Watch Out For This New Road Rule In NSW Tomorrow

Watch Out For This New Road Rule In NSW Tomorrow
Image: Getty

From September 1 you’re going to want to be a lot more careful around emergency vehicles on NSW roads, with a new law being trialed for the safety of emergency workers at roadside scenes. The new rule is going to come with a penalty of $448 and three demerit points if you break it, so you’re going to want to study up before it’s put in place.

Under the new regulations, drivers will be required to go 40km/h when driving past stationary emergency vehicles when their lights are flashing – just like you’re already required to do when passing a bus with flashing lights.

The new rule is designed to protect emergency workers attending to roadside scenes. “We want to ensure that people protecting us on our road network don’t become casualties while doing their jobs,” said the head of the NSW Centre for Road Safety, Bernard Carlon. “This rule will give extra protection and confidence that at the end of a shift they can go home safely to families and friends.”

For once I think this won’t be a hard rule to follow, considering most people already slow down to have a little look at what’s going on, or just to avoid a speed trap. Notably laws like this already exist in many states, including Victoria and WA, and South Australia where drivers have to slow down to just 25km/h.

The new rule is going to be trialed for 12 months from September, at which point a decision will be made as to whether it will be made permanent. From September, NSW motorists will also have to watch their phone use while driving, with penalties for texting and driving set to get even heavier.

NSW Texting And Driving Laws Are About To Get Much Tougher

From September 2018, just touching your phone while you're driving could be enough for NSW drivers to lose their license. The number of demerit points for using a phone while driving is set to increase from four to five this year, so drivers should probably brush up on the rules around phone use while driving now.

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  • Say you’re on a multi lane road, does this apply to drivers in all lanes or just the nearest lane?

    I’m in Vic and it would be downright dangerous for me to slam on the brakes to slow from 100 to 25 in the fast lane as people drive inches behind you.

    • In Victoria, every lane heading in the same direction has to slow to 40kph to pass stationary red and blue flashing lights (police, ambulance, fire).

    • If you need to slam your brakes to slow down for emergency services your eyesight is clearly that bad you should not be driving in the first place.

      • Not really, as mentioned it’s not clear if you need to be doing 25 when you’re alongside them, within 25 metres of them or as soon as you see them.

        Going from 100 to 25 requires significant braking so eyesight really has nothing to do with it.

        • You are required to slow down when they are pulled over and have lights on. You know, Those bright flashing things designed to grab your attention.

          Again. I’ll repeat this. If you are incapable of seeing emergency vehicles until the last couple of seconds, You should not be driving, As you are putting the lives of our emergency service personnel at risk.

          s mentioned it’s not clear if you need to be doing 25 when you’re alongside them, within 25 metres of them or as soon as you see them.

          Clearly you missed this in the article. Here ill highlight the important word here:

          Under the new regulations, drivers will be required to go 40km/h when driving past stationary emergency vehicles when their lights are flashing – just like you’re already required to do when passing a bus with flashing lights.

          You seem to not realize how this law will be enforced. If for example a cop car has pulled someone over and you fly past doing the speed limit, They will send someone after you. Thats all the law entails. If its stationary and has its lights on. SLOW DOWN. Their lives are more important than you getting somewhere on time.

          • I live in mountains that have heavy snow tourist traffic in winter, many of which get pulled over for speeding. When driving home at 100KM/H through mountainous terrain there are probably around 50 places over a 100KM drive where there is absolutely zero chance of being able to slow down from 100 to 40 for a stationary emergency vehicle with their lights flashing. The highway is in good condition, so doing 100 around bends and over rises is absolutely no issue.

            So pretty please, with sprinkles, can you quantify why I shouldn’t be driving if the road and terrain prevents me from seeing emergency vehicles until the last second?

          • Lets say i am in the overtaking lane in a 110km zone and there is a cop car on the side of the hyway with its lights on the whole of the 3 lane traffic barreling in at 100km/hr or so has to slow down to a 40km /hr crawl? Yeah , sure.

          • “Im gonna make up this very specific event that has a 0.01% chance of occurring in order to stop a law aimed at saving emergency services lives, Because me getting somewhere fast is more important than a police officer staying alive.

            I’m smart and not a c**t at all” – Erich Schinzel

        • Here. Ill even quote directly from the Vic Roads website which has the same law:

          You must slow down to a speed that would enable you to stop safely when approaching and passing enforcement, emergency or escort vehicles that are stationary or moving slowly (less than 10km/h)*, and have either:

          Red and blue flashing lights
          Magenta (purple flashing lights)
          An alarm sounding.
          You must not exceed 40km/h when passing the vehicle and not increase your speed until a safe distance from the scene (more on this below).

          If you cant understand something that simple you are mentally incapable of driving.

          • Thanks for the lesson Professor McDriver.

            You seem great at the theory of driving but obviously have never actually driven a car.

            There is no way on earth the average road users will all interperate this rule in the same way.

