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How long do demerit points last?

The demerit point system varies from state to the state in Australia, but you can always check online how many you have left.

You might as well ask “how long is a piece of string?” or “how long does a pandemic last for?”, because the fact is the answer can vary depending on the state in which you live.

In NSW, for example, the answer is simple - demerit points last three years, but other states, it seems, don’t really want you to know the answer. Three years from the date of the offence seems the safest answer, however.

You might have heard that some points expire after just 12 months, but that’s not the case, once you’ve got them, you’re stuck with them for a full three years.

What is the point?

It’s not just speeding that will see you earning demerit points. It’s not just speeding that will see you earning demerit points.

When you think about it, the whole idea of “demerit points” is utterly absurd. Indeed, it’s so nonsensical that it’s difficult to even explain to a new young learner driver, setting out on the road to what they think will be freedom, but one which is actually beset on all sides by speed cameras, onerous rules and vigilant highway patrol officers. 

So what is the idea of demerit points? Are they the opposite of the kind of merit points you used to earn at school, and do you thus earn more of them for bad driving behaviour and collect them as little badges of dishonour? Or do you start out with a collection of demerit points that you can choose to spend, if you’re crazy enough to do so, knowing that each one will cost you money and, if you throw away too many, your licence as well?

If you've never lost a point off your licence, or even received a parking ticket, the demerit point system can be a particular mystery to you. But the fact is that even people who have been driving, and accidentally receiving fines - as can so easily happen in the state of Victoria where speed cameras are hidden and the margin of error for speeding is almost non-existent - it’s still likely that you’re e bit baffled by the demerit points thing. So please, allow us to attempt to explain.

How do demerit points work - and how many have you got?

The fear of being left without a licence is supposed to stop you from committing any kind of traffic violation. The fear of being left without a licence is supposed to stop you from committing any kind of traffic violation.

Well, hopefully you don’t have any, because we all start out with zero demerit points on our licence - a state of innocence that lasts longer for some than others. How many you’ve got to play with - that is, how many you can collect before it costs you your licence, or at least a suspension of your licence - depends on where you live.

Until recently, the number in Victoria was less than elsewhere, at just 11, but in most other states it is 12, although NSW, for reasons unknown - possibly superstition - allows its residents to accrue 13 points. 

If you’ve only got a learner’s permit, or you’re still displaying P plates, you have even fewer to play with at just five points no matter where you live. In Victoria, there’s also a specific rule that, if you’re under the age of 22, and you have a full licence from another state, or even another country, you’ve still got only five points.

So, what is the point of these demerit points? Well, fear and punishment, basically. If you get too many points - generally speaking, 12 of them in a period of three years or less - then your licence will be suspended, typically for three months.

The fear of being left without a licence is supposed to stop you from committing any kind of traffic violation - and no, it’s not just speeding that will see you earning demerit points - so that you will be a good motorist/citizen. 

The reason you don’t just get smacked with 12 points and lose your licence as soon as you get caught for one thing is that the first few fines are supposed to act as a caution, to slow you down as it were, so that the closer you get to hitting your maximum demerits, the more carefully you’ll behave. It’s the carrot and stick approach without a carrot, because there are no rewards for good driving.

How do you accrue demerit points?

There are more than 200 individual traffic offences. There are more than 200 individual traffic offences.

Sadly, there are simply too many ways for us to list them all here. In NSW alone, there are more than 200 individual traffic offences, not just speeding, and most of them carry some level of demerit-point penalty. The amount of points you might get for a particular offence - say speeding by more than 15km/h over the posted limit - can also vary, depending on whether it was a public holiday, or if you were in a school zone, or even on what kind of licence you’ve got. 

Exceed the speed limit by 10km/h or less in NSW? That’s probably going to be one demerit point. Unless you're on your L or P plates, when it's four points. But if you're on your Ls or Ps and it's a school zone, that is five points. If you're not on your Ls or Ps, but you are in a school zone, it will be three points. Unless it's a double-demerits holiday weekend when you commit the crime, which means doubling the points in all the above examples.

How long does it take for your demerit points to expire?

Demerit points expire three years after the date of the offence. Demerit points expire three years after the date of the offence.

You would think this is a simple enough question, and we wish it was, but here, for your education, particularly if you live in Queensland, is how a government agency chooses to answer, in this case qld.gov.au.

“How long demerit points last

“If you hold a learner, P1, P2, provisional or probationary licence, we will send you a licence sanction notice if you get 4 or more demerit points within any 1 year period.

“If you hold an open licence and you get 12 or more demerit point offences within any 3 year period, we will send you a licence sanction notice.

“Demerit points included on a sanction notice are considered  ‘dealt with’ and are not counted again.”

So, if you’ve just been given a fine and three demerit points, those points will add to your total for three years, and then disappear at the end of three years as long as you don’t reach 12 points in total in that time.

If you do hit 12, you’ll receive a licence sanction, and those points will disappear, so you’ll start back at zero once you’ve suffered that sanction, which will probably be a three-month licence suspension, but in most cases you’ll be offered the chance to gamble with your licence at that point by asking for an “Extended Demerit Point Period”, as VicRoads helpfully explains:

“(This is) a 12-month period where you’re allowed to keep driving, but your licence/learner permit will be suspended for double the suspension length that was originally offered if you:

“Have your licence/learner permit suspended or cancelled for a driving offence, or

“Commit an offence which has demerit point. This is designed to help you adopt safer driving practices.”     

