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New Rules for Slowing Down around Emergency Vehicles

AHVT Drive Safe

New Rules for Slowing Down around Emergency Vehicles

As of September 26, road users will now be forced to slow down to 40km/h for all Emergency Vehicles with flashing lights including Tow Trucks and Recovery Vehicles.

Over the past 12 months, the government has been trialling a controversial road rule that required all road users to slow down to 40km/h when approaching and/or passing an emergency vehicle (police, ambulance and fire services) with flashing lights.

Despite the criticism of the new laws by many road safety bodies, and most notably the NRMA, over 900 fines were issued, as well as countless warnings to those who failed to oblige by the new rules.

The State Government have now announced that as of September 26 this road rule is becoming permanent, however, there are some changes to the rules that will likely appease the harsh critics.

Criticism of the "Slow Down" Road Rule

There have been harsh criticisms of the “Slow Down when approaching Emergency Vehicles with flashing lights” dating back to before the trial of the new rules was put in place – a criticism that gained momentum from a massive number of reports of near misses by both road users and emergency vehicle drivers.

The most notable of these reports came from bodycam footage of a police officer in the Ballina region which showed a Heavy Combination Truck Driver losing control and drifting towards the breakdown lane with his brakes locked.

One of the biggest issues with the implementation of this law is that many drivers do not realise that driving a Heavy Vehicle is not the same as driving a car, let alone a small car.

 

“For example, many road users have very little idea that it takes a substantially greater distance for a Loaded Heavy Vehicle to be able to reduce their speed from 100km/h to 40km/h as opposed to what it would in a car.”

The fact that this sudden and drastic change in speed was designed to ensure the safety of emergency services, the State Government faced mass-disapproval in the belief that the original rules were actually endangering drivers – and in-turn further endangering emergency workers crews.

Often drivers panic and try to slow down to 40km/h as quickly as possible, often without considering drivers who are sharing the road with them – despite the RMS and Police stressing the point of safely doing so.

With all of the above considered, the rule changes resulted in an outcry of harsh condemnation from Heavy Vehicle Drivers, with many bodies calling for better education on the rule, especially in regards to being aware of your surroundings.

For example, many road users have very little idea that it takes a substantially greater distance for a Loaded Heavy Vehicle to be able to reduce their speed from 100km/h to 40km/h as opposed to what it would in a car.

Speed Limits and Requirements

When driving on roads that have a speed limit of up to and including 80km/h, drivers will still need to slow down to 40km/h.

The big change is that now when driving on roads that carry a speed limit of 90km/h or higher, drivers and riders will no longer be required to slow down to 40km/h, however, they will need to “reduce their speed to a level that is reasonable for the circumstances”.

The RMS has also stated in their guidelines about the new road rules that “motorists must also provide sufficient space between their vehicle and the stationary tow truck, breakdown assistance or emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights. This will include changing lanes on a multi-lane road if it is safe to do so”.

There has already been some additional criticism of this part of the rule changes, with social media users calling the terminology “open-ended”, “complicated” and stating that “this opens the door to allow police too much power to exercise a fine for a loose definition of common-sense”

“When driving on roads that have a speed limit of up to and including 80km/h, drivers will still need to slow down to 40km/h.”

Addition of Emergency Vehicles

During the trial, drivers were only required to slow-down for Police, Ambulance and Fire Service Vehicles, however, now the law has also been extended to include Tow-Trucks, Emergency Recovery Vehicles and Roadside Assistance Vehicles with flashing yellow lights when stationary

Penalties and Fines

Regardless of your attitude towards the new laws, they are becoming official and when it comes to road users who decide to ignore these new rules, there will be consequences.

A $457 fine, as well as three demerit points, will be handed down, and the addition of a maximum court penalty that totals $2,200.

What is your opinion on the changes to this road rule? Head to the AHVT Facebook Page and leave a comment with your opinion.

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