Aussies love a long weekend or holiday season road trip complete with delicious snacks, a classic driving playlist and no chance of hearing from the boss! But did you know that, in parts of the country, seasonal double demerits mean being penalised for just a single offence could lead to you losing your driver’s licence on the spot?
In Australia, being caught for a traffic offence such as speeding or not wearing a seatbelt will result in a fine and usually a specified number of demerit points being applied to your licence. Accrue 12 or more points (13 in New South Wales) in any three-year period on an open driver’s licence (also known as a full or unrestricted licence) and you’ll face your licence being suspended.1
In some parts of the country, these points are doubled during holiday periods such as Easter and Christmas, and certain other long weekends. This means an offence that might normally attract six demerit points will now be worth 12 points and could mean you lose your licence on the spot.
“The general sentiment amongst motorists around double demerits might not be all that positive, but the rules are the rules,” says Richard Blackburn, National Motoring Editor, News Corp Australia.
It’s possible that double demerits could also result in higher car insurance premiums. So asking yourself, “Is it double demerits today?” before you hit the road, could be the difference between a long weekend road trip to remember and one that you’d rather forget.
In this article, we’ll break down exactly how the double demerits system works across Australia, including what offences they apply to, when they come into effect and how you can avoid them.
What are the long weekend dates you need to know for double demerit points?
While the exact dates vary between states and territories, public holidays and long weekends are well known for double demerits “blitzes” – especially during Easter and the Christmas and New Year period.
If you live in Queensland though, it doesn’t need to be a public holiday for double demerits to apply.5 The Sunshine State uses the double demerit system year-round for repeat offenders, with stiffer penalties introduced for serious offences in 2022.
New South Wales introduced double demerits in 1997.6 As of September 2023, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and the Northern Territory do not apply double demerits at any time of the year.
Double demerits: NSW
Currently, double demerits are enforced in New South Wales during six holiday periods throughout the year – remember, the enforcement period is for the whole long weekend, not just on the public holiday itself:
- Australia Day
- Anzac Day
- King’s Birthday
- Labour Day
- Christmas-New Year2
The double demerits scheme applies for offences related to:
- Illegal use of mobile phones
- Not wearing a seatbelt
- Riding without a helmet2
Double demerits: WA
During holiday periods and long weekends in Western Australia, the following offences are subject to double demerits:
- Drink or drug driving
- Failing to wear a seatbelt and child restraint
- Running a red light
- Illegal use of a mobile phone while driving
- Driving a motor vehicle fitted with a device designed to evade detection by a speed camera (14 points during double demerits period)
- Driving a motor vehicle in a manner to evade detection by a speed camera (14 points during double demerits period)3
Double demerits: ACT
In the Australian Capital Territory, double demerits are enforced during public holiday periods and apply to speeding, illegal mobile phone usage, not wearing a seatbelt and riding a motorcycle without a helmet.4
Double demerits: QLD
In Queensland, double demerit points apply all year round for certain repeat mobile phone, seatbelt, speeding more than 20km over the speed limit and motorcycle helmet offences committed within 12 months of the previous offence.5
It’s also worth noting, a motorist doesn’t have to commit the exact same offence a second or subsequent time to receive double demerits – the offence only needs to be within the same group of offences.5
Double demerits: NT
The Northern Territory does not currently use double demerits at any time of year, including public holidays.
Double demerits: SA
South Australia is another state that does not currently impose double demerits on drivers during Christmas, Easter, or at any time of year, including public holidays.
Double demerits: Tasmania
Tasmanian drivers are also not currently subject to double demerits at any time of year, including public holidays.
Double demerits: Victoria
Double demerits don’t currently apply in Victoria at any time of year, and that includes public holidays and long weekends.
What if you’re caught offending interstate?
Queensland drivers might be in for a nasty surprise if they get caught speeding interstate – they might still get double demerits applied thanks to “home state rules”.15
Under these rules, a Queensland driver who commits a demerit-point offence interstate will be subject to the demerit points that apply in Queensland for the same offence which means, if it is a repeat offence, double demerits could apply.10, 15, 5 This even applies if the state you’re caught in doesn’t use the double demerits point system.
