Understanding how double demerits work is important if you want to avoid getting stung – especially if you’re planning to hit the road during a holiday period and already have demerit points accrued.
So, do you know the rules around double demerits in your state or territory? Or how they might apply if you’re driving in a state other than your own? In this article, we provide a helpful list of things to know about double demerits in Australia, including what they are, when and where they apply, what offences can attract double demerits, and how they may affect your car insurance premiums.
What are demerit points?
Demerit points are penalty points drivers receive when caught breaking certain road rules. These points accrue over time until a limit is reached, after which more severe penalties – such as licence suspension – could apply. Different offences attract different demerit point values, and different licence types usually have different demerit point limits.
All Australian drivers start with zero demerit points; the more offences you commit, the more points you’ll accrue.
What are double demerit points?
Put simply: double demerits are when twice the usual amount of demerit points incurred by certain offences are applied to your licence. Not all Australian states and territories use double demerits, but those that do usually enforce them during specific times of year, such as holidays and other high-risk periods.
For instance, if you’re driving in New South Wales over the Easter or Christmas periods and have just one demerit point on your licence, an offence that would typically result in six demerit points could carry a value of 12 points if double demerits are in effect, possibly leading to your licence being suspended.1
“In Queensland, when a person exceeds their demerit point limit, they will generally (except learner licence holders and depending on the severity of the offence) have the option to choose either a licence suspension or a 12-month good driving behaviour period,”2 explains a spokesperson from the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads.
“Under a good driving behaviour period, a driver may keep their licence on the condition they do not incur two or more demerit points within a 12-month period.”
Why do we have double demerits?
Following the logic of the demerit points scheme, double demerits in Australia are based on the rationale that stricter penalties encourage safer driving. In most states and territories where double demerits are used, they coincide with public holidays and long weekends; an attempt by the government to incentivise good driving behaviour during these periods.3
Data from Transport for NSW, obtained by local news outlets, shows that after NSW first introduced the double demerits system in 1997, the state’s road toll during holiday periods declined – from 55 in 1997, to 22 in 2008.3 Although holiday fatalities have fluctuated since, they have yet to return to 1997 levels.
Do all states have double demerits periods?
In short, no.
In Australia, New South Wales,4 the Australian Capital Territory5 and Western Australia6 apply double demerits to certain offences during specific times of year, such as the Christmas to New Year period, while Queensland7 applies double demerits year-round to certain repeat offences.
Double demerits don’t apply at any time of the year in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia or the Northern Territory. However, if you’re a driver from a state that does have double demerits, you won’t necessarily avoid increased penalties if you’re caught in a non-double demerits state.
For instance, a Queensland driver who commits a demerit-point offence interstate may be subject to the demerit points that apply in Queensland for the same offence. This means, if it is a repeat offence, double demerits could apply.7
If you’re a NSW driver and commit an offence outside New South Wales, the number of demerit points that offence attracts in NSW – including double demerits if you’re caught during a long weekend or holiday period – may still be applied to your licence.1
If you’re unsure how demerit points work in your state or territory, check with your local government.
What are the dates and offences that attract double demerits?
Typically, offences that attract double demerit points include speeding, mobile phone usage, not wearing a seatbelt and not wearing a helmet when riding a motorcycle.4,5,6,7
However, these vary from state to state. For instance, in Western Australia, double demerits also apply to drink driving and running a red light.6
Double demerits NSW: Relevant dates and offences
Currently, New South Wales enforces double demerits during six holiday periods throughout the year (Australia Day, Easter, Anzac Day, King’s Birthday, Labour Day and Christmas to New Year).4
The state’s double demerits scheme applies for offences related to:
- Illegal use of mobile phones
- Not wearing a seatbelt
- Riding a motorcycle without a helmet4
Double demerits WA: Relevant dates and offences
Double demerits apply during all long weekends in Western Australia, including the WA Day June long weekend. They also apply for an extended period across Christmas and New Year.6
In Western Australia, the following offences are subject to double demerits:
- Drink or drug driving
- Failing to wear a seatbelt or 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)6
Double demerits ACT: Relevant dates and offences
In the Australian Capital Territory, double demerits are enforced during all public holiday periods except Canberra Day and Reconciliation Day. They also apply across the Christmas to New Year period.5
Double demerits in the Australian Capital Territory apply to speeding, illegal mobile phone usage, not wearing a seatbelt and riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Other traffic offences attract one extra demerit point during double demerits periods.5
Double demerits Qld: Relevant dates and offences
In Queensland, double demerit points apply all year round for certain repeat offences committed within 12 months of the previous offence.7
- Mobile phone offences
- Driver seatbelt offences
- Speeding more than 20km/h over the speed limit
- Driver failing to ensure passengers under 16 are appropriately restrained
- Motorcycle helmet offences7
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 in Qld – the offence only needs to be within the same offence group.7
How do double demerits affect my insurance?
Some insurance companies will take your driving history – including any demerit points you have accrued – into account when calculating your premium.
“If you have accrued demerit points, this will increase your premium,” says Youi’s Head of Product – Vehicle, Marni Jackson.
It’s also worth remembering that if your licence has been suspended for any reason – including if you’ve exceeded your demerit points limit within a three-year period – there’s a possibility your premium could rise, given you might be perceived as a high-risk driver.
When it comes to Compulsory Third Party insurance (CTP), Youi’s Head of Product – CTP, Glen Robinson, says demerit points may be taken into account depending on where you live.
“In some states, such as New South Wales, the number of demerit points you have incurred contributes to the price of your CTP insurance, with higher demerits typically leading to you paying higher premiums,” Robinson says.
Drive safely to avoid double demerits
Although the state-by-state differences can be confusing, let alone the extra stress they can add to holiday periods, double demerits exist to try to keep our roads safer. With speeding being one of the most common types of traffic offences that incurs double demerits, be sure to take extra care and stick to the speed limit when driving to give yourself the best chance at avoiding demerit points altogether.
To avoid having to swap the driver’s seat for a bus seat – or risking higher premiums on your car insurance – it might be a good idea to familiarise yourself with the ins and outs of Australia’s double demerits schemes outlined above.
Note: Information in this article is relevant as of October 2023 and by its nature will change over-time. Check relevant Government websites for updates if this information is important to you.
1 Source: NSW Government – How demerit points work
2 Source: Qld Government – Open licence demerit points
3 Source: Coonamble Times – Double demerits do the job, 2023
4 Source: NSW Government – Demerit points
5 Source: ACT Government – Road Transport (Offences) Amendment Regulation 2018 (No 1)
6 Source: WA Government – Double demerits
7 Source: Queensland Government – Double demerit points