Borger introduces demerit reform bill

NSW Government introduces bill to give truck drivers more demerit points to offset strong road safety enforcement measures

By Brad Gardner | November 25, 2010

NSW Roads Minister David Borger has introduced a bill to give truck drivers more demerit points, saying the reform is necessary due to the state’s strong road enforcement measures.

Following on from Premier Kristina Keneally’s commitment to change demerit points policies, the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Amendment Bill introduced into Parliament yesterday will increase demerit points for professional drivers from 12 to 14.

General motorists’ points will increase from 12 to 13, but the amendments will not apply to learner or provisional licence holders.

"These amendments are in recognition of the evolving nature of enforcement methods and the fact that NSW has the strongest safety regime and demerit points scheme in the nation," Borger says.

"They are timely and proportionate responses which take into account the growth in the number of demerit points, no longer just for safety offences, and the growth of speed and safety cameras, as well as the state's extensive highway patrol presence."

Borger says the Bill recognises professional drivers are more exposed to enforcement and that a loss of licence can have consequences on their employment and family life.

"As the NRMA has stated, if we keep coming up with new ways to catch drivers without giving something back to motorists, the public's confidence in the demerit system may wane," he says.

The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) will be responsible for determining a professional driver, which Borger says will be defined as someone whose primary work involves driving a vehicle on state and interstate roads.

"This will enable the RTA to request a person to submit information about the person's work so the RTA can determine whether the person is a professional driver," Borger says.

"A person who does not provide the requested information may be treated as if they were not a professional driver for demerit points purposes."

Borger says it is important the Government introduce strong checks and balances so the reforms cannot be abused.

The level of enforcement in NSW has had a significant effect, with Borger saying the number of demerit-based offences over the years has reached 600 compared to 347 in Queensland and 263 in South Australia. He says the number of offences in Victoria is about 184.

"About 25,000 licence holders are currently on good behaviour periods. These figures indicate that there is a strong public policy case that warrants consideration of an increase in demerit points for appropriately licensed drivers," Borger says.

The NSW Government has also established a working group made up of the NRMA, the Law Society and road safety experts to review the policy that stops magistrates from ruling on demerit points.

Courts can currently waive fines for people found guilty of an offence in extenuating circumstances, but have no power to do likewise with demerit points. The working group is due to report its findings in February next year.

Opposition spokesman on roads Andrew Stoner last year introduced a Bill to give the courts the power to rule on demerit points, but the proposal was rejected by the Government.

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