Motor vehicle accidents are an unfortunately common occurrence, both locally in Melbourne and throughout surrounding areas of Victoria. These accidents end up resulting in serious and even life-threatening injuries that can impair your ability to work or participate in the family and social activities you once enjoyed.
While being a defensive driver and obeying the traffic rules and regulations can help reduce your chances of being involved in an accident, you cannot control the behaviour of other drivers. At Henry Carus +Associates, our experienced motor vehicle accident lawyers know that reckless and dangerous driving are all too often to blame for serious accidents resulting in injuries and damages.
In order to prevent and discourage this type of behaviour, the Victorian criminal justice system uses a penalty points system to identify reckless drivers and restrict them from being on the road. The following is important information all drivers should be aware of regarding the Victorian demerit system, and its potential impact on your driving privileges.
How and Why Road Accidents Impact Points
While the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) will generally pay for injuries in a transport accident claim regardless of whether or not you were responsible for it, being an at-fault driver could result in demerit points on your licence. According to the Australian Board of Statistics (ABS), factors that frequently contribute to road accidents include dangerous and unlawful driving behaviours such as the following:
- Speeding or driving too fast for conditions
- Illegal overtaking and dangerous manoeuvring
- Driving while distracted or fatigued
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
In the aftermath of a crash, you are required to stop at the scene and to notify the authorities of any injuries or property damage. Sometimes it is readily apparent who is to blame for the accident, while in other cases an investigation is required to determine the underlying cause of the crash. If the police or their investigations determine you are at fault, you may receive demerit points that could result in suspension of your driving privileges.
Drink Driving Points
According to drink driving statistics from the TAC, an average of 40 Victorian drivers and passengers are killed each year in accidents as the result of driving while under the influence of alcohol. Drivers with a blood alcohol level (BAC) over the legal limit face harsh penalties, including heavy fines, the loss of your licence, and in some cases, mandatory imprisonment.
Drink driving penalties from VicRoads depend on the type of offence committed, your age and the type of licence you hold, your BAC level, and the presence of any prior convictions.
Penalties vary and may include the following:
- 10 demerit points
- Disqualification from driving for a period of three to six months or more
- Mandatory placement of an alcohol interlock system on your vehicle for a minimum of six months
Even without a BAC reading, you can still be charged with a drink driving offence. This includes cases in which the BAC field test is refused, as well as accidents in which alcohol is a known contributing factor.
Drug Driving Points
Drug driving is another frequent contributing cause of Victorian motor vehicle accidents, and there are strict penalties for being caught driving while impaired by drugs, regardless of whether the drugs themselves are legal or illegal. Under VicRoads drug driving penalty guidelines, drivers convicted of drug driving face the following:
- A minimum of 12 demerit points
- Minimum 12-month licence suspension
- Potential for a criminal court charges, depending on the type of drugs and the amount
These penalties increase substantially for each additional offence. In cases in which both alcohol and drugs are involved, drivers face as many as 30 penalty points, cancellation of their licence, disqualification from driving for a year or more, and possible vehicle impoundment.
Demerit points are used as a tool in states and territories throughout Australia, both as a way of encouraging safe driving, as well as deterring drivers from engaging in unlawful and dangerous driving behaviour.
For Victorian drivers, the VicRoads demerit point system takes effect when you have committed a driving offence. VicRoads is notified of the offence and records the appropriate number of points against your driver’s licence or learner’s permit, where they remain valid for a three-year period. Demerit points for driving offences range from 1 to 10, and include the following:
- Drink driving: 10 points
- Speeding: between 1 and 8 points, depending on how fast you were going
- Using a mobile phone while driving, fatigued driving of a heavy vehicle: 4 points
- Disobeying traffic lights or signals, careless driving: 3 points
- Improper turning or overtaking, turning or stopping without signalling: 2 points
- Following too closely or failing to use headlights at night: 1 point
For repeat offenders, demerit points accumulate and could result in the loss of driving privileges. The limit for fully licenced drivers is 12 demerit points within a three-year period, while drivers with a learner’s permit may face losing their licence or having it suspended for five or more demerits in a 12-month period.
Driver Reward Scheme
According to the ABS, younger drivers are often more likely to commit motor vehicle offences, making them also more likely to be involved in accidents. To encourage safe driving behaviour among young motorists, the VicRoads driver rewards scheme is an incentive program for drivers under the age of 26 with no demerit points on their licence.
The program offers free licencing for probationary drivers and reduced costs for renewing your licence for drivers under the age of 26 with no demerit points. In order to be eligible, drivers must do the following:
- Have no demerit points for the prior three-year period, running three months before their expiry date; and
- Pay their licensing fee during the three months prior to expiry through to six months after the expiry.
Drivers who pay outside this timeframe and those who have committed a traffic offence or been cited for unregistered vehicle use are obligated for the full fee.
Let Us Assist You Today
If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a transport accident in Victoria, contact Henry Carus + Associates today. Our experienced accident lawyers provide passionate, professional legal representation and can assist you in getting the compensation you are entitled to.