Whether you realised it or not, there’s a new road rule that has launched in New South Wales as of September 1 and it will cost you and your drivers dearly if don’t abide by it.
Drivers must now slow to 40km/h when passing stationary emergency vehicles — which includes police cars, fire engines and ambulances — displaying red and blue flashing lights.
And the penalty for not doing so will be costly – $448 and three demerit points – so the onus is on drivers to take the new rules seriously and consider other drivers while on the road.
“The new road rule will provide extra protection for all emergency workers and volunteers who respond to crashes and other incidents on our roads,” Bernard Carlon, head of the NSW Centre for Road Safety said.
“When you see the blue or red flashing lights on an emergency vehicle stopped on the road, safely reduce your speed so that you are not exceeding 40km/h when you pass.
“Keep to 40km/h until you’ve safely passed all people and emergency vehicles.
“We want to ensure that people protecting us on our road network don’t become casualties while doing their jobs. This rule will give extra protection and confidence that at the end of a shift they can go home safely to families and friends.”
Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia have a similar rules in place — SA requires motorists to slow to 25km/h. To date, Queensland has rejected calls for a similar road rule.
The new rule will be trialled for 12 months before authorities consider a permanent move.
Who do I have to slow down for?
Drivers must slow to 40km/h for all emergency vehicles that have flashing lights or a sounding alarm that are either stopped or “moving slowly”. This list currently includes:
- NSW Police vehicles
- Ambulance NSW vehicles
- Metropolitan Fire Brigade vehicles
- State Emergency Service vehicles
- NSW Transport Safety Service vehicles
The rule doesn’t currently extend to tow trucks, roadside assistance vehicles or any other vehicles flashing their lights.
What is defined as a slow-moving vehicle?
The rule doesn’t provide a definition of ‘slow-moving’. The example given is of a vehicle that is moving slowly is “less than 10km/h“, for example “a fire truck extinguishing roadside spot fires is an example of a slow-moving emergency vehicle“.
How long do I need to drive at 40km/h before and after the emergency vehicle?
There is no clear cut answer to this. Drivers are encouraged to apply common sense that ultimately keeps the emergency vehicle, other drivers and themselves safe.
Do I need to slow down for all coloured lights?
The rule is only in effect for red, blue or magenta flashing lights. Drivers do not need to slow down for yellow lights or any others at this stage.
Does it matter which side of the road I am on?
Yes and no. As seen in the left diagram above both sides of traffic must slow down to 40km/h, regardless of how many lanes are involved. However the right diagram above features a median strip, meaning the driver on the opposite side can continue driving at the speed limit.
What are the potential penalties for not following the rule?
NSW drivers that don’t slow down to 40km/h risk a fine of $448 and a penalty of three demerit points.