            I guarantee that some will slam on their brakes the second they see flashing lights. Some will slam on their brakes a second before passing the parked car. And others will ignore the rule and beep and flash those who obey the rule.

            If you can’t understand that this rule will cause more accidents than it prevents then you are the one mentally incapable of driving!

          • Another person versed in driving theory but with no experience of actual driving.

            People don’t keep 2-4 seconds behind. They barely keep 2-4 metres behind.

            I agree with the theory of the rule but the average driver on the roads makes this rule dangerous.

          • The rule has existed in Victoria for almost a year now. Not a single accident as a result of it.

          • Thanks for the lesson Professor McDriver.

            Thanks for the new nickname, Sounds like an awesome superhero 🙂

            You seem great at the theory of driving but obviously have never actually driven a car.

            I drive a car daily. Have been doing so for a long time. So F- on that one bud

            There is no way on earth the average road users will all interperate this rule in the same way.

            When the speed limits change on a road, Do people slam on the breaks and instantly slow down right on the sign? or do they gradually slow down.

            If you can’t understand that this rule will cause more accidents than it prevents then you are the one mentally incapable of driving!

            Clearly, you value your IMAGINARY situations not happening or people getting somewhere on time over the lives of our emergency services personnel. I mean who cares if a police officer is hit and killed by a car, At least you got to work on time nimrod,

            Stop driving.

          • As somebody who drives these big vans with the flashing lights, i.e. Professor McDriver, if you can’t figure out this incredibly simple rule, or can’t pay attention to what’s going on up the road, then you’re a shitty driver and shouldn’t be on the road.

          • Couldn’t agree more. I wish you would pull over more bad drivers I see a lot of highly dangerous maneuvers on Melbourne’s highways every time I drive.

      • To djbear : travelling at 110K, cresting a hill, followed by a loaded truck, we hope to use the downhill run to make overtaking a slow moving caravan safe, legal and efficient. Hypothetical: suddenly confronted by flashing lights at close range it would be difficult to reach 40K without heavy braking, an extremely dangerous situation for one and all. This is one of many hypotheticals requiring immediate risk assesment before acting on impulse. The question being: will this create another revenue raising opportunity or will common sense prevail?

  • Whilst I undertsand the intent behind the rule, the implementation is left wanting.

    Here’s an example, you are driving along the M4 motorway at 110kmh. For once traffic is actually flowing, but the Highway Patrol parked off to the side of the road decides to pull over a vehicle for an offence and turns on his red & blue lights. You now have the siutation where all three lanes of traffic have to jump of the brakes to slow to 40kmh as they pass. How many nose-to-tail accidents is this going to cause?

    The next query is, at what point before the incident vehicle do you have to have decreased your speed down to 40kmh and how far after you pass before you can speed up, 100-metres, 50-metres.

    Whilst I am all for protecting our emergency workers, this seems to be yet another poorly implemented attempt that will be open to abuse.

    • This is exactly my thinking. I just can’t imagine 3 lanes of traffic slowing to 40 and what about people who aren’t aware or forgot of the rule especially the 18 wheeler locking up their brakes. Can see many people honking at you and screaming what are you doing.

      Then the enforcement, does the cop who pulled over the car leave that person to now pull over the car that wasn’t doing 40 or lanes of cars and then leave that car to catch the person who also wasn’t doing 40, be a loop de loop.

    • Those are some good points. I can understand trying to protect an emergency worker but some of the definitions really need to be tightened up.

      Out of curiosity does anyone know what (if any) similar laws apply in QLD? I can’t say that I’ve seen any, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

      • Vicroads provides definitions.

        How should I slow down safely to comply with the new road rule on a high speed road?
        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.

        Reducing speed, even if the vehicle does not get down to 40km/h, will still have safety benefits for law enforcement or emergency workers and will help drivers take evasive action if needed.

        People seem to act like our emergency service personnel are stupid and don’t think of the dangers of where they park. They are trained to assess the danger of where they stop. They won’t park in a blind spot unless absolutely necessary and even then they will still make attempts to make themselves highly visible as them being hidden from view puts both their lives and the public lives in danger.

        • Good on Vic Roads for that wonderful set of definitions. What they have to do with NSW road rules I’m sure you will tell us but basically they are inconsequential.

          Considering that I have seen NSW Police establish RBT’s immediately after the crest of a hill and park their vehicles on the shared footpath/bikepath thus forcing me to take my children onto the roadway to get past, yes, sometimes our emergency services personnel can be stupid and either don’t think about the dangers of where they park or deliberately ignore them.

          • The NSW revenue Force (Police tax collecting force) will apply this to gain as much revenue as possible with little disregard to actual safety ….What a joke

        • No that’s missing the point. If they’re going to set a speed limit and fine people there needs to be actual rules not vague guidelines. Take this quote:

          Reducing speed, even if the vehicle does not get down to 40km/h, will still have safety benefits for law enforcement or emergency workers and will help drivers take evasive action if needed.

          That implies the drivers don’t actually have to slow to 40. Yet the NSW legislation says you’ll be fined if you do more than 40. I know that your examples are from a different state, but they highlight the need to get the rules right. On a side note, it also highlights the perils of interstate driving since the rules vary from state to state.

          I’d be really worried if this rule becomes law in Vic too because they’re notoriously zero tolerance on speed. At least in other states there is still a small margin of error applied.

          • What its saying is you have to make an attempt to slow down. If you fly by without slowing down you will be chased after and pulled over. The police officer is severely unlikely to go after you for not slowing down to exactly 40.

          • Nope it’s still vague. I slowed from 100 to 80, someone else slowed from 100 to 60 another person managed to slow 100-40. All three could be considered appropriate by the driver depending on a few variables. Driver 1 might be in the far right lane or driving a heavy truck. Driver 2 might be in the middle lane driving a large sedan while driver 3 could be in the closest lane and driving a mid size car.

            The truck whizzes past super fast in comparison to the mid size. But from his point of view he’s done what he can. So should he get nailed by the cops? What about the guy in the centre lane?

            In the ideal world I agree with you, that it shouldn’t need codified rules and limits because people would be reasonable about it and make a decent attempt. In turn the cops would be reasonable about it and not pursue them. However, we all know that’s not the reality of the world. There are unreasonable people in both positions so as soon as you don’t have clarity it’s going to be abused by one or both sides of the equation.

          • Up to the fifth time I’ve tried to post this, because it errors every time I hit submit. *sigh*

            Just wanted to add that somewhat ironically I think we’d both prefer the somewhat “vague” approach the Victoria has outlined where it’s more about reasonable effort.

            I’d much rather have a scenario where if I’m passing an accident that’s on the shoulder of a three lane highway and I’m the only car in three lanes I slow down to say, 80 and move to the far right and that’s ok because of the situation. And if it was the same scenario but more traffic the far right lane keeps moving relatively quickly but the left and centre lanes slow down more, probably to 40 and 60 respectively. And again, if there is very heavy traffic everyone slows down to 40.

            Similarly, the type of incident should probably have a bearing. A car smash has more reason to slow people down than a police stop for speeding. There could potentially be debris or oil on the road and there is more of a “panic” state from participants in comparison to a speeding ticket which is typically more controlled and slower paced.

            But as I said in a different post, because of the problems with different opinions on reasonable between people and between police I think it’d be safer all round to codify the rules and restrictions a lot more accurately.

    • You and anteaters clearly do not understand this rule. If the cop has just pulled someone over. He/She is not going to let that person go just to chase after you because you did not slow down to 40 instantly.

      They will go after the people who fly by at the road speed limit when they are stationary and have their lights on. It’s up to the officer’s discretion whether they go after you. If you made an attempt to slow down they won’t come after you for doing 45 instead of 40.

      If the officer is administrating, for example, a breath test and you fly by doing 100, You should rightfully be pulled over and punished.

      Your theoretical situations are nonsense and frankly seem like you and others are grasping at straws because you don’t want to have to slow down.

      • It would appear that you don’t understand motorways and how they work. Probably the only part of my scenario that could be considered theoretical would that the M4 would be flowing well enough to actually get to 110kmh. 🙂

        I like how you can provide such iron-clad guarantees with respect to police enforcement policies.

        Like I clearly stated, I have no problem with the intent of the rule, being to protect those that are their in times of need rather the implementation.

        Seeing as how you are so righteous, please explain why the rule is limited to only emergency services with red & blue lights and not extended to tow trucks, road service, etc or don’t their lives matter.

        The full legal wording of the new law is as follows:

        Schedule 1 Amendment of Road Rules 2014
        Rule 78–1
        Insert after rule 78:
        78–1 NSW rule: Approaching or passing stationary emergency response vehicles
        (1) A driver approaching a stationary emergency response vehicle on a road that
        is displaying a flashing blue or red light must give way to any person who is
        on foot in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle.
        Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.
        Note. Approaching is defined in the Dictionary.
        (2) A driver must not drive past, at a speed exceeding 40 kilometres per hour, a
        stationary emergency response vehicle on a road that is displaying a flashing
        blue or red light.
        Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.
        (3) A driver who drives past a stationary emergency response vehicle on a road
        that is displaying a flashing blue or red light must not increase speed until the
        driver is at a sufficient distance from the vehicle so as to avoid causing a
        danger to any person in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle.
        Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.
        (4) A driver does not commit an offence under this rule if the driver is driving on
        a road that is divided by a median strip and the emergency response vehicle is
        on the other side of the road beyond the median strip.
        Note. Median strip is defined in the Dictionary.
        (5) This rule applies to a driver despite any other rule of these Rules.
        (6) In this rule:
        emergency response vehicle means a vehicle being used by any of the
        (a) the NSW Police Force,
        (b) the Ambulance Service of NSW,
        (c) Fire and Rescue NSW (including a fire brigade within the meaning the
        Fire Brigades Act 1989),
