Is it illegal to drive without number plate lights?

Is it illegal to drive without number plate lights?
Is it illegal to drive without number plate lights?

Being seen while driving at night is vital. But did you know that, as well as having headlights and tail-lights, you are required to have your rear number plates illuminated while driving at night?

Your car must have a rear number plate lightIf the light isn’t working, you could face fines and demerit pointsRules vary by jurisdiction

If you don’t you could be fined and you may even be hit with a licence-hurting demerit point penalty.

Rear number plate lights are required per the Australian Vehicle Standards Rules, which state that: 

At least one number plate light must be fitted to the rear of a vehicle.When on, the number plate light or lights must illuminate a number plate on the rear of the vehicle with white light, so the characters on the number plate can be read at night 20 metres from the rear of the vehicle.A number plate light: may be combined with another light;must not project white light to the rear of the vehicle except by reflection; andmust not obscure the characters on the number plate; andmust be wired to come on, and stay on, when a parking light, headlight or tail light on the vehicle is on.

Seems fair enough and the national model Road Rule 215 outlines that this is a nationwide offence.

However, if you’re curious about the ramifications for not having an operable number plate light, here’s a rundown of the rules in Australia: 

New South Wales: Rule 215 in the General driving offences document for NSW suggests that drivers must have the appropriate lighting front and rear, lest they be charged with the following offence:

Drive during period of darkness without prescribed lights – $116 fine, 1 demerit point

Victoria: VicRoads outlines an offence that could result in a financial penalty, and it’ll be bad for your driving record, too:

Infringement code 2071: Fail to have headlights, tail lights and number plate

lights on at night or in hazardous weather conditions – $248 fine, 1 demerit point 

Queensland: In Queensland you could be hit with a $154 fine and 1 demerit point for “Failing to have lights on vehicle lit at night or in hazardous conditions” under Queensland Road Rules — Section 215(1).

South Australia: Motor Vehicles Regulations 2010 states there is a 1 demerit point penalty for “Failing to use lights when driving at night or in hazardous weather conditions”. That could equate to a $283 fine (plus $99 Victims of Crime Levy payment), too. 

Western Australia: In WA, the Road Traffic Code 2000 – Reg 182, Lights on moving motor vehicles, states the following: “A person must not drive a motor vehicle or a combination of a motor vehicle and trailer, during the hours of darkness or in hazardous weather conditions restricting visibility, unless it is equipped with such lights and reflectors as are prescribed by the Vehicle Standards as those to be carried by that vehicle or combination, and the lights are lit.” 

The potential penalty for not complying with that rule is two penalty units, or $100. 

Northern Territory: Under the NT legislation for Traffic Regulations, it is stipulated that “the lights that are to be fitted to a vehicle are those lights that are required by: (a) the Australian Design Rules; and (b) the Motor Vehicle (Standards) Regulations.”

That means there is a rule around number plate lights, but we couldn’t find any specific rulings around fines for not having the appropriate illumination fitted. 

Tasmania: The rules are clear in Tassie: Drive at night or in weather reduced visibility conditions without head/tail/number plate lights effectively operating and visible – $195 fine, 1 demerit point. 

ACT: The nation’s capital has the same road rule – 215 (1) (a) – cited in its Road Transport (Road Rules) Regulation 2017, which states: “head/tail/numberplate light/lights not

on/visible”, which attracts a $208 fine and 1 demerit point. 

Not intended as legal advice. Check with the relevant roads authority in your state or territory.

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