holders are only allowed to accrue a maximum of 2 points during a good behaviour licence period. 

Originally, at the start of the scheme 1.7 drivers were eligible to have one point removed from their record, but since that time about 400,000 have committed further offences that carried at least one demerit point, meaning that now only 1.3 million drivers will be eligible to have a point scrapped. 

But not everyone is happy about the scheme, the NSW opposition would like to see it scrapped, particularly in light of the rising road toll. The road toll for 2023 in New South Wales was 349 deaths, about 80 more deaths than in 2022. 

Bad habit or bad attitude? 

While it has been considered for some time that unsafe driving is often just a very bad habit – we get comfortable with our regular routes and become complacent on the road, speeding, running red lights, failing to indicate, using mobile phones etc. But in order to be crystal clear on exactly why people break the rules, the New South Wales Government will also be consulting psychologists this year. By understanding what causes motorists to break the rules, the NSW Government says that it can better design road safety strategies. 

The NSW Government is investing more than $2.5 million dollars in road safety education, promotion and police patrols in order to keep the road toll down, and is also investing in better roads, improving infrastructure.

Seatbelt crackdown 

By mid-year, existing speed cameras across New South Wales will also be able to detect seatbelts. 

Offences involving seatbelts include not wearing one, but also not wearing one correctly. A driver and all passengers in a vehicle  must use seat belts (or be restrained in approved car seats or booster seats) when a vehicle is moving or stationary on a road, but not parked. You are exempt from wearing a seatbelt while reversing. 

Currently if you are caught not wearing a seatbelt or not wearing one correctly, you will be subject to a penalty notice (fine) which is currently $344 plus 3 demerit points. A driver can be fined for the number of passengers not adhering to the seatbelt rules. Offences relating to children and babies not properly restrained attract a $387 fine and 3 demerit points. 

Courts can impose a much harsher fine of up to $2,200 and demerit points still apply if you are convicted of the offence.

Double demerits apply to seatbelt non-compliance when they are in force. 

According to the NSW Government each year, on average about 30 people are killed and 80 are seriously injured on NSW roads because they were not wearing a seatbelt.  More than 95% of all fatal crashes in New South Wales are caused by: Speeding offences, drink driving and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, not wearing seatbelts, fatigue and distraction. 

Mobile phone use falls into this category and a driver can also be charged if a passenger is using a device and the screen is visible to the driver. 

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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