Nikki Preston

Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

1412 days to enforce driving ban

Transport Agency admits it can take months or even years to serve notice on people with 100 demerit points.

Demerit points are accrued by certain driving offences including speed, with the exception of speed cameras, mobile phone and alcohol-related offences. Photo / APN
Demerit points are accrued by certain driving offences including speed, with the exception of speed cameras, mobile phone and alcohol-related offences. Photo / APN

Motorists who exceed their legal limit for demerit points are continuing to drive for years before having their licences suspended.

The long waits are being criticised by motoring advocates who say the suspension needs to be timely and enforced within days of the breach.

The longest time the Transport Agency waited before suspending a driver's licence was 1412 days in Wanganui - nearly four years - followed by 1171 in New Plymouth and 1133 in Manukau City.

It took 1006 days for an Auckland driver to lose his or her licence through demerit points, according to information provided to the Herald under the Official Information Act.

Demerit points are accrued by certain driving offences including speed, with the exception of speed cameras, mobile phone and alcohol-related offences, and a licence can be suspended for three months once 100 or more points are accumulated in any two-year period.

A suspension cannot be served once a driver's most active demerit points are more than two years old. However if the driver continues to offend before being served with a suspension notice and the total number of active demerit points does not drop below 100 then the driver will remain wanted.

AA motoring affairs manager Mike Noon was surprised at the delays. "If you've exceeded your demerit points then from our perspective you should be contacted and advised of that and that should be timely. And that's not months or years later."

Under the current process drivers receive a written warning when they reach 50 active demerit points, but are notified they have accumulated 100 points only when the suspension notice is served in person.

Mr Noon said offending drivers should be sent a notice advising them they had exceeded the limit and then be given a set number of days to surrender their licence. Road safety campaigner and Dog and Lemon Guide editor Clive Matthew-Wilson said the system was a shambles. Anyone who exceeded their points limit should lose their licence physically within seven days.

NZTA spokesman Andy Knackstedt said there were many reasons why delays occurred in serving a notice, including people not wanting to be found.

No warning before licence confiscated

An Auckland mother-of-two had her driver's licence taken off her for exceeding demerit points 21 months earlier.

The solo mum was out when two police officers arrived on her doorstep at 8pm last October. Worried, she visited her local police station the next morning, where the officer asked for her licence before confiscating it immediately.

The sales representative said she had no idea she had even exceeded 100 demerit points nearly two years earlier and would have appreciated some warning to make arrangements.

She called a friend in a panic who collected her because she could not drive home. She then called a lawyer to help her obtain a work licence as soon as she could.

"It's my fault getting the demerit points, I'm not opposed to that but it's just the way they did it - just like that. You don't get time to even think about it, no prior warning, no nothing."

The woman was last pulled over by a police officer in January 2012 for speeding while in Matamata for work because she had not seen a sign indicating a change in speed zones. She received a fine and incurred 20 demerit points.

She said the officer never told her she had exceeded 100 points and she never received a letter from police or NZTA.

The process

*NZTA sends a letter to driver warning them they have reached 50 demerit points.
*Suspension notice served once the driver has reached 100 demerit points.
*Suspension cannot be served once the most active demerit points are more than two years old. If the driver continues to offend before being served with a suspension notice and the total number of active demerit points does not drop below 100 then the driver will remain wanted for a suspension.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 29 Nov 2014 08:20:49 Processing Time: 574ms