Changes to the legislation regarding special hardship orders (SHO) means that a suspended driver can now apply at any point during their suspension for a SHO. A second and more recent change also sees a strict approach taken to the number of demerit points that a person can accrue while subject to a SHO.

Application period

Prior to 1 April 2019 a person was allowed a maximum of 21 days after their licence was suspended to apply for a SHO. From 1 April 2019, the application period for suspended drivers seeking a SHO was removed. This means that a suspended driver can apply for a SHO at any point during their suspension. The strict eligibility requirements still apply and a suspended driver must show that they, or their family, would suffer extreme financial hardship if they were unable to drive during the suspension period. This amendment allows a driver who experiences a change in circumstances during their suspension the flexibility to apply for a SHO.

It must be noted that any time that a driver has already been suspended for does not affect the length of the SHO. Irrespective of how many days the driver’s licence has been suspended before they are granted a SHO, the duration of the SHO must be equivalent to the initial suspension period.

Accumulation of demerit points

Effective from 1 July 2019, a driver is unable to accumulate any demerit points while driving pursuant to a SHO. Previously, a driver who was subject to a SHO was able to accrue three demerit points during the period of the order. This amendment seeks to establish that a SHO is usually a driver’s ‘third chance’ to continue to drive having previously been issued with a one-year good driving behaviour period (and allocated one demerit point). If a driver incurs any demerit points under a SHO their licence will be immediately suspended for double the initial suspension period.

It is anticipated that the removal of the demerit point limit will cause strain on driver’s subject to the order. Prior to applying for a SHO you should consider all of your options. As the process is quite involved it is highly recommended that you seek legal advice before applying for an order.

Should you wish to discuss this further or make an enquiry regarding a SHO, please contact Alysha Jacobsen of our office on 07 4617 8100.