Ask LH: Can I Get Booked For Bad Driving In A Shopping Centre?

Ask LH: Can I Get Booked For Bad Driving In A Shopping Centre?

Dear Lifehacker, A follow up to your recent item on driving rules in NSW and Victoria. I was recently booked by the police for talking on my mobile phone in a Qld shopping centre carpark. Fair enough if I was on a public road, but this is private property. This seems a bit harsh to me. What do you think? Thanks, Private Driver

Picture: Mr Wabu Dear PD,

I’m duty bound to point out that I didn’t so much flunk out of my law degree as never actually apply for a law degree in the first place. I’m not a lawyer, in other words, but if I’m being really frank, I don’t have that much sympathy for your position if the car was in any way in motion, or likely to be. It’s not clear from your query if the car was totally stopped, but from your description it sounds like it wasn’t. I’m also assuming you weren’t using a hands-free speaker of some sort.

Which means your car is moving, there are other cars around which are either moving or are likely to be, and there are pedestrians both big and small, all of whom assume that the driver is doing what the driver should be doing: paying attention to the road, whether private or public.

If you are yapping on your phone instead, you’re a potential danger to everyone else around you. Would you expect your insurance company to fail to pay up on a comprehensive policy if you did crash into something unexpected because you were on a “private” road? I doubt it. It’s also equally unlikely that the shopping centre car park had any kind of signage up that suggested that normal road rules didn’t apply; that would be a liability lawsuit waiting to happen, not to mention markedly insane.

Or in other words, suck up the fine and go and buy a Bluetooth speaker; the chances are high your handset has Bluetooth, and as such, you’re legally allowed to speak on your phone that way, while keeping everyone else around you safe.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Also not a lawyer, but despite being in a private owned complex, its still a public place – so like LH said; you were a danger to others around you.Also on this point, I believe that the road traffic act has a clause that says that the act can extend to private property that the general public has access too.

    In the end, you were doing the wrong thing. Learn your lesson, man up and pay the fine.

  • In NSW at least, a public car park is classified as a “road related area” and therefore the same rules apply as on a public road. I’d say Qld are similar by the sounds of it .

  • I’ve often wondered how much we *need* to obey arrows on the ground in private car parks. Obviously just doing whatever you want could create chaos and make you a douche, but what’s the legal requirement?

    My theory is that legally speaking, they’re just suggestions. If I take a shortcut down a path that that means going in the opposite direction of the arrow on the ground, could I get booked for driving the wrong way down a one-way street or some such? Surely it would have to be more formally signed if that was the case…

    • Total guesswork, but I’d imagine you’d be more likely to get booked for something along the lines of dangerous driving (because other drivers wouldn’t reasonably expect you to do that, etc). You’d certainly be liable if anything did happen, I’d think.

    • i know first hand you can get booked for speeding in a public council carpark where the are no signs but common sense says you apparently dont do over 10kph even at midnight when the place is empty, which is in similar vein to obey arrows, but shopping center (private) car parks are a different kettle of fish

  • In Queensland, it doesn’t matter if you are in a car park, in your own driveway or on the street. If you have the engine on and are talking on the phone, you can be fined.

    For Queensland, you must have the engine off and keys out when talking on a mobile phone.

    • i highly doubt they can book your for using your phone in your car in the driveway of your private property whats next they book you for graffiti when you paint your house…

      • The difference is that you’re unlikely to lose control of your can of spray paint and kill a bystander. Although yes, that’s unlikely on a driveway.. But I know some pretty bad drivers.

        • if your that stupid that you somehow lose control of your stationary car in driveway because your on a phone you shouldn’t be driving period, obviously certain laws still apply to private properties, gunfire for instance, because of the possibility of harming others but mobile phone use whilst behind the wheel isn’t or shouldn’t be one,

      • You have to remember that you can be fined if you are parked almost anywhere if you are in the drivers seat, with the engine on while you are on your mobile phone. This includes if you are in your own drive way. I didn’t create the law on this one, I just know people who have experienced it by getting fined while the engine is on and they are seating in the drivers sit while talking on the phone. Also, this is for Queensland and not South Australia or Victoria. Each state has different laws for this area.

      • In Vic at least you just need to be in park with the handbrake on. Even on the side of the road. Drink driving however, my friend was asleep in the back seat in a friends driveway, keys in his pocket, and got done for drink driving. Even though he had no intention of driving. THAT is a load of crap.

