Christmas driving mistake could cost you

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Christmas is just around the corner and that means double demerits will soon be in place across a number of Australian states.

Every driver should know that if you are caught breaking the law on the road during the holiday period there is a greater risk of losing your licence.

Even just one simple action, which you might not even realise is illegal, could wipe out nearly all of your points in one go.

In September this year the NSW government introduced harsher penalties for drivers caught using their mobile phones, increasing the demerit point penalty from four to five points.

This means that if you are caught using your phone behind the wheel over the Christmas and New Year period you could be penalised ten demerit points, as well as a $337 fine.

And heads up to NSW drivers, double demerits kick in at midnight tonight.

In NSW, unrestricted Australian licence holders can accumulate 13 demerit points over a three-year period before they have their licence suspended.

So just holding your phone could only leave you with three points left before suspension.

Having your phone in your hand, on your lap, resting between your shoulder and ear are all illegal while driving.

The only time a driver can hold a phone is when they are passing it over to a passenger.

Mobile phones can be used to make or answer calls, play music or be used for navigation if they are securely mounted in a cradle and don’t obstruct the driver’s view of the road.

NSW has the harshest penalty for drivers using phones in the country, with almost 42,000 fines issued last year.

the NRMA have released a Christmas campaign warning against driver distraction this holiday period, with spokesperson Peter Khoury saying drivers need to be responsible for their own safety and that of their passengers.

“Fifteen per cent of people who use their phones illegally think they won’t get caught,” he said.

“The onus must be on all of us to put our phones away.

“At the end of the day when we measure up the safety of our loved ones with the temptation to check your Facebook feed or send a text, it’s a no-brainer.”

Not every Australian state introduces double demerits for holiday periods, but breaking the rules can still see drivers facing big penalties regardless.

NEW SOUTH WALES

Double demerits come into effect on December 21 and go until January 1.

Along with using your phone, double demerits apply to a number of other offences in NSW.

Drivers caught speeding these holidays will cop between two and 12 demerit points depending on how much they exceed the limit, with fines starting at $119 and going all the way up to $2435.

Drivers caught not wearing a seatbelt will be given six demerit points and a $337 fine. This bumps up to 12 points and $1422 if dour or more passengers are also unrestrained.

Motorbike riders caught without a helmet will also face six points and a $337 fine, or a massive 18 points and a $1757 fine if a rider is caught with four or more unhelmeted passengers.

Being caught driving around with a passenger in your boot will cost you $337 and six points.

Passing a school bus while driving over 40km/h will see you get between a $119 fine and two demerit points and $2435 and 12 points, depending on how fast you were travelling.

As Friday December 21 is a designated school day in NSW, an additional demerit point on top of double demerits will also apply to all relevant school zone offences committed on that day.

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

The double demerit period also applies to drivers in the ACT.

Motorists caught using a mobile phone will cop a $557 fine and eight demerit points.

Drivers that speed over the Christmas and New Year period will risk getting a $292 fine and two demerit points, which can be increased to a $1841 fine and 12 demerit points depending on how fast they were travelling.

Drivers caught not wearing their seatbelt and motorbike riders not wearing their helmets both face $492 fines and six demerit points.

QUEENSLAND

Queensland doesn’t introduce double demerits for holiday periods, instead double demerits apply all year round for repeat offenders.

People who repeatedly commit specific offences will receive double demerit points for the second or subsequent offence, so long as the later offence was committed within 12 months of an earlier offence.

If a driver is caught going 20km/h or more over the speed limit twice within a 12 month period they can get between a $435 fine and four points and a $1218 fine and 16 points.

Repeat offenders caught using a phone, not wearing a seatbelt or not wearing a motorcycle helmet will be slapped with a $391 fine and six points.

The offence doesn’t need to be exactly the same as a previous offence, only within the same group for the double demerits to apply.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Double demerits also apply in WA during holiday periods and long weekends. This coming demerit point period will start on December 21 and finish on January 6.

Illegal use of a mobile phone while driving will result in a $400 fine and six demerit points.

Drivers caught speeding will be made to cough up between $200 and $1200, along with a minimum of four points and a maximum of 14 points.

People caught drink or drug driving will face between $400 and six points and $500 and ten points, depending on the level of intoxication.

It’s between a $550 and $900 fine, plus eight points, for drivers caught without a seatbelt and those with unrestrained passengers.

Running a red light will result in six demerit points and a $300 fine.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Double demerit periods aren’t used in South Australia, but drivers can still cop big fines and demerit points for dangerous driving.

Motorists caught using their phone behind the wheel will have to pay $394 and be hit with three demerit points.

Speeding will result in up to nine demerit points and a fine between $234 and $1096.

Not wearing a seatbelt is a $423 fine and three points, while running a red light is a $337 fine and two points.

VICTORIA

Like South Australia, Victoria doesn’t have double demerit periods. However, drivers caught doing the wrong thing can still expect to cop big fines.

Using your phone while driving in Victoria will result in a $484 fine and four demerit points.

If you are caught speeding you can expect to pay between $201 and $806, along with a minimum of one point and maximum of eight points.

Failing obey a red light will see you hit with a $403 fine and three demerit points, with not wearing a seatbelt also costing you three points plus $322.

NORTHERN TERRITORY

The NT also doesn’t use double demerit points, but that doesn’t mean drivers can be complacent this holiday season.

Being caught using your phone behind the wheel in the NT will result in a $250 fine and three points and running a red light will also cost you three points as well as a $240 fine.

Depending on how fast a driver is going, speeding will result in between a $150 and $1000 fine, with a minimum of one demerit point and maximum of six.

It’s $500 and three demerit points for drivers caught not wearing a seatbelt.

TASMANIA

Tasmanian drivers also don’t have to worry about double demerits, but police will still be on the lookout for reckless drivers this holiday period.

Driving and using a mobile phone, unless it is legally mounted in the vehicle, will result in a $326 fine and three demerit points.

Exceeding the speed limit will cost you between $81.50 and two points and $937.25 and six months, along with a possible disqualification period.

People caught driving without their seatbelt on will be hit with a $326 fine and three points and those that fail to stop at a red traffic light will result in a $163 fine and three demerit points.