Road Rules and Road Fools

A short guide to some of the common driving problems and how to avoid fines or losing points. 


I received a parking fine*, what can I do?

You can either:

  1. Pay the fine online
  2. Request the SDRO to review the fine.
  3. Take the fine to court

* This information also applies to littering and rail offence (and some others!)

What if I don't pay a fine?

Generally you have 21 days to pay a penalty notice or request a review. If you don't do anything in response to a penalty notice, the SDRO will send you a Penalty Reminder Notice, giving you 28 days to pay from the date of the notice. If you don't pay by then, an Enforcement Order is sent, with an additional $50 charge added.

If you don't do anything by the date on the Enforcement Order (i.e. pay, request a review or elect to go to court) you risk your drivers' licence being suspended and your car registration being cancelled. Debt recovery will also commence which can involve court proceedings, garnishing of wages or even seizure of property. Don't ignore a fine!

Paying the Fine

I want to pay a fine I got for driving through an orange light but I don't have the cash. What can I do?

You can pay the fine off in installments of as little as $20 as long as you pay the fine off by the due date. If you're receiving Centrelink you can have an agreed amount regularly deducted from your benefit and you will have until the penalty REMINDER due date (without incurring an extra $65 charge) to complete payment but you waive your right to appeal the fine.

Requesting SDRO to Review the Fine

I got a fine but I think I'm in the right. How do I get SDRO to review it?

You can request a review here online or write to the SDRO via post or email them through the contact form on their site. If you wish to seek a review because your vehicle was wrongly reported or because you have a clear driving record (of at least 10 years!) then call 1300 138 118. You should attach documentation to support your request for review.

For more information see here.

What documentation should I attach in support of a review?

When requesting the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO) to review the debt it is useful to look at these guidelines. The supporting documents you will need to provide are determined by the ground on which you are appealing the fine. For example, if you were fined for not having a parking ticket when you had in fact purchased one but it wasn't displayed correctly then you would just need to send them a copy of the purchased parking ticket.

Your fine is put on hold until the review has been completed. If your review is unsuccessful and the penalty stands then you will be told when you have to pay the fine.

Taking the Fine to Court

I think I want to challenge the fine I received in Court. What will happen?

Your penalty notice will have information on how to apply for court review.

Shortly after you submit your request you will receive a Court Attendance Notice (CAN) with the date and place of your first hearing. You will need to enter a plea of Guilty or Not Guilty. Seek advice before making this decision!

Remember the magistrate will have your driving record in front of them, so if you have previous traffic offences they will count against you.

There are three possible outcomes:

  • Guilty and the fine and demerit points are upheld (so you will have to pay the fine and possibly court costs)
  • Guilty without a conviction being recorded: the fine and demerit points are not recorded (although costs can still be imposed)
  • Not Guilty: no fine or demerit points are recorded and there are no costs.

How much are Court costs?

With any challenge to a speeding or parking fine, you always risk losing and having to pay court costs. The rule of thumb has been to double the amount of the fine if the challenge is unsuccessful. From our experience, your chances of doing better at court (especially on speeding fines) is minimal, while the risk of the fine being increased is significant.

I was fined for driving through a red traffic light. I am pretty sure I didn't, so I first appealed it with SDRO but was unsuccessful. What can I do now?

You can consider whether you want to take the matter to court and you have 28 days from the unsuccessful appeal notice to tell SDRO (in writing) of your intention. Bear in mind that you will most likely be compelled to pay court costs if you lose!

You might also consider that:

According to the NSW Centre for road safety, the red-light detection function of the cameras connected to the traffic lights is only activated when a vehicle crosses the white stop line after the lights have turned red (0.3 second delay). Apparently the camera is not triggered by vehicles crossing the stop line on yellow (amber) or green lights. So this would be an indication that perhaps the light was actually red. SDRO has a useful tool to view the image taken of the offence which can be found here.

Despite the way red light cameras operate, a yellow traffic light actually means stop (unless it is unsafe to do so). If you want to go to court you might be expected to elaborate on why it was unsafe to stop.

I've chosen to go to court but since I've learned about this costs stuff I have changed my mind - what are my options?

Contact the State Debt Recovery Office on 1300 138 118 as soon as possible. If a Court Attendance Notice (CAN) hasn't yet been issued you can retract your court election. If you've already received your attendance notice you will need to contact the court registry.

Drinking and Driving

Everyone hears about the blood alcohol limit being under 0.05 for a full license holder and that this can be worked out by the number of standard drinks per hour.