Yes, this is basically a Good Behaviour Bond, and every state and territory offers you an option of this kind, with slight variations in the details, but the basic set-up remains the same: if you reach the maximum number of points allowed, you will receive a letter giving you a choice between taking whatever suspension you're facing, or to continue driving, but without incurring another demerit point for a specific period, which is usually 12 months. 

Break the rules within that period - we're talking just one point - and the government will double that original suspension period.

It’s also worth nothing that, in Victoria, the suspension period, should you cop it, will be three months, “plus one month for every 4 points above the limit”. So it could be even worse, if you’ve somehow managed to rack up 16 points, or more.

VicRoads also helpfully tells us that your demerit points become “active” from the date of your offence, rather than the date that it is officially recorded.

You might also like to know that, sometimes, when your points are gone, they’re still there. As nswcourts.com.au explains: “Although demerit points are no longer counted after three years, they remain on your driving record permanently.

“Once three years has elapsed, they can no longer be counted towards suspension, which means that to have a demerit point suspension in NSW you will need to have obtained 13 or more demerit points within the three-year period.

“If you have other previous offences and demerit points which occurred more than three years previously, they won’t be counted.”

South Australia, amazingly, provides a genuinely clear answer to our question:

"Demerit points expire three years after the date of the offence. For example, if an offence was committed on 18 May 2015 those points would expire on the 18 May 2018.”

Clearly, though, things can get a little confusing, so it’s probably best to break things down, State by State, and to point out that the best thing you can do, to keep track of your position and avoid either a suspension or a Good Behaviour Bond, is to regularly check the status of your licence, and your points balance, so we’ll provide the links for that as well.

Demerit points - NSW

By far the most generous state, in that it offers its drivers an extra point, at 13, before the sin bin, NSW's long and complicated list of penalties is also the most confusing. 

NSW drivers are allowed to accumulate 13 demerit points, while professional drivers (like taxi or courier drivers - yes, seriously, taxi drivers) can accrue 14. P2 provisional drivers get seven points, while learner and P1 provisional drivers are can accrue only four.

Common offences (based on full licence, not in a school zone):

Speeding 10km/h over the limit or lessOne point
Speeding 10km/h – 20km/h overThree points
Speeding 20km/h – 30km/hFour points
Fail to stop at red lightThree points
Use phone while drivingFour points

How to check your point balance:

NSW drivers can check their point balance here.

Demerit points - Victoria

If you live and drive in Victoria, you have probably already lost your licence, but just in case you haven't, drivers can accrue 12 demerit points (it used to be 11), while P- or L-plate drivers get five (it was four).

Common offences (based on full licence, not in a school zone):

Exceed the speed limit by 10km/h or lessOne point
Speeding over 10km/h – 25km/hThree points
Speeding 25km/h – 35km/hFour points
Not stop at red lightThree points
Use phone while drivingFour points

How to check your point balance:

Victorians can check their point balance here.

Demerit points - WA

Western Australia's demerit-point rules are the most generous in the country, with generally lower demerit rates than NSW and Victoria, but be aware that some offences carry seven-point penalties, which means the potential of instant loss of licence on a double demerits weekend.

Common offences (based on full licence, not in a school zone):

Speeding, by not more than 9km/hZero points
Speeding 9km/h - 19km/hTwo points
Speeding 19km/h – 29km/hThree points
Speeding more than 40km/hSeven points
Not stop at red lightThree points
Use phone while drivingThree points

How to check your point balance:

Drivers in WA can check their point balance here.

Demerit points - QLD

While Queenslanders give off a Wild West aura, the reality – on the state's roads at least – is a little different. The Queensland demerit-point system is about on par with the rest of the country, with fully licensed drivers allowed to accrue 12 demerit points, with L- and P-plate drivers allowed just four.

Common offences (based on full licence, not in a school zone):

Speeding 13km/h and underOne point
Speeding 13km/h – 20km/hThree points
Speeding 20km/h – 30km/hFour points
Speeding 30km/h - 40km/hSix points
More than 40km/h8 points and six-month suspension
Not stop at red lightThree points
Use phone while drivingThree points

How to check your point balance:

Queenslanders can check their point balance here.

Demerit points-South Australia

Another land of the hidden speed camera, South Australian drivers often have no idea they've committed an offence until the fine arrives in the post. 

Drivers can accrue 12 points, while L- and P-platers can accrue four. Once you've reached the maximum number, you'll be awarded the opportunity to experience South Australia's world-class public-transportation system. 

For how long depends on how many points you've accrued: 12-15 points is a three-month suspension, 16-20 points is four months, while more than 20 will see you crying on the bus for five months.

Common offences (based on full licence, not in a school zone):

Speeding 10km/h and underTwo points
Speeding 10km/h – 20km/hThree points
Speeding 20km/h – 30km/hFive points
Speeding 30km/h - 45km/hSeven points
Not stop at red lightThree points
Use phone while drivingThree points
And our personal favourite: Driving with attitude (hoon driving)Four points

How to check your point balance:

Drivers in South Australia can check their points here.