How do demerit points work?

About demerit points

Do you know how many demerit points you have? How many demerits apply for common driving offences in NSW? When double demerits apply? Many drivers don’t know. You can easily lose your licence by being unaware of when double demerits apply or how many demerit points apply for speeding, for example. Not only that, your greenslip premium could go up too.

Here’s what you need to know about demerit points to keep your greenslip price low.

What are demerit points for?

The idea of demerit points is to encourage safe and responsible driving within the law.

The Australian demerit points scheme was introduced as early as 1969, far ahead of Europe and the US. Schemes across the world vary a lot. The Australian scheme allocates penalty points or demerits for each category of driving. These categories are parking, speeding, heavy vehicles, school zones and general offences.

Penalties are higher in school zones and during holiday periods. Double demerits apply for seatbelt, speeding, mobile phone and motorcycle helmet offences during public holiday times.

Research found demerit schemes reduce crashes, deaths and injuries by 15-20% but the effect wears off after 18 months. This may be because drivers stop worrying about losing their licence, because people stop talking about it, or because police are less visible. However, the Australian demerit scheme is considered to be best practice.

How many demerits do you get for each offence?

Here are some common offences that incur demerits, from low range to very severe:

Offence Demerit points
Drive in bus or tram lane 1
Park in disabled space 1
Make illegal left or right hand turn at intersection 2
Overtake when unsafe 2
Not stopping at traffic lights 3
Not giving way when required 3
Use mobile phone when not permitted 5
Drive with 2 or more unrestrained passengers 6
Travel at excess speed over 45kmh 6
P1 or P2 holder drives restricted vehicle 7
Discard fire-risky object from vehicle during fire ban 10

Source: RMS, 1 July 2019

When do double demerits apply?

During double demerit periods, you get twice the usual number of demerits for speeding, seatbelt, motorcycle helmet and mobile phone offences. Double demerits apply from midnight of the start date to midnight on the finish date. Typically, a public holiday weekend includes Friday and Monday.

Here are double demerit periods for NSW:

When double demerits apply during busy holiday times, you can very quickly lose your licence if caught committing an offence.

How many demerit points can you get before you lose your licence?

Some people refer to “losing points” on their licence. This is not strictly true, as everybody starts off with zero points. You then accumulate demerit points with each offence.

Drivers accumulate demerit points on their licence until they reach a certain threshold within a 3-year period. This period is measured from the first to latest offence. The points threshold for refusal or suspension of licence within that period depends on driver status or licence type:

  • Unrestricted licence – 13 points
  • P2 licence – 7 points
  • P1 licence – 4 points
  • L licence – 4 points
  • Professional driver – 14 points.

Most drivers are suspended if they incur 13 or more demerit points in a 3-year period.

What happens if you receive a Notice of Suspension or Refusal?

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) sends out a Notice of Suspension or Refusal once you reach or exceed the demerit thresholds listed above. TforNSW also sends a warning letter if too many demerits are starting to accumulate.

For unrestricted licences, the period of suspension depends on the number of demerit points:

  • 13 to 15 points – 3 months
  • 16 to 19 points – 4 months
  • 20 or more points – 5 months.

For P and L licences, the suspension period is 3 months no matter how many demerits accumulate.

What is the good behaviour period?

When faced with a Notice of Suspension or Refusal, some drivers choose a 12-month good behaviour period (this is not possible for P or L drivers), rather than lose their licence. If they get 2 or more demerit points during this period however, they lose their licence for twice the original suspension time.

You have to apply online for a good behaviour period at least 2 business days before suspension begins. If later, you must visit Service NSW or motor registry with driver licence and suspension letter.

Drivers who exceed the demerit limit twice within 5 years, have to resit the Driver Knowledge Test as well.

How long do demerit points stay on your record?

Demerits are part of your driving history. While demerits do age, they still remain on your driving record with the offences that incurred them.

After 40 months, the offence stays on your driving record, but the demerit points come off your cumulative total.

How do demerit points affect my greenslip price?

When you get a calculator quote, insurers ask for the number of demerit points currently on your NSW licence. This shows them your willingness to drive safely and within the rules and, to some extent, your risk of having an accident.

There can be a big difference in price for a driver with demerits compared to a driver without demerits. Some vehicle owners can save a full $300 on their greenslip or CTP premiums if they do not have any demerit points on their licence.

You can check how many demerits you have online.

Get a quote for your cheap green slip here.

Corrina Baird

Writer and expert

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered first hand what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years of writing and research in financial services, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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