Don't rely on this. Everyone's body is different, and will process alcohol at different speeds.

We don't want to sound like your mother here, but if you're caught drink driving, the chances of getting off are very small especially for mid- and high-range PCA, in spite of what you might read in the papers. If you're convicted, you will get a criminal record and be disqualified from driving for three months at the very least.

How much can I legally drink?

NSW legislation doesn't specify the number of drinks you can have (after all, alcohol affects everyone differently) but it does dictate what your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can be. Your BAC is a measure of how much alcohol you have in your blood. The measurement is the number of grams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

The limit which applies to you depends on what category of licence you have and the type of vehicle you are driving.

Zero BAC for:

  • ALL learner drivers.
  • ALL Provisional 1 drivers.
  • ALL Provisional 2 drivers.
  • ALL visiting drivers holding an overseas or interstate learner, provisional or equivalent licence.

Under 0.02 for:

  • Drivers of vehicles of "gross vehicle mass" greater than 13.9 tonnes.
  • Drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods.
  • Drivers of public vehicles such as taxi or bus drivers.

Under 0.05 for:

  • ALL other licences (including overseas and interstate licence holders) not subject to a 0.02 or zero limit.

If I'm the designated driver how many people can I drive home?

It depends on your licence. If you're on your red (P1) licence and under 25 then you can't have more than one passenger under 21 in your car between the hours of 11pm and 5am. Also, if you are disqualified from driving and then get a new licence as a P1 or P2, you will be restricted to only carrying one passenger for 12 months.

I was breath tested and charged with drink driving. What will happen now?

As it was a drink driving charge you will need to go to court. You should consider getting legal representation or come in to see us. You might also like to attain written references from people who can talk about your good character. The penalties you might receive will depend on how much alcohol you drank, the circumstances and whether it was your first offence.

If you're in any doubt about whether you should drive, don't.

Another thing to remember: failing to stop or refusing to submit to a breath test carries with it the same penalty as high range PCA (12 months' disqualification and a large fine).

The morning after

If you're hung over, don't drive. It usually means you still have alcohol in your system. Stay dry for a day and eat well.

Final note: if you're on a P-plate (red or green) you can't have any alcohol in your system - that's zilch, de nada, nothing!

Buying or selling a car?

I want to buy a car from a private seller, do you have any hints for me?

In the private car market it's Buyer Beware (you might be in for a scare!). If you buy a car privately you have limited legal protection. There is no warranty period and no guarantee of title (i.e. you cannot be sure the seller owns the car).

One in five cars bought privately in NSW is at risk of being repossessed!

If you do buy a car privately, you should do the following:

  • Get an NRMA inspection of the car, and consider hiring a mechanic to do a check
  • Do a PPSR check (Personal Property Securities Register, used to be REVs) to determine if the person selling the car actually owns the car. PPSR can tell you if a second hand car (or boat) has money owing on it, has been reported stolen, has been deregistered due to outstanding fines or has been reported as a write-off.

You can also download the 'My Next Car' App with an interactive inspection checklist to identify, record and take photos of any problems. 

There is a small fee for PPSR checks ($3.40 for online checks). Please use the government website. There are lots of businesses that will overcharge you for the service. 

NB: PPSR cannot guarantee registration details. You can also contact the RTA to confirm whether registration on a vehicle is still valid.

I've been taken for a ride by a shonky used car dealer. What should I do?

Come in to see us for some advice and consider taking the matter to the motor vehicles division of the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal. If you're a full time student receiving Centrelink payments then it will only cost you $5 to lodge an application and the NCAT is a very cheap and informal way of resolving disputes. Usually disputes are settled by conciliation with the assistance of a mediator, rather than going to a formal hearing.

I want to buy a second hand car from a dealer. Is there any warranty?

If you're buying a car that has travelled less than 160,000km and is less than 10 years old (from the date it was built) then you are entitled to a statutory warranty of 3 months or 5,000 km from the date of sale (whichever occurs first).

You generally won't be entitled to a warranty on commercial cars(vehicles whose primary purpose is for industrial or agricultural use, to carry goods or to carry 10 or more adults), trailers/caravans, luxury cars, substantially demolished or dismantled motor vehicles or four wheel drive vehicle that have no forward facing rear passenger seat.

For more information come in to see us or call the Department of Fair Trading between 8:30am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday on 13 32 20.

