Demerit Points Must Only Be Used For Road Safety

Friday 7 June 2002
Demerit Points Must Only Be Used For Road Safety, Claims PCA

The Chairman of the PCA, Mr Harold Scruby, called on the NSW Government to immediately reverse the Police Minister, Michael Costa’s decision that there will be 2 demerit points and a $200 penalty for playing loud music while driving a car.

Mr Scruby said: “Demerit Points must only and always be used when any driver compromises the safety of any person. This decision debases that very principle. Playing loud music may be very annoying; it does not risk life and limb. Demerit Points should be used by Governments and Insurance Companies to get and keep bad and dangerous drivers off our roads and change their driving behaviour.

”The current penalties, demerit points and enforcement system are a veritable minefield of contradictions, anomalies, irregularities, omissions, injustices and confusion. For example, during holiday periods, a driver will lose six demerit points for failing to fasten his or her seat-belt, an offence where nobody else’s safety is compromised.

“The same driver can drive unlicensed in an unregistered and uninsured vehicle, up a one-way street the wrong way, without proper control of the vehicle, watching TV, with a radar detector, turn right against a no right turn sign, stop on a pedestrian crossing, drive along the footpath, drive negligently, towing a trailer full of (unbuckled) children and attract not one demerit point. But there are three demerit points, $220 and tow-away provisions for driving and stopping in a bus-lane where again, nobody’s safety is at risk. But no demerit points and only $85 for stopping or parking at a bus stop, frequently forcing buses to double-park, risking the lives and limbs of their passengers.” Mr Scruby added.

“Monetary penalties are a farce. Stop in a No Stopping zone; $141. But park a vehicle all day, blocking the entire footpath in George Street forcing all pedestrians onto the road; $63. Deface a pay and display ticket; $349. But only $115 for driving up a one-way street the wrong way. Play loud music; $200. Use a vehicle with an obscured, defaced or illegible number plate and avoid every speed and red-light camera in the state; $69 and no points. But $1,500 for pouring paint down a drain. These are just a few of the scores of ludicrous irregularities and anomalies appearing in the NSW Fixed Penalty Handbook.

”The entire system of penalties for road traffic offences requires an urgent review as a whole, rather than on a piecemeal basis as has occurred over recent decades,” Mr Scruby said.

Enquiries: Harold Scruby – Chairman/CEO - (02) 9968-4555 or (0418) 110-011

Demerit Points & Penalties (continued)

These photos were taken today outside Middle Harbour School at 7:48 AM. This is a (primary) school zone.

The penalty for parking in this fashion, forcing primary school children onto a main road and seriously endangering their lives is $63.

The Council does not have tow-away rights. Once booked, the vehicle can stay there all day. This is exactly the same penalty for being 5 minutes overtime on a parking meter.

The penalty for stopping on the road (Clearway) at this location is $141 plus $130 tow-away charges = $271. Therefore, there is clear incentive to park on the footpath.

The penalty for defacing a Pay & Display ticket is $349.

Today the Police Minister, the Hon Michael Costa, announced a $200 penalty and 2 demerit points for playing loud music in a motor vehicle, where nobody's safety is compromised one iota.

The PCA believes that Demerit Points should only be used when safety is compromised.

To see just how utterly ridiculous and anomalous are the fines and penalties in NSW, click here:

Dr Michael Henderson, arguably Australia’s most respected road safety researcher commented: “There are gross inconsistencies between the various penalties, including demerit points and fines, as they apply to different offences. There are also inconsistencies in more severe penalties, such as licence suspension and disqualification, and imprisonment. Changes in the ways that penalties are applied appear to follow controversies and the nomination of dedicated ‘targets’, rather than evolve as the result of systematic and analytical review.

He added: “In my general opinion, the system of penalties for road traffic offences requires review as a whole, rather than on a piecemeal basis as has occurred over recent decades.

“In my further opinion, penalties should be established with the following variables as the prime determinants for their severity:

  • their deterrent effect ("severity" does not necessarily equate with "deterrence");

  • the extent to which the offence was deliberate (mens rea);

  • the potential for harm (rather than the actual harm) occasioned by the offence.

“The target would then be the road user who deliberately offends, knowing that the result may well be that people get hurt.

The normally reserved Dr Henderson concluded: “I would add that the whole question of the extent to which the criminal justice system affects road safety, and how, is very poorly understood and is screaming out for research. Much of it could be of the simple kind that Don Weatherburn does for other areas of the law.”

The PCA calls on the NSW Government to conduct an immediate and comprehensive review of all traffic penalties.

Further information:

Harold Scruby - Chairman/CEO – Pedestrian Council of Australia - Tel: (02) 9968-4555 (0418) 110-011