Santa Claus might fly around the world in a single night, but Canberra drivers should think twice about travelling quickly. And ‘twice’ is the operative word. For the next week and a half, traffic offenders will receive double demerits – and that ill-judged burst of speed could put your licence on ice. Or worse.
“This is a very special time of year,” Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman, ACT Policing’s officer in charge of road policing, said.
“We want people to get to their destination safely. We want everybody to have a great time with their loved ones. What we don’t want to do is to be dealing with people and delivering tragic news – and that doesn’t have to happen if people make the right choices.
“Obey the road rules; take your time; slow down; be courteous to other drivers; be patient.”
Double demerits begin at midnight tonight (Wednesday 23 December) and continue until 11.59pm on Sunday 3 January. Offences that incur double demerit points include all speeding and seatbelt offences; using a mobile phone while driving; and riding a motorbike without a helmet. All other traffic offences incur one extra demerit point during this period.
Canberra drivers start with zero points on their licence; if they accumulate 12 or more points within three years, their licence can be suspended for three to five months.
Police will patrol the city’s streets, on the alert for drunk or drugged drivers, speeders, and dangerous behaviour. There will be more random breath tests and more targeted speed operations, Inspector Boorman said.
ACT Policing and the NSW Police Force will work together to target drivers travelling between Canberra and the South Coast, while ACT Policing’s Safe Summer campaign will patrol licensed premises and entertainment precincts.
“[Double demerits are] a reassuring reminder to people to do the right thing,” Inspector Boorman said. “This is not about revenue raising; the fine does not increase during this period. This is about added consequences for doing the wrong thing on the roads. If you’re doing the right thing, there’s no penalty; you’re not paying that extra money. If you want to be irresponsible on our roads and break the traffic laws, you will be caught.”
The Christmas period is one of the busiest times on the road – and one of the most dangerous. Police are expecting a large amount of traffic, even despite restrictions on people coming from Sydney and the Northern Beaches. In fact, Inspector Boorman said, more people might visit areas like the ACT that have not been declared hotspots.
“When you get a large amount of traffic, large amounts of people moving around, incidents may occur. I just hope those aren’t serious incidents.”
One man has already been killed in a car crash in Macquarie on Sunday; a couple more people have died in regional NSW.
“These are mums, dads, members of people’s families,” Inspector Boorman said.
“If everybody does the right thing, and takes the foot off the accelerator, takes their time, doesn’t drink or drive, follows the road rules, and is responsible, I hope that we have no further trauma or deaths on our roads.”
Last month, ACT Policing launched their ‘Who are you rushing to meet?’ campaign, warning motorists of the ‘Fatal Five’ highest contributing factors to car crashes. The campaign featured police officers who attended road deaths; fire service personnel who cut bodies out of cars; ambulance officers and trauma surgeons who tried to save lives; and funeral directors who buried bodies.
“We can’t enforce our way to having safer roads,” Inspector Boorman said.
“We all have to do our part. If we could enforce our way to a safe road network, we would have done that years ago. It’s not just about enforcement; it’s about education, deterrence, and enforcement.”
If you see dangerous behaviour on the roads, call the police assistance line (131 444), or 000 if it is life-threatening.
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