Demerit points are allocated for certain offences. After a conviction (including payment of an infringement notice), points are allocated for the offence and recorded on the person’s traffic history. The offences, which have been assigned a points value, are set out in sch 3 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management—Driver Licensing) Regulation 2010 (Qld) (Licensing Regulation). The points allocated for some of the more frequent offences are:
- exceeding speed limit by 40 km/h or more—eight points
- exceeding speed limit by 30 km/h but less than 40 km/h—six points
- failing to give way—three points
- disobeying traffic signs, lights or police directions—three points
- careless driving—three points
- failing to signal intention—three points
- failing to keep left—two or three points
- following too closely—one point.
Good behaviour licence
When the holder of a licence is convicted of enough offences to constitute a certain number of demerit points within a certain time, the licence may be suspended (reg 79 Licensing Regulation):
- for an open licence—12 points within three years equals three months suspension (longer periods apply if more than 15 points)
- for a provisional or learner licence—four points within one year equals three months suspension.
The points are allocated on the date when the offence was committed and once a person pays the fine or is convicted in court. Points for traffic offences committed interstate can count in the accumulation of demerit points on a person’s traffic history.
Before the licence is suspended, the Department of Transport and Main Roads (Transport Department) must send a Notice to Choose, giving the person 21 days to choose between having their licence suspended for the requisite period or agreeing to be of good behaviour while driving for one year. If the person makes no choice, the suspension option applies (reg 79(3) Licensing Regulation). Any subsequent driving constitutes unlicensed driving.
Breaching a good behaviour licence
If during the one-year good behaviour period the person has two or more demerit points allocated, then the Transport Department must give a notice to the person suspending the licence for double the previous suspension period and advising of the right to apply for a special hardship order (regs 76(8), 79(6) Licensing Regulation).
Suspension of licence due to driving at high speed
If a person is convicted of speeding more than 40 km per hour over the speed limit (a high speed offence), the Transport Department must give a notice to the person suspending the licence for six months commencing on a date at least 21 days after the notice and advising of the right to apply for a special hardship order (regs 85–86 Licensing Regulation).
Special hardship orders
A person whose licence is suspended due to accumulating two or more demerit points while on a good behaviour licence or due to a high speed offence may apply to a court for a special hardship order allowing them to continue to drive in stated circumstances (reg 112 Licensing Regulation). The criteria for an application are similar to, but not identical with, the criteria for a restricted licence or a replacement licence (regs 106, 111 Licensing Regulation):
- The applicant is a fit and proper person to continue to drive.
- Refusal of a licence would either cause extreme hardship to the applicant or the applicant’s family by depriving the applicant of their means of earning a living, or cause severe and unusual hardship to the applicant or the applicant’s family other than by depriving the applicant of their means of earning a living.
- The applicant’s licence has not been suspended, cancelled or disqualified in the previous five years, which does not include:
- suspension for not appearing in court
- suspension until charge is finalised
- 24-hour suspension
- suspension, cancellation or disqualification set aside by the Transport Department
- suspension, cancellation or disqualification set aside on appeal
- suspension, cancellation or disqualification due to mental or physical incapacity
- State Penalties Enforcement Registry suspension.
- The applicant, while unlicensed at any time during the previous five years, was not ineligible to hold a licence because either four or more demerit points were allocated in one year, or the person was convicted of a high speed offence.
- The applicant was the holder of an open or provisional licence.
Application for a special hardship order must be made in the approved form within 21 days of the person’s licence being suspended, and must be accompanied by details of the information intended to be relied upon. The application form can be obtained from any Magistrates Court registry. After filing the application in court, the applicant must give a copy of the application and accompanying details to the Transport Department at least seven days before the date set for the hearing (reg 107 Licensing Regulation). Once an application is filed and served, the person can continue to drive until the application is heard by the court.
As with an application for a replacement licence (discussed above), the applicant must file an affidavit setting out details of extreme hardship or severe and unusual hardship, include if relevant an affidavit from their employer and also attach to their own affidavit documents in support of any claim of severe and unusual hardship (regs 111(2)–(3) Licensing Regulation). Any witnesses must be available for cross-examination (reg 109 Licensing Regulation).
When a magistrate makes a special hardship order, it must last for the period the applicant would otherwise have their licence suspended. It must include a number of conditions restricting the use of the licence, and these are identical to the restrictions required for a replacement licence. Also, the court is given discretion to impose various other restrictions (reg 112 Licensing Regulation). Also, the applicant can apply to vary the order if it later becomes unworkable (regs 115–118 Licensing Regulation).
Driving otherwise than in accordance with the conditions of a special hardship order is an offence punishable by a fine of up to $2200, and conviction results in automatic disqualification from any driving for any remaining period for which the special hardship order would have been in force, together with an additional three-month period (reg 119 Licensing Regulation).
While subject to a special hardship order, a person has special rules applying to the allocation of demerit points. Generally, if four or more points are allocated in a one-year period, then the licence (and special hardship order) is suspended for twice the original period of the order. This is reduced to two demerit points if the order was made following:
- speeding offences
- causing a notice to choose to be issued
- further speeding offences breaching the good behaviour licence (regs 120–121 Licensing Regulation).