Minor traffic matters

Minor traffic matters

Minor traffic offences include:

  • driving an unregistered vehicle
  • running a red light
  • using a mobile phone while driving
  • failure to wear a seatbelt
  • breaching other road rules or regulations.

Even though these offences are considered ‘minor’, you may still have to appear in court to answer them. This might happen if police also charged you with other offences or if you choose to take the matter to court instead of paying the fine.

Driving an unregistered vehicle

Being charged with ‘driving an unregistered vehicle’ means that the police believe that you were driving a car that is not registered with VicRoads.

If the matter goes to court, all the prosecution has to prove is that:

  • you drove a car that was not registered with VicRoads
    and
  • you did not have a ‘reasonable excuse’ for doing so.

They do not need to prove that you intended to or that you knew what you were doing was against the law.

Possible defences

You may have a defence if you have a reasonable excuse for driving unregistered. For example, there was an emergency. The magistrate will decide if your excuse is reasonable.

It is not a defence to say that the vehicle did not belong to you. The law says you must ensure that any vehicle that you drive is registered, even if you do not own it. It is also not a defence to say that you could not afford to pay the registration fee.

Running a red light

This means the police think that you:

  • did not stop at a red light as close to but before the stop line
  • did not stop at a ‘stop here on red’ signal sign or at the traffic light.

If the matter goes to court the prosecution has to prove that:

  • you were driving a car
    and
  • that you either did not stop at a red light as close to but before the stop line or did not stop at a ‘stop here on red’ signal sign or at the traffic light.

If you were caught by a red light camera, the police will often give you the red light camera photos. This is part of their evidence to show that you committed the offence. If the police have not given you the photos, you can call the Traffic Camera Office to ask for them.

Otherwise, the police will rely on eye-witness evidence that you committed the offence, for example, that a police officer saw you.

Possible defences

The law assumes that red light cameras are accurate. If you want to argue that the detector was inaccurate, you have to show that it was broken or improperly operated. You need an expert to explain this in court.

If you had to run a red light because of an urgent reason, for example, if someone was critically ill in the car, you might have a defence. The magistrate will decide if your reason is good enough.

If you were not the driver of the car, you need to provide the name and address of the person who was driving.

Using a mobile phone while driving

The offence of ‘use of a mobile phone while driving’ includes:

  • holding the body of the phone in your hand even if the phone is turned off (however, you can hold the phone in order to give it to someone else in the vehicle)
  • entering or placing anything into the phone, for example, plugging in a charger
  • sending or looking at anything that is in the phone
  • turning the phone on or off
  • operating any other function of the phone, for example, using the camera or the web browser.

It is ok to pull over to the side of the road to take a call, but your vehicle must be completely stopped and parked legally.

Holding the phone means having it in your hand or resting it on any part of your body. You can have the phone in your pocket.

You can only use a mobile phone while driving if all of the following are true:

  • you are on your full licence
  • you are making a phone call and not texting, or you are using the navigation system
  • the phone is properly mounted in the car
  • you do not need to hold or touch the phone.

The phone must be mounted on a device that was made and sold for the purpose of using the phone hands-free. Putting your phone on the dashboard is not the same thing as the phone being properly mounted.

A learner or P-plater must not use a phone at all.

If the matter goes to court the prosecution has to prove all of the following:

  • you were in the drivers seat of your vehicle
  • you were driving or not parked (this includes being stopped in traffic)
  • you were ‘using’ a mobile phone in the prohibited ways described above.

Possible defences

You will have a defence if:

  • you did not use the phone in the way the police say
  • you did use it but you were using it in a legal way. For example, by properly using a hands-free device or while legally parked.

Failure to wear a seatbelt

If the police charge you with failure to wear a seatbelt it means that they allege you did one of the following:

  • you were the driver and you did not wear seatbelt in a moving or stationary car (a stationary car does not include a parked car)
  • you were the driver and your passenger was over 16 years old and they were not wearing a seatbelt
  • you were the passenger and you were over 16 years old and you were not wearing a seatbelt
  • you were the driver and you had children in your car who were 16 years or younger and not properly restrained.

Possible defences

You may have a defence to the charge if:

  • you could not wear a seatbelt for medical reasons
    and
  • at the time of the offence you had a medical certificate saying why you could not wear it and for how long.

Breaching other road rules or regulations

There are over 200 road rules for Victorian drivers and road users to follow. The VicRoads website has a summary of the road rules.

If the police think that you breached one of these rules, the police can fine you or charge you with an offence. The exact nature of the offence can relate to rules about:

  • vehicle registration and driver licences
  • road-worthiness
  • bicycles and pedestrians
  • L-plates and P-plates.

Whether you are guilty of breaching a rule or regulation depends on the circumstances of your case.

Going to court

For more information about how to prepare for the court hearing see Going to court for traffic offences.

You have the option of pleading guilty or not guilty for all of these offences.

For a charge of driving an unregistered vehicle you also have the option of admitting to the charges and asking for a diversion. The diversion program means your case is treated differently. It is normally for less serious cases. You must agree to certain conditions. You do not get a criminal record.

Penalties if you are found guilty

Demerit points

As well as the general penalties for minor traffic offences listed below, if you are found guilty of any of the above offences except driving an unregistered vehicle, VicRoads adds three demerit points to your licence from the date the offence happened, not the date you went to court. The magistrate cannot change this.

Losing your licence

The magistrate may cancel or suspend your licence for a period of time. If this happens you must not drive at all during this time. There are no exceptions. For example, you cannot drive to work or to pick up your children. There are no special licences that allow you to drive some of the time. There are very serious penalties for driving while suspended.

Fines

The magistrate may give you a fine with penalty units of:

  • up to 10 penalty units for an offence of running a red light.
  • up to 25 penalty units for a first offence of driving unregistered
  • up to 50 penalty units for subsequent offences of driving unregistered
  • up to 10 penalty units for an offence of use of a mobile phone while driving
  • up to 10 penalty units for an offence of failure to wear a seatbelt.

Other penalties

What happens in court goes on your criminal record. The magistrate may also place you on an undertaking to behave well for a certain amount of time.

See Possible outcomes for traffic offences for more information about penalties and other outcomes.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with traffic offences.