I want to sell my car privately

Make sure the registration is transferred. Don't sell your car to anyone unless you see their driver's licence. Don't hand over the keys until the transfer of registration is complete and make sure the person you are selling the car to is actually who they say they are! If they don't transfer the registration, you can be fined, and you'll be liable for any traffic offences (speeding, parking) incurred using that car.


What sort of insurance do I need for my car?

The absolute minimum is compulsory third party (CTP) (AKA a 'green slip') which you have to have before you can register your car. This will cover the financial cost of any injuries of other people that occur as a result of an accident involving your car. This won't cover any injuries you sustain, nor will it cover the cost of damages to your car or anyone else’s.

We believe that even though it isn't compulsory, that it's ESSENTIAL to get third party property insurance. This will cover the damage other cars sustain as a result of an accident caused by you. We've seen one too many cases where students have driven their $1000 bomb rides into a Mercedes and been hit with a $40,000 bill. Most students don't have that kind of cash lying around so you know what happens? They risk having their personal items auctioned off to repay the debt, are forced to declare bankruptcy or have to enter payment plans. If you can't afford third party property then you can't afford to drive!


What are the school zone hours?

The standard school zone hours are 8am-9.30am and 2.30pm-4pm and the majority of school zones operate at these times however there are a few schools in the state with non-standard operating times but these will have distinctive orange school zone signs as well as flashing lights.

How many demerit points can I lose before I lose my licence?

You don't lose demerit points, you start with 0 demerit points and gain them for committing offences. If you reach the maximum number of points (determined by your licence type) within 3 years then your licence will be suspended (or you will be refused a licence) for a certain period of time.

The maximum threshold of points for a:

  • Unrestricted licence = 13 points
  • Professional drivers = 14 points. See Professional drivers for more information
  • Provisional P2 licence = 7 points
  • Provisional P1 licence = 4 points
  • Learner licence = 4 points
  • Unrestricted licence with a good behaviour period = 2 points within the term of the good behaviour period.

For unrestricted drivers the period of suspension depends on the number of points accumulated:

  • 13 to 15 points - three months
  • 16 to 19 points - four months
  • 20 or more points - five months

For provisional and learner licence holders, the suspension period is three months

I am a P plater, sometimes I use my mums car and I can't be bothered moving my P plates from one car to another. Can I get in trouble for driving without them?

Yes you can. The penalty is currently two demerit points and a fine. Displaying your plates is really important for other drivers on the road to be able to identify that you're relatively inexperienced.

I'm an international student from Germany with a full licence. Can I drive here?

If you're on a student visa then you are considered a 'visitor' and you can drive here as long as you carry your valid licence with you when you are driving. There is an on-the-spot fine for not having your licence with you! As your licence is in German and not English you must carry a certified English translation when driving here. If you want to get a NSW licence you can do so if you stay in Australia for a minimum of 6 months.

If you are an Australian permanent resident or hold a permanent visa and you have plans to stay in New South Wales then you are not considered to be a visitor. This means you are only allowed to drive in NSW on your overseas licence for a maximum of three months after arriving in Australia. After three months, if you wish to keep driving then you need to get a NSW licence.

Pro tips

Take heed before you speed: Safety and Speed Cameras

A safety camera at an intersection is a speed and red light camera; If you see the blue warning sign, slow down and don't ever speed up to get through.

Mellow yellow

Always thought of a yellow light as a warning light to safely speed up before a red light? Well, you'd be wrong. The Road Rules say that you can only go through a yellow light if it's unsafe to stop - that's right, a cop can bust you if they see you running a yellow light. The fine and demerit points are the same as for running a red.

Licence to thrill

If you get pulled over without a licence, you don't have 24 hours to present it to the nearest police station, you'll just get fined. Make sure you are always carrying your licence on you when you are driving, otherwise you'll be looking at a hefty fine and 1 point off your licence.

Hands off: Mobile phones

Red P-Platers aren't allowed to use mobiles at all when driving. Other drivers can use mobiles but only with a handsfree kit (so that's no texting). The safest thing to do is not touch your phone while driving. It also helps saves lives as it significantly ups the chance of crashing. Don't make the same mistake many people do, stay focused and soak up those stereo sounds instead…

Need more information?

If you are a UNSW student and Arc member we can give you free legal advice. Send us an email or book an appointment here

Legal & Advocacy

P:(02) 9065 0900

H:10AM - 5PM

Arc Reception

P:(02) 9065 0900

H:10AM - 5PM

A:Gate 5 on High St, UNSW