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What’s the deal with double demerits?

What’s the deal with double demerits?

With the holiday season just around the corner you might be planning a drive to visit family, or to get out of town for some fresh air. Keep in mind that long weekends and holidays are also double demerit periods in NSW and the ACT, so read on for our helpful rundown on double demerits, what they’re about and what you need to do to avoid them.

First of all, what are demerit points?

When you get your driver’s licence, you start with zero points on your driving record, a clean slate as it were. If you commit an offence that has a demerit point penalty, the demerits are then added to your driving record. If you reach or exceed the maximum demerit points allowable for your licence within a three-year period, your licence will be suspended or not renewed.

The aim of the demerit system is to provide an incentive for drivers to obey road rules, be mindful of their compliance with traffic laws and improve their driving behaviour.  

So, what are double demerits?

Double demerits are, as the name suggests, when demerit points for certain offences are doubled during high-risk periods such as public holiday weekends and the festive season, when more people are travelling on the roads and accidents are more likely to occur. The aim is to raise not only awareness but accountability by encouraging drivers to take even greater care on our roads during busy periods. Only NSW and the ACT have double demerits for holiday periods. 

In Queensland, double demerits apply all year round. People who repeatedly commit specific offences will receive double demerit points for the second or subsequent offence if the later offence was committed within a 12-month period. This doesn’t just apply during holiday periods, but at any time of the year.

When double demerits were first introduced in 1997 in NSW, critics questioned the NSW State Government’s agenda, claiming it was little more than a revenue raising scheme. But police say over two decades of enforcing double demerits has resulted in at least 433 fewer deaths on NSW roads during public holiday periods. 

Which offences carry double demerits?

  • Speeding
  • Illegal use of mobile phones
  • Not wearing a seatbelt (you or your passengers)
  • Riding without a helmet

To give you a couple of examples: higher penalties mean if you are caught using your phone behind the wheel during a holiday period in NSW or the ACT, you’ll cop 10 demerit points instead of the usual five, along with a $344 fine. Not wearing a seat belt is six demerit points and a $344 fine. This jumps up to 12 demerit points when driving with two or more unrestrained passengers and can result in a fine of up to $1449.

When are the double demerit periods?

Double demerit points apply for offences during holiday periods such as long weekends, Christmas, New Year and Easter. The double demerit points apply from midnight of the start date to midnight on the finish date. Check the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) website for upcoming double demerit period dates.  

How will I know when a double demerit period starts?

Double demerit periods are well advertised via media, social media and an increased public awareness campaign, to ensure the community is informed of long weekend periods during which double demerit penalties apply. Awareness campaigns are coordinated with traditional enforcement and increased police numbers to ensure the public is well informed and given ample notice of these periods.

If double the points, is it also double the fine?

No, the fine is generally the same for most offences, only the points are doubled. For speeding for example, the normal fine applies but you will accrue double the points on your driving record. However, for offences such as seatbelt infringements, if you are the driver you can be also be issued a fine for each individual who is not wearing a seatbelt. These fines also apply out of double demerit periods.  

How long do demerits stay on my record?

Demerit points of any kind last for three years on your driving record. You can find out more about demerit points here.

How do I avoid double demerits?

Put simply: if you stay under the speed limit, buckle up and follow the road rules you won’t have to worry. Take extra care on the road during holiday periods when more people are travelling and try to be patient with your fellow motorists. Everyone wants their loved ones to arrive at their destinations safely, so even if it costs you a few minutes more it’s worth the effort to look after your family and someone else’s, too. 

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