Nearly four years to enforce driving ban

Motorists who exceed their legal limit for demerit points are continuing to drive for several 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. The shortest time it took to suspend a licence was on the same day the demerit points quota was exceeded.

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 only notified they have accumulated 100 points when the suspension notice is served in person. It comes into effect immediately. 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 demerit points limit should lose their licence physically within seven days. "If they are a sufficiently dangerous driver to lose their licence then why is it taking months or years for the police to do something about it?"

NZTA spokesman Andy Knackstedt said there were many reasons why delays occurred in serving a notice, including people not wanting to be found. Not all drivers received a warning letter because it could be sent to an old address.

- By Nikki Preston of the New Zealand Herald

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