Our fines and demerit points system are inflexible. To the extent that it can have regard to a person’s history, and reward people who change their behaviour, it should do so.
Criminal defence lawyers are praising a newly announced election policy by the NSW Government that will allow drivers in NSW a one-off chance to dodge minor traffic fines.
If re-elected, the Perrottet Government will overhaul the demerit system to allow drivers with a three-year clean record to avoid fines for hundreds of low-level offences including driving in a bus lane or disobeying a no left or right-hand turn, according to the Daily Telegraph.
It means safe drivers will be able to save $128 for speeding less than 10km over the limit, or $275 for ignoring a left or right turn only sign. Demerit points linked to those offences will still apply, and drivers will only be able to access the incentive once every three years.
Andrew Tiedt, Director at J Sutton Associates has worked on thousands of driving matters over his 15 years in practice. Tiedt welcomes the Government’s proposal and said the move would be a positive change to an “inflexible system”.
“This a good idea, and reflects a sensible approach to punishment and fines,” Tiedt said.
“Fixed fines for offending are, by their very nature, inflexible. A court sentencing someone for an offence can have regard to the circumstances of the offence, remorse, personal circumstances and the record (or lack thereof) of the offender.
“Clearly traffic fines cannot all be determined on a case-by-case basis. But if someone (generally speaking) has a good record, it makes sense to conclude that they can be afforded some leniency on a fine.”
The announcement comes a day after NSW Labor announced its own policy on 17 January, offering a demerit discount for safe drivers. Under their proposal, which would start as a trial in 2023, one demerit point would be removed from drivers’ records every year they keep their record clean.
Demerit points take three years to be removed from drivers’ licences.
Tiedt also said Labor’s plan has merit. “It encourages and then rewards people who change their behaviour and can remain offence free for 12 months”.
“Our fines and demerit points system are inflexible. To the extent that it can have regard to a person’s history, and reward people who change their behaviour, it should do so.”