The NSW government is raking in more than $40 million a year in fines from tens of thousands of people found to be driving unregistered vehicles.
Scrapping car rego stickers saved the state government $575,000 in printing costs in 2013 and was sold to drivers as “making life easier”.
But it also added millions in fines with 50,000 or more drivers busted in unregistered vehicles coughing up more than $250 million since 2013.
At the end of 2010, about 34,000 people were fined $17.4 million for driving unregistered. In 2013, almost 59,000 drivers were fined $35.5 million.
In 2009 NSW Police began rolling out automated number plate recognition technology on highway patrol cars that could ping dozens of unregistered vehicles.
Driving unregistered voids any insurance leaving a driver exposed to large risks if they are involved in an accident. It carries a hefty $686 fine in NSW.
While NSW rakes in the fines, South Australian police are more lenient and give warnings to about 670 drivers each month for running out of rego. In NSW fewer than 150 drivers get cautioned, on average, each month, from about 5000 who are fined.
In SA police cannot issue fines for driving uninsured until 30 days elapse from the registration due date. A SA Police spokesman said they consider a motorists’ driving record and the time that a vehicle has been unregistered when deciding on cautions or a fine.
A Transport for NSW spokeswoman said it is the driver’s “sole responsibility” to pay registration and update their details, within 14 days of any change.
Registration renewal reminders are sent to all drivers about six weeks before expiry, the spokeswoman said.
In 2018/19 a Service NSW “system error” sent 390,000 fewer registration reminder letters than 2017 /18 but not getting a reminder is not a valid excuse to avoid a fine.
John Gooley, a senior lawyer at Stacks Collins Thompson in Hornsby, said people often try to argue they didn’t get rego reminders but the courts have almost no leniency even when a client has tried to do the right thing.
“The revenue governments make from fining people has to be balanced by the costs of unregistered and therefore uninsured drivers being involved in crashes,” Mr Gooley said. “The cost of reminding motorists to renew their registration pales in comparison to the effect it can have on people’s lives.”
Kevin Ledley spent weeks and about $2000 organising a pink slip, a green slip, and insurance, which must all be completed before registering a vehicle.
Despite his efforts, he got fined four days after rego was due, more than the amount his registration actually costs, because he says, a reminder with the amount to pay never came through the post.
“If you were intending not to register why would you pay any of those other fees?” Mr Ledley said. “In my mind, it is simply a clerical error.”
Mr Gooley said he recently had a client who was charged with driving unregistered and had not received a renewal notice.
“Ironically, the case before us was a junkie working for the crime syndicates stealing out ofletterboxes at the same address,” Mr Gooley said. “My client was telling the truth, he was aged about 55 and the magistrate said I agree with you, but the offence was still (proven).
“It’s an unfair and loaded system in some ways,” he said.
Formal complaints about lack of NSW registration renewal notices are up from 20 in 2016 to about 150 last year.
Customers can opt-in to receive digital notifications, alerts, and reminders online via service.nsw.gov.au.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald