Beware of double demerit school days
As happened during the Australia Day long weekend, there is a school day in the upcoming double demerit points period for Anzac Day in 2017. This means that if you are a P plater speeding in a school zone, say travelling at 50 because you think that is the speed limit, you will lose 10 demerit points. If you are a P plater you don't have 10 demerit points, so actually you will lose your licence.
If you are a fully licenced driver and you are going 55 in a 40 zone, because you don't realise it is a school day, you will lose 8 points. If you are travelling on the Northern Road out the front of St Doms and you don't realise it is a school day you will lose 12 points and suffer an automatic license suspension.
What is a school day?
Most people think of school days as days that the kids are at school. For the purposes of school speed zones this simply isn't correct.
The relevant legislation, being rule 318 (3-1) of the Road Rules 2014 (NSW) defines a ‘school day’ as:
"any day other than a Saturday or Sunday, a day that is a public holiday or a day publicly notified as a school holiday for government schools"
So the definition isn't dependant on what is a school day, but rather what isn't a school holiday. As the legislation states that a school holiday is ‘a day publicly notified as a school holiday’, there is no singular defined place to check for the school holiday dates.
So what does that mean?
If any day that is publicly notified as a school holiday is a school holiday, then you could probably define most days as holidays because the websites all say something different. Right? You could try arguing that, however we wouldn't recommend this approach.
The more likely approach, and the approach that we have witnessed is that the Courts find out whether the school in question actually had a school development day (or other non school holiday day) on that day. Additionally as a matter of statutory interpretation, if the definition is that wide then it is too wide to be pragmatic so the Court will look for something more practical.
This hypothetically means that you would have to check with each individual school that you drive past, and some of the government websites actually recommend that you check with individual schools.
That isn't the major issue though if you are aware it is or might be a school development day, you can simply drive at 40 km/h. The bigger problem is that if you know your friend kid is starting their first day of kindergarten next week, you are unlikely to be thinking about school zones today. The government spends large amounts of money advertising these double demerit point weekends but for some reason doesn't mention the school day clash. In January 2017 the free advertising options (like Facebook or Twitter) started mentioning the school day on the morning in question. One might question whether these government departments really hoped that drivers would be checking their Facebook given mobile phones also cop a double demerit point penalty on these days.
So what should I do?
Whether or not there are double demerit points around a school holiday period, be particularly aware of 'school days'. The most effective method we have found of verifying these school development days is if you have a friend who is a school teacher, ask them when they are starting and finishing school (some schools have school development days at the end of term, after the kids go home).
If you are checking on websites what you want is not a list of the school days or terms days, but a list of the school holidays or school development days. Remember the definition of school day is dependant on the definition of school holiday, so school holidays are what you need to find. Even then, we found one government website that said that school holidays finish on Anzac Day, and one government website that said that school holidays finish the Friday before. Don't just check one website, check multiple websites.
The other thing you can do is sign up to our newsletters. We try to warn our clients of things like this (double demerit points and school days) so that they are not getting speeding tickets simply because they were unaware of what was going on.
What if I got a speeding ticket?
If you have received a speeding ticket don't assume there is nothing you can do about it. Make an appointment to speak to Bruce Coode, the first half hour is free, and he can tell you whether it is worth fighting. Often we have clients come to see us when they are about to loose their license, and when they give us a driving history we find out that there were driving penalties they clearly should have challenged in the past but have now run out of time to challenge. Don't wait until your licence is in jeopardy, if you think there is an issue with a ticket come and speak to Bruce.
If you want more information on driving laws or our firm then click on this link to read more of our articles on this topic.