        • Its not a ‘load of crap’. You’re LEGALLY in charge of a vehicle. Do what truckies do, stick the keys outside the vehicle under the tyre arch then go to sleep. Cant be booked if the keys arent in the car in your possession.

          You cant argue that you’re not in charge of the vehicle, for all the Police know – you could be just stopped for a minute. Theres too many grey areas for it not to be illegal.

  • well that wasn’t a helpful response at all i kinda hope someone in the know posts up..

    but i would think that it would all come down to what the shopping center does/what the law makes them do… if its a private property the police cant book you for dangerous driving obviously but the fact its so open to the public theres probably either a law forcing shopping centers to allow police or for ohs ec the shopping center allows it anyway, if you dont find out here i would actually go an ask a lawyer in the know as it very well could be out of the cops duritsiction and deserving or not you shouldn’t pay it on principal alone

      • well technically yes, private property is exactly that private and certain laws like driving while on mobile phone dont apply, think a paddock basher, obviously the fact that its a highly accessible public place despite being privately owned changes things, wether or not it changes it so much that regular road laws apply was the core of the PD’s question

        i dont condone endangering others but the core legal issue stands and wasn’t addressed in that reply

      • From what I know, if the car park was not gated and closed off to the public, it is then seen as a public place. If the public can drive directly into the carpark it is classed as a public place ie road.

      I have never seen a word spelt more wrong.

        • *facepalm myself*
          For some reason when I copied “duritsiction” into Word the ‘i’s became ‘l’s (or I’m just blind)…
          Let’s blame Microsoft and not think that I might just be an idiot…

          • That’s funny. Along these lines, anyone know what “tupeim” is a typo for? “ruptime”. And yes, there’s an actual reason, and believe it or not, it is an off-by-one error of an unusual sort. I used to have to alias it, I did it so reliably.

  • Perhaps the smackdown is warranted (justice), but for a legal question you might want to find your answer with people who understand the law (not necessarily related to justice). Of course such expertise may come at more expense than the fine itself (oh wait, the law versus justice bit again – damn soapboxing).

  • I’m pretty sure a short woman got booked trying to get into the boom gates at Entertainment Quarter/Fox Studios. I point out she was short, because she got booked for undoing her seatbelt to lean out the window to get to the ticket dispenser.
    Pretty poor effort by the police there, they have discretionary powers for non-indictable offences – but there’s a big difference between dangerously driving with a mobile phone in a parking lot (I believe ACA will have a segment on this tonight) and being parked at a boom gate and having issues getting a ticket.

  • On reading the legislation,

    Did the car-park have a boom gate? Did you have to pay for the parking?

    If so, I would argue that the ‘private property’ was explicitly private in form and function… by virtue of the security measure(s) and physical barrier(s) at the perimeter(s) of the space which is clearly ‘private’, for the purposes of the legislation – It did not meet the definition of a public space.

    Further, and more particularly – it advantages your defence if you were obligated to pay for your parking, or provide a proof-of-purchase upon exit as payment. Any such obligations server as further indicia that the car-park in question was indeed a very private space, reserve exclusively for the privilege of the owner’s paying customers and it could in no way constitute the type of a designated public space in act that would be characterised by the free movement of any member of the public and and out without commercial restrictions… think about the car-parks owned by council at the beach edge or lookouts or rest-areas on interstate highways.

    I t comes down to the legislation and the applicability of the statute to your circumstance.

    If the glove don’t fit – then the court must acquit.

  • According to the Transport Operations Regulation 2009 Section 11 (1) “This regulation applies to vehicles and road users on roads and road-related areas.” Section 13 (1) defines a road-related area as (d) “an area that is not a road and that is open to, or used by, the public for parking vehicles.” Therefore they are completely in the right to charge you under section 300 of the same regulation.
    Regardless if you thought it was legal, or not, you should NOT be using your mobile phone while operating a vehicle. EVER.

  • “Road” on private land that is not used by the public = your driveway = police can’t fine you.
    “Road” on private land that is used by the public = shopping centre = police can fine you.

  • Road rules apply to an area that is “OPEN TO OR USED BY the public for driving, riding or parking vehicles” – Ownership of the road has nothing to do with it.

  • I’ve also wondered about those special parking spaces for “parents with prams”. Are they legally enforceable? I know the ACROD ones are, but these ones don’t look official.

  • Not sure about the signs and speed limits in parking lots, but other road rules definetely apply.

    Generally public areas are anywhere easily accessable by the public, or where the public have been delibrately exluded (eg: a sign saying private property), but it all depends on the words of the statute.

