Image courtesy govnews.com.au
The South Australian Government has recently announced a raft of increases to fines for speeding, mobile phone use whilst behind the wheel and drink or drug-driving. Whilst low-range speeding fines will only rise by 1.7 per cent, fines for people caught excessively speeding are set to soar. For example, motorists clocked at 30kph or more above the speed limit will be fined $1472 which represents a $552 increase, and motorists traveling 45kph over the speed limit will be fined $1658 – an increase of $622. Motorists caught using their mobile phones whilst behind the wheel, face a $534 fine which represents a $200 increase.
Business owners face heavy penalties if offending employees not named
A crack-down on thousands of speeding company vehicle drivers who have, up until now, taken advantage of a system loop-hole, will no longer be able to ask their bosses for anonymity to avoid a loss of demerit points. Currently, if a person is caught speeding in a company car, the business can choose to pay a $300 fine so the staff member doesn’t receive any demerit points. But from July 1, that fine will be upped to $1800 to deter companies from protecting staff that break the law. If the figures from 2017-18 financial year are anything to go by this could affect as many as 15,000 drivers annually.
As an additional speed deterrent on one of South Australia’s notoriously dangerous roads, businesses which fail to nominate the driver responsible for a camera-detected speeding offence on the South-Eastern Freeway down-track face a body corporate levy of $25,000, and if found guilty of the offence by a Court, face a fine of between $25,000 and $50,000.
Penalties for drink and drug driving offences have also increased from $613 to $743.
Overview of new legislation and penalties for the South Eastern Freeway
New laws introduced on 01 May 2019 specifically targeting truck and bus drivers in relation to the steep descent into Adelaide on the South Eastern Freeway are also worth noting. Penalties are designed to reduce heavy vehicle crashes involving brake failure and excessive speed. The changes have been introduced following two serious crashes involving out-of-control heavy vehicles – one in 2010 and the other in 2014, both of which resulted in fatalities. Consequently, heavy vehicle drivers must use low gears so as not to rely on the use of the primary brake as the sole means to slow the speed of the vehicle, and not exceed the relevant 60km/h speed limit. Expiation fees of $1,036 plus six demerit points, as well as a three-tier disqualification penalty (depending on the driver’s offence record) applies for offenders.
Under Australian road rules the following definitions apply to heavy vehicles:
A Truck is a motor vehicle with a Gross Vehicles Mass (GVM) of more than 4.5 tonnes, regardless of the vehicle’s body type (excluding tractors, trams and buses).
A Bus is a motor vehicle that seats more than twelve adults including the driver (regardless of GVM).
Below is a list of smaller vehicles also classed as a truck or bus (based on GVM or seating capacity) for the purpose of the new laws on the down-track of the South Eastern Freeway:
- Vans and motor homes
- Emergency service vehicles
- Animal transport vehicles
- School and tour buses
- Drilling rigs
- Tip trucks
- Tow trucks
- Large utilities
- Chauffeur vehicles
- Taxi buses
If you are unsure if a vehicle is classed as a truck or bus for the purpose of the new penalties:
- Check the registration or vehicle compliance plate
- Use the EzyReg app or website https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/driving-and-transport/ezyreg
- Call Services SA on 13 10 84
What are my options if I wish to contest an expiation notice?
Given the significant hit to the motorist’s hip pocket that these new fines represent, it is in a driver’s best interests to challenge a fine if they genuinely believe a miscarriage of justice has occurred. Scammell & Co. police and traffic matters lawyer Eugene Lagana explains “People should not feel that they have to pay a fine immediately just because it has been issued. Drivers should analyse the circumstances of the infringement to see what reason there might be for some leniency to be granted.”
Instances where you may have a valid case to challenge a fine in court include:
- In the event of a medical emergency; and if
- Errors appear on the fine.
There could also be technical reasons why your fine may be challenged. For example, in instances where mobile radar cameras are used:
- If, when it was coming towards you, the police car’s radar may not have locked on to your vehicle long enough to accurately calculate your speed (for example on a bend or around a corner);
- Police officers can make a visual estimate of speed which could be open to conjecture; or
- There may have been ‘reasonable doubt’ if there were other cars in a lane next to you which could have caused a case of ‘mistaken identity’.
In the case of fixed-position speed cameras there are limited options to contest a fine. Exemptions may be considered if for example:
- If you can prove you were not the driver of the vehicle at the time an offence was detected; or
- Where an equipment fault can be proven.
If you elect to be prosecuted and plead guilty to an offence that attracts demerit points, under Section 98B (4) of the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 (SA), an application to reduce the number of demerit points an offence incurs can be made. This is if the offence is classed as trifling or it is deemed there was proper cause to do so. It must be noted that the Court has said it will only take into account the circumstances of the offence, and not the personal circumstances of the individual when making a decision to reduce demerit points.
If you believe you have a valid reason to challenge a fine, it is important not to pay the fine and to contact Scammell & Co. as soon as possible to speak with a solicitor experienced in dealing with police and traffic matters.
Nobody likes receiving a speeding ticket. For a start, the fines are expensive and a complete waste of money. Furthermore, the demerit points put your ability to drive in jeopardy, which at worst may have negative consequences on your ability to earn a living, and at best be a major inconvenience to your day-to-day activities. For what it’s worth here are our top 10 tips for avoiding a speeding fine: