Driving laws, offences and penalties

There are many laws governing motorists. If you breach the road rules or your licence conditions, you could incur demerits, have to pay a fine or face more serious consequences like losing your licence.

Laws governing motorists

Most laws governing drivers are covered by the Road Traffic Act 1961 and the Regulations made under this Act such as the Australian Road Rules 1999.

The issuing of driving licences, motor vehicle registration and compulsory third party (CTP) insurance is regulated under the Motor Vehicles Act 1959.

Serious offences (otherwise known as indictable offences) such as causing death or injury by reckless or dangerous driving are contained in the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935.

The penalties for exceeding the speed limit changed on 1 September 2012.

For more information on road safety related offences go to the road safety website.

Demerit points

Drivers incur demerit points for certain traffic offences.

If you accumulate 12 or more demerits in a three year period you could lose your licence. To find out how may demerits you have go to checking your demerits and driving history.

Demerit points that apply to road traffic offences are set out in the Motor Vehicles Regulations 2010. Go to Schedule 4 for a list of demerit points offences.


If you commit a traffic offence, you may be issued with an expiation notice and have to pay a fine. To find out how to pay an expiation see paying a traffic expiation notice.

Expiation fees (such as speeding fines) are set out in the Road Traffic (Miscellaneous) Regulations. Go to Schedule 9 for a list of offences and expiation fees.

Other expiation fees for offences against the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 are listed under Schedule 5 of the Motor Vehicles Regulations 2010.

A Victims of crime levy also applies to most traffic offences.

If you have an overdue fine, you may have your driver's licence suspended or be refused vehicle registration. For more information see fines enforcement restrictions.

Regressing to a previous licence stage - L and P drivers only

L and P drivers who return from disqualification must go back a step. For example, a P1 licence holder returning from disqualification is required to pass another practical driving test to regain his or her P1 licence.

Losing your licence - disqualification

You could be disqualified from driving if:

  • you accumulate 12 or more demerit points
  • breach your licence conditions
  • drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

For certain drink driving and excessive speeding offences an immediate loss of licence applies.

When returning from disqualification you may have probationary conditions added to your licence.

Any driver aged 25 years or under whose learner's permit or provisional licence has been disqualified is required to participate in the ur choice program.

Serious drink driving offences

Drivers who commit a serious drink driving offence must have an alcohol interlock (breath-testing) device fitted to their vehicle for a period of time at the end of their licence disqualification.

A serious drink driving offence is defined as:

  • a second or subsequent offence, within a period of five years, of driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08
  • driving with a BAC at or above 0.15
  • driving under the influence of an intoxicating liquor
  • refusing to provide a sample of breath or blood for the purpose of alcohol testing.

Page feedback
Please note we cannot respond to any comment made here. If you need a response, please contact us.

Was this page useful?
How can we make it better?

You can help us improve the website by completing a short survey.

Page last updated: 23rd June 2014