    The only defence to any strict liability law (means intent “mens rea” is not nessarcy to break the law) such as this is Honest and Reasonable Mistake.

    Depending the words of the statute he was charged under it may be possible to argue you honeslty belived that the area was not a “public area” and any reasonable person could make it.

    The mistake also has to render the accussed act innocent, meaning if you were caught under any other laws (such as tresspass, or maybe reckless driving in this case) the defence would not work.

  • A prime example of the spiral Australia finds itself in – people lack judgement and require more rules, more rules leads to lazy judgement… Common sense isn’t so common anymore 🙁

  • i hope this answer doesn’t get lost in the opinions and garbage above.

    in queensland the transport operations and road use management act is the operative piece of legislation regarding driving.


    (a) includes a busway under the Transport Infrastructure Act 1994; and
    (b) includes an area that is—
    (i) open to or used by the public and is developed for, or has as 1 of its uses, the driving or riding of motor vehicles, whether on payment of a fee or otherwise; or
    (ii) dedicated to public use as a road; but
    (c) does not include an area declared under a regulation not to be a road.
    Example of an area that is a road—
    a bridge, cattle grid, culvert, ferry, ford, railway crossing, shopping centre car park, tunnel or viaduct

  • Let’s put aside the legality for a moment. Is your car any less dangerous because the road you’re on is owned by a private company? No? Ok, then PUT THE FUCKING PHONE DOWN BEFORE YOU KILL SOMEONE, SHITHEAD.

  • Regarding Transport Operations (Road Use Management—Road Rules) Regulation 2009 (QLD)

    Part 2 Application of this regulation

    Division 1 Roads and road-related areas

    11 Regulation applies to vehicles and road users on roads and road-related areas

    (1) This regulation applies to vehicles and road users on roads and road-related areas.
    (2) A reference in this regulation (except in this division) to a road includes a reference to a road-related area, unless otherwise expressly stated in this regulation.
    Examples for subsection (2)—
    1 A reference in section 146 (which deals with driving within a single marked lane or line of traffic) to the road includes a reference to the road-related area of the road.
    2 A reference in section 200(1) (which deals with certain heavy or long vehicles stopping on roads) to a length of road includes a reference to the road-related area of the length of road.
    3 A reference in section 31 (which deals with starting a right turn from a road, except a multi-lane road) to a road does not include a reference to a road-related area, because of the definition in subsection (5) of that section.
    12 Section number not used
    13 What is a road-related area
    (1) A road-related area is any of the following—
    (a) an area that divides a road;
    (b) a footpath or nature strip adjacent to a road;
    (c) an area that is not a road and that is open to the public and designated for use by cyclists or animals;
    (d) an area that is not a road and that is open to, or used by, the public for parking vehicles.

    (2) However, unless the contrary intention appears, a reference in this regulation (except this division) to a road-related area
    includes a reference to—
    (a) any shoulder of a road; and
    (b) any other area that is a footpath or nature strip as defined in the dictionary.
    (3) In this section—
    shoulder, of a road—
    (a) includes any part of the road that is not designed to be used by motor vehicles in travelling along the road; and
    (b) includes—
    (i) for a kerbed road—any part of the kerb; and
    (ii) for a sealed road—any unsealed part of the road, and any sealed part of the road outside an edge line on the road; but
    (c) does not include a bicycle path, footpath or shared path.

    • Summarised as

      According to QLD Road Rules
      Any road rule that applies to a “Road” is also applicable to “Road-related Areas”
      Road Related Areas include amongst other things “Car Parks”.

  • This seems a lot less like an answer to the question for the benefit/information of all, and a lot more like a moral opinion.
    Simply directing the individual to a law resource for advice, or linking to some legislation as Kristan did would have been fine, you could have slagged the guy off afterwards. for those in NSW who are interested.

  • I’ve previously been booked for doing 24kmh in a shopping centre that had a 5kmh speed limit. I wrote a letter to the officer in charge at the station and he withdrew the fine with a warning stating even doing 6 kmh in a shopping centre can result in a fine.

  • ok senerio,tollways are owned by private companies yet police enforce toll fines yet are not licienced debt collectors,their job is to enforce road and criminal laws not making demmands for payments.
    camera fines sent out are illegal without conviction and the burdon of proof of idenity of the driver has to be beyond doubt

    speed camera,s are not callibrated as per weights and measures act section 109 as required by law and are infact so called callibrated by a learning institute known as RMIT

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