Scully puts the brakes on demerit points plan

Sydney Morning Herald

By Joseph Kerr, Transport Reporter

An NRMA proposal to drop low-level speeding fines as part of an overhaul of demerit points has been rejected by the Government.

The NRMA has suggested removing the current $123 fine for motorists caught breaking the limit by up to 15kmh but doubling the demerit penalty to two points.

The rationale behind the idea was to send a message to the community that while road safety was a key concern - particularly with the NSW road toll dozens of fatalities higher than last year - show that the Government was not using the fines simply to raise revenue.

"Double the point to two points and remove ... the myth that it's about revenue raising from the Government's point of view," said the chief executive officer of the NRMA, Rob Carter.

But the Transport Minister, Carl Scully, refused to consider the move, saying: "Rewarding speeding drivers by putting money back in their pockets is not something I support."

The thrust of the NRMA proposal is to rejig the complex demerit points system - under which motorists accumulate points for infringing road rules, only to lose their licence for up to five months if they reach 12 points or more - to link demerits with road safety.

The idea has long been pushed by the chairman of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, Harold Scruby, who argues the system - which has developed over time and in a variety of political circumstances - is replete with anomalies that mean relatively inconsequential misdemeanours carry penalties as great as or greater than dangerous driving behaviours.

This means there is no direct connection between offences giving motorists demerit points and unsafe behaviour.

Under the NRMA proposal, demerit points would apply only to offences that directly endanger a person's safety and be removed from those offences primarily related to ensuring good traffic flow.

Fines would still be used on most serious safety offences but would be the only penalty for non-safety critical infringements.