Traffic law in Queensland
If you drive a car or other motor vehicle, there are laws that ensure that you obey the road rules. If you don’t (for example you exceed the speed limit, go through a red light, or cross an unbroken line) this is known as a ‘traffic offence’ and for this you can be issued with a ticket on the spot, receive a notice of a fine in the mail or, if the breach is serious enough, be issued with a notice to attend court. Fines are often imposed for minor traffic breaches but more serious breaches can attract the same penalties that criminal charges can, such as community service, probation or a term of imprisonment. Additionally, the Court has the power to disqualify you from holding or obtaining your driver’s licence for a nominated period of time.
What are some serious traffic offences?
Some traffic offences are more serious than others, for example:
- Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle – driving in a manner that falls below the community’s expectations of a safe driver, having regard to factors such as the condition of the road, the time of day or night and the number of persons that might be expected to be in that place at that time. It isn’t necessary for the police to show that you’ve injured anybody or caused any damage.
- Driving whilst disqualified by court order – driving after appearing in court for another traffic offence and being disqualified by a Judge or a Magistrate. This offence will carry a minimum disqualification period of 2 years and often also a term of imprisonment.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drug – it is an offence to drive whilst having a nominated amount of alcohol in the blood, the nominated amount varying depending on the class of driver’s licence (open, provisional or learner’s). Recent amendments to the law have now also made it an offence to drive whilst having a trace of illicit substances in your blood or saliva, such as cannabis, methamphetamines or cocaine. This offence will carry a period of disqualification together with anything ranging from a fine to a term of imprisonment, depending on the circumstances.
What if you need to keep your licence for work or suffer special hardship?
The law recognises that people will sometimes make mistakes that are inconsistent with their good character. Accordingly, in certain cases it is possible to apply to keep your licence when you would otherwise be disqualified from driving. The most common examples are ‘work licences’ and ‘special hardship licences’.
It is possible to apply for a work licence if you have been caught drink-driving or driving with a relevant drug in your system. This will only be possible if you can demonstrate that your ability to earn a living is dependant upon your ability to drive, that is, whether or not you will lose your job if you aren’t able to drive. There are certain matters that the Court must take into account, including your character generally, your traffic history and the circumstances of the offence itself.
Special hardship licences
A similar application, known as a special hardship application, can be made if you accumulate too many demerit points. If you accumulate too many demerit points, the Department of Transport and Main Roads will write to you giving you the choice of a licence suspension (usually 6 months) or a 12 month good behaviour driving period. If you choose the suspension or do not reply to this letter, then you have no appeal and cannot get any other licence during the suspension. If you opt for a good behaviour driving period and lose two or more points during that time, in limited circumstances you can apply for a special hardship licence. You must be able to show that losing your licence will result in extreme hardship to you or your family by depriving you of the means of earning a living or that losing your licence will cause you or your family severe or unusual hardship.
At the hearing of the application you, and any person who has signed an affidavit in support of your application (e.g. your employer) will be required to be present and should be prepared to be questioned on the contents of your affidavit by the representative of the Department of Transport and Main Roads. It is therefore very important that you come prepared on the day of the hearing with the relevant material.
If you are successful in your application you will be allowed to continue driving, although only in very limited circumstances, such as the type of vehicle that you can drive, the hours that you can drive and the purposes for which you can drive. If the court refuses your application, the decision is final and there is no right to appeal; it is therefore extremely important to ensure that your application is prepared as thoroughly as possible the first time.
What are my obligations following a traffic accident?
If there was significant property damage, you must report the accident to the police. Failing to do so can lead to a charge known as ‘failing to remain at the scene of an accident’. If you are unsure of the value of the damage, it is safer to call the police.
If another person was driving your vehicle at the time of an accident, you are required to provide information to the police that will help identify the driver, including the identity of the person who you believed was in possession of the vehicle. Failing to provide this information to the police is an offence.
All information contained within this article should be considered as general advice only. If you’re needing advice or assistance with legal matters, Cridland & Hua are the specialists amongst Brisbane Law Firms, practising exclusively in criminal and quasi-criminal law. Contact us today.