Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dangerous drivers buy their way out of demerit point trouble

DRIVERS on the brink of losing their licences are advertising for strangers to take the blame for speeding fines and other traffic offences.

The Herald Sun has found booked motorists are seeking others on the internet to take demerit points in exchange for hundreds of dollars.

One ad being investigated offered at least $200 in return for taking the blame.

A driver claiming to live in Taylors Lakes posted an ad headed "Free money trade for demerit points".

"Willing to pay money for someone to take 3 demerit points from me, SMS or call me on ... Leave offer and price negotiable," it said.

About 250 people clicked on the ad before it was removed.

It is a crime to falsely nominate another driver on an infringement notice, and offenders face fines of about $7000.

Traffic Camera Office Acting Supt Steve Frost said police had prosecuted motorists for trying to buy their way out of trouble.

"Drivers who are at a level where they may lose their licence due to points should be thinking about the way they are driving and not putting all of their energy into nominating another person," he said.

The Herald Sun contacted workplaces across Melbourne and easily found drivers who admitted to "buying" and "selling" demerit points.

Almost 80,000 Victorians have accumulated 10 or more demerit points for speeding and other offences.

If drivers accrue 12 points within a three-year period, they face a possible licence suspension.

A western suburbs coffee shop assistant paid a colleague $400 to take responsibility for two fines - worth six demerit points. "I paid the fines as well. So it cost me quite a bit of money. That was a penalty, of sorts," he said.

A South Melbourne sandwich hand with a clean driving record said he'd copped three demerit points in exchange for $300 from a stranger who approached him.

"Then I got fined myself, and now I'm pretty close to the limit," he said.

Victorian drivers on internet chat forums admit taking the blame for their wife, husband or other family members - for love, not cash.

Melbourne lawyers said the practice of falsely nominating others with cleaner records was rampant.

"It is cheaper to buy your wife a bunch of flowers and get her to take the three points than fighting it through the courts," one lawyer specialising in traffic matters said.

The lawyer also suggested parents commonly took the fall for P-plate offspring, because fines are routinely sent to the owner of the car.

One chat forum respondent wrote: "I'd love a quick and easy $5000 or more. Great bonus. But I couldn't do it to help someone who had done the wrong thing time and time again."

TAC senior road safety manager David Healy said illegal points trading for cash or as a favour was unacceptable.

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