Is this Australia’s most obscure road rule?
AUSTRALIANS have been warned to research the road rules in each state before visiting - or risk being hit with a nasty and costly surprise.
Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia chief executive Robert Barwick took to the group's Facebook page to alert travellers after a member of the club was stung by an obscure new rule that varies across the nation.
It involves having to slow down dramatically when passing emergency vehicles in South Australia - 25km/h to be precise. The unaware member who was caught out claims she was fined $1007 and disqualified from driving for six months.
This is Mr Barwick's post about the incident, which was flooded with comments calling the fine ridiculous:
"This week is a long message, but it is important that I share a member's story with you all. This story will hopefully expand your knowledge of road rules while driving in different states around the country.
"A member, on their way to Adelaide, drove past two police cars parked well off the side of the road (approximately 12 metres) with their lights flashing. They appeared to be talking to a motorist.
"The member states that she was driving approximately 85km/h at the time (the speed limit was 110km/h). She continued driving and not long after she saw lights of a police car flashing behind her, requesting her to pull over - which she did.
"The police officer asked her speed, which she said was about 85km/h. He said she had been travelling at 83km/h and asked her if she was aware that the speed limit when driving by an emergency vehicle flashing their lights is 25km/h in South Australia?
"She was not aware of this. She tried to explain her case, but to no avail she was issued with an infringement notice - $1007 fine and an immediate six-month driving disqualification. As a single traveller with a 49 year unblemished driving record, she was dumbfounded and confused with what had just happened.
"She comes from northern NSW and was intending to visit friends in Adelaide and now needs to find a place to store her campervan and organise travel back home.
"It is crucial to have a thorough understanding of road rules and how they differ from state to state. Both VIC and QLD require motorists to slow down to 40km/h when driving near emergency vehicles with flashing lights. The purpose of this message is to explain the importance of understanding that road rules vary from state to state.
"I urge you all to do your research, it's better to be safe than sorry."
Many were shocked to hear of the "stupid" rule, with some calling for the nationalisation of road rules to avoid such incidents.
One member wrote: "Different rules in different states. You would think that in this day and age we as a country could get it together. Pathetic."
Another member agreed, saying: "We need, and must have, national road rules covering things like this, drivers' licences, vehicle registrations, and so on. Come on ... we are all Australians and situations like this are just crazy."
But some realists pointed out that unfortunately, "it's just not going to happen".
Many believed the fine and suspension was much too harsh.
One member said: "I am a South Australian, and so am aware of the rules when passing an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing, but how devastating for the driver who was caught because she was not aware of this rule."
While another posted: "Seems to me it's 40km/h in most states so why 25km/h in SA? A bit unfair really, so perhaps the lady should have only had a fine ... it doesn't seem fair."
Others were concerned about the dangers of slowing down too suddenly while on a highway.
Mr Barwick told news.com.au that while the rule is fine, it's confusing to have laws that vary across states.
"I do think it is a good rule but motorists need to know about it. What I cannot understand how it varies in different states," he said. "Generally it's 40km/h but in South Australia (it's less)."
He reinforced that it's a broader issue that this one rule.
"National registration and national licensing should be brought in," he said. "If your vehicle is registered in one state and needs an inspection you need to go back to that state to have it done, prior to registration.
"For example if you are holidaying in Western Australia in your RV and you are from Queensland, you need to undertake the inspection in that state. A national system would ensure it would be easier. However I don't believe the states will agree because they will lose out on the revenue stream attached to registration and licensing."
THE NEW RULE IS FOR A GOOD REASON
In Victoria the rule, which came into effect last July, is: "You must not exceed 40km/h when passing the vehicle and not increase your speed until a safe distance from the scene ... The maximum court penalty is $793".
According to Vic Roads, incidents on roads place first responders and others involved at a high risk of being struck by passing vehicles or debris. Near misses are common, with a recent survey of more than 1600 emergency service and enforcement workers revealing that in the past three years:
• 17 per cent had a 'near miss' involving a passing vehicle on four or more occasions.
• 3 per cent had been injured while evading a passing vehicle.
• 8 per cent had their vehicle struck by a passing vehicle.
• 23 per cent of those involved in an incident had consequential mental health issues.
"The new rule means improved safety for emergency and enforcement workers who are performing work on the road or roadside, as well as others who are present at the scene. 40km/h is the maximum speed at which pedestrians are likely to survive vehicle impact.
How should I slow down safely to comply with the new road rule on a high speed road? Vic Roads advises: "If police need to stop a vehicle on a high speed road, they will always try to do this in a location that can easily be seen by approaching drivers so there is enough time to slow down safely.
"If an emergency or enforcement vehicle is in an area of low visibility due to the location or poor weather, it will be because it is absolutely necessary and there will likely be alarms sounding in addition to flashing lights. In these situations, drivers should slow down safely when they first see flashing lights, taking into account the current road conditions and avoiding sudden braking."
On Saturday, Canberra is set to introduce the 40km/h rule for passing emergency vehicles, and a 12 month trial of this rule starts in NSW in September.