If you’re a NSW driver and commit an offence outside that state, the number of demerit points that the offence attracts in New South Wales – including double demerits – may still be applied to your licence.16 In the Australian Capital Territory, any points penalty for an offence committed in New South Wales will be applied directly to your driver licence, including double demerits.15
If you’re travelling interstate and you’re unsure, check the rules with your local state or territory government.
What offences attract double demerit points?
In general, the offences that can attract double demerit points are speeding, mobile phone usage, not wearing a seatbelt, and not wearing a helmet when riding a motorcycle.
However, these vary from state to state and, in Western Australia, double demerits also apply for other offences, including drink driving, running a red light, driving a motor vehicle fitted with a device designed to evade detection by a speed camera and driving a motor vehicle in a manner to evade detection by a speed camera.3
According to information provided by Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR), in Queensland, the largest proportion of double demerits offences between 2018-2022 were applied for speeding, with 28,598 instances detected during this period and accounting for 50.7% of all double demerits offences.
“Of the offences that attract double demerit points, speeding has continued to be the offence committed most, with the exception of 2022 which saw an increase in detections of mobile phone offences following the introduction of the mobile phone and seatbelt cameras,” says a DTMR spokesperson.
What are the best ways to try to avoid double demerit points?
Put simply: if you follow the road rules, you shouldn’t have any cause to worry.
“From a car point of view, a lot of newer models have lots of features that will help you adhere to the road rules,” says Blackburn.
“Look for features such as in-built speed alerts and, of course, cruise control which can help you particularly if you’re on a long road trip.”
The best advice is to take extra care on the road during holiday periods when more people are travelling, and to try to be patient with your fellow motorists.
Do double demerit points make our roads safer?
The threat of double demerits might make the ordinary motorist think twice about speeding during holiday periods but they’re not as effective in changing long-term behaviours, according to a spokesperson for Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads.
“There is no proven safety or deterrent benefit for enforcing double demerit points during holiday periods only,” the spokesperson says. “It’s more effective to enforce double demerit points for repeat offenders all year round as this directly addresses recidivist behaviour.”
Dr Brett Molesworth, a Professor in Human Factors and Aviation Safety at UNSW, says while short-term blitzes – such as double demerits during long weekends or extended holiday periods – might deter drivers from offences such as speeding or using their mobile phone while driving, the effect is generally only short-lived.
“It’s difficult to untangle the relationship between enforcement and double demerits (because) often accompanying double demerit point periods is increased enforcement,” says Molesworth.
“Double demerit points are only possible with enforcement, and visible enforcement is most effective when applied consistently. But this is often not possible due to financial constraints. While cost effective, the true effect of an enforcement blitz is often reflective of the strategy, (and) behavioural change is typically only short term.”
While you’re out on the road during holiday periods, keep this information in mind to hopefully avoid any fines or double demerits. If you’re looking for options to keep your vehicle covered, consider our car insurance to see if it’s right for you.
Note: Information in this article is relevant as of September 2023 and by its nature will change over time. Check relevant Government websites for updates if this information is important to you.
Article by guest writer Chelsea Spresser
1 Source: NSW Government – How demerit points work
2 Source: NSW Government – Demerit points
3 Source: WA Government – Double demerits
4 Source: ACT Government – Road Transport (Offences) Amendment Regulation 2018 (No 1)
5 Source: Qld Government – Double demerit points
6 Source: Moree Plains Shire Council – Double Demerit Points
7 Source: NSW Government – Search offences and penalties
8 Source: WA Government – Road rules and safety
9 Source: ACT Government – Penalties for offences
10 Source: Qld Government – Demerit points schedule
11 Source: NT Government – Traffic offence fines and demerit points
12 Source: SA Government – Demerit points
13 Source: Tas Government – Traffic offences
14 Source: Vic Government – Demerit point offences
15 Source: Drive, September 2022 – Do double demerits follow you home if you’re an interstate driver?
16 Source: NSW Government – How demerit points work