The fines for traffic violations and speeding tickets are very high in Australia, and they quickly amount to hundreds of dollars. This is why under backpackers the question arises again and again, which consequences are to be feared if you don’t pay the tickets for driving too fast or parking illegally.
Much is said about it, but mostly it is only half-knowledge or instructive comments that one should just pay the fines. A Travelgott decided to publish his experience here.
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice, but reflects the experience of a single person and does not necessarily correspond to the opinion of the team of Travelgott. For legal advice, please contact a lawyer.
Reasons why many backpackers do not want to pay traffic fines
Reasons for not wanting to pay a ticket vary. Everyone has to make their decision for themselves. There should be no one to condemn this decision without knowing the background of the person.
- For many, it is often simply a shock if they see the amount of the ticket. In Australia, $400 is nothing unusual. These sums are significant for someone traveling on a budget. Compared to European penalties, this is a multiple and some backpackers do not expect to pay such a high sum for a few km/h too fast.
- The budget of most Travelers is tight. Often people simply don’t have the financial possibility to pay a large amount for the speeding tickets.
- Many backpackers feel secure in Australia and are not afraid of prosecution and decide not to pay the fine since they hardly have to fear any problems.
Everyone must know their reasons for themselves and make their own decision.
What do backpackers do if they receive a speeding or parking ticket in Australia?
Backpackers in Australia handle fines differently. For some the questions whether to pay or not don’t even arise and pay immediately. Others fear problems, e.g. when they return to Australia again.
Other travelers, however, collect speeding and parking tickets like stamps and could literally use them as toilet paper. Even if you decide not to pay the penalty, you should nevertheless follow the traffic rules and avoid tickets as much as possible.
Are traffic fines in Australia saved on the car?
In Australia, fines run on the car and not on a person. This means the tickets are automatically taken over by the new owner when buying a new car. You can hear this again and again and is basically right.
IMPORTANT: If you receive a fine from your previous owner, you can contest it if you can prove that the car did not belong to you at the time of the incident. In this case, the ticket will be revoked and the above rule does not apply. You can read about it for example here. It’s true!
If you get an “on the spot fine”, that means the policeman records your personal data, the fine is on your name and not on the vehicle.
TIP: With a statutory declaration, you can also declare another person who had control of the car at the time of the violation. You can read more about this and how to do it on your traffic fine – it’s printed on it.
What do you have to consider when buying a car?
It is actually possible to check online on the respective website of the federal state whether tickets are filed on a car. However, you need not only the number of the license plate, but also the serial number of the car, which makes it somewhat more difficult. But don’t worry, this step is not even necessary.
This point should be neglected when buying a car, because the probability that you have to pay the fines of the previous owner is practically zero, but the danger of getting stranded on the road with a non functioning car is much bigger. In addition, you can challenge fines if you were not the owner of the car at that time.
Are tickets transmitted from one state to another?
In Australia, each state is responsible for its own traffic laws and their compliance. Therefore, laws may vary from state to state. In Victoria, for example, there is no tolerance for driving too fast, while in New South Wales it’s 10% of the maximum speed.
Therefore, the question is: When a car is e.g. registered in Western Australia and is fined in Queensland, is the fine transferred to Western Australia?
In principle, the Australian states have the possibility to send penalties to other federal states, which can then be claimed by the respective state.
But we know from Australians and from personal experience that this often does not happen. Therefore, Australians often wait until the fine of a different state is sent to their home address, before they make the payment – and IF it is actually sent (yes, even Australians try to minimize their cost of traffic fines).
My Personal Experience about Parking Tickets and Traffic Fines
I myself had different experiences. A parking ticket, which I received in Melbourne (Victoria), was sent to Perth (Western Australia), since the car was registered there.
I had the opportunity to prove that the car did not belong to me at that time, or to determine another person on the basis of an affidavit, which at that time was in control of the van.
In the case of a parking ticket I got in Darwin (Northern Territory), however, I never received the ticket in Western Australia.
TIP: If you are not sure whether you should pay a traffic fine from another federal state, it is worthwhile to see if the fine is sent to the address where the car is registered.
When do you really get problems?
Although the penalties are very high for ordinary traffic offenses, the police generally takes it quite easily. However, it does get bad when the offense is more serious. When driving under alcohol influence e.g. Australians don’t make fun about it.
In the case of alcohol controls, individual cars are not stopped on the side of the road, but complete street lanes are blocked, and each individual car driver is checked. By the way, in Australia the alcohol limit is 0.5 promille.
If you are stopped by a police officer who finds that you have unpaid tickets, you still have the possibility to pay the open traffic fines afterwards.
Backpackers who really get problems when they leave the country have not just left their car in a no parking area, but have e.g. driven cars under the influence. For these offenses you may expect a court trail and you will be prevented from leaving.
While I do not condemn anyone for not paying their fines, these actions are to be avoided at all costs, since not only your wallet is in danger, but also the lives of others.
Are there problems when leaving or entering Australia?
We are not aware of any case, where someone was prevented to leave Australia for not paying a traffic fine or parking or speeding ticket. You will nevertheless be able to leave the country unless you are facing a court trial.
A fine will only become a problem if it has federal character. This means that they appear on a “federal level” and thus also at the Australian Border Protection.
The same applies when entering Australia: Only when a fine appears on the screens at the border protection, you may be denied to enter the country or you pay the outstanding fines upon arrival.
We do not know a case where such actions have been taken place for ordinary penalties. On the contrary, I know of cases where fines have not played any role when entering Australia. But just to be sure you could use airports in states where you have no unpaid tickets.
It simply depends on which authority has been issued the fine or at which level it was lifted. Penalties from the Australia Federal Police (which is in charge of serious crimes and not for traffic penalties) will appear. However, those of the State Police, whose jurisdiction is the traffic regulation, does not.
There could be problems if you are pulled over in a state where you have previous tickets and you are checked upon that. If this is the case, then you still have the opportunity to pay the penalty afterward.
Personally, I did not get any problems at all when I entered and left Australia multiple times and had at least one unpaid fine open.
The main reason is that for traffic incidents the police gets only the number of your driving licence and has no passport details in such case. This makes it less likely for you to run into problems at the border since you are showing your passport.
Do traffic tickets expire in Australia?
We hear again and again that fines in Australia expire after 5 years. After that time you won’t have any problems when entering the country again.
After hours of googling, we have not found such information on official websites of the Australian government. On the contrary: On the page of NSW, for example, it is stated that traffic fines do not expire. Regarding the state of Victoria, however, we have found this link, which confirms the 5-year limit.
I don’t have (yet) any experience about it and therefore don’t want to spread any rumors. If you have reliable information about it, we look forward to hearing from you in the comments!
What if I never receive the ticket?
You can provide an address in your home country when purchasing a car. If you do that, then the probability is quite high that you will be sent your traffic fines to your home address.
This is a standard procedure and you should not worry about it any further. It does not mean that Australia can demand the punishment abroad. This does not even really work between the EU countries, let alone a country on the other side of the earth.
What if I travel by car and have no access to my mail?
Most backpackers provide the address of a friend or a hostel when they buy a car. If you travel by car through Down Under, you practically have no way to read your letters mailed to you and to pay for your parking of speeding tickets on time.
This fact is often used by travellers as an excuse. Australians are easy to talk to, even the police. Therefore, in case of an emergency, I would definitely try this excuse.
Should you pay the penalty or not?
“Foreigners don’t have to pay the fines anyway.”
A short anecdote what Australian policemen say about that.
I have experienced the following absurd scene in Queensland: An officer pulled me over because I was traveling a few km/h too fast. He called me “mate” and was very friendly.
He said I should pay more attention to the speed limits, but he did not issue a speeding fine because I am a foreigner and “do not have to pay the ticket anyway”.
We also know similar stories of other people who were stopped by the police and did get issued a ticket. But it came along with the comment that as a backpacker “you don’t have to pay the traffic fines in Australia anyways”.
From personal experience
The long-term impact of unpaid fines is pretty insignificant, as long as they are smaller things, such as illegal parking or speeding.
Whether you pay the fine or not you have to decide for yourself. I am far from giving a recommendation about it, all I want is sharing my personal experiences and knowledge.
I myself have paid a few penalties and some, with absurdly high amounts, I did not, e.g. for wild camping and wrong parking (judge me!). Nevertheless, I always tried to comply with the traffic laws and have never intentionally ignored them, according to the motto “I do not pay the fines anyway”.
And I appeal to all of you beautiful readers: Try to comply with the traffic rules and do not challenge being fined!
When I bought the car I was constantly worried about whether fines run on the car. From today’s point of view, this would not really matter, because a change of ownership is also taken into account in Australia.
And one last tip: Always be careful not to be towed and not to get a wheel clamp. Because then you have no choice but to pay the penalty and towing fees to get the car back. So always read the parking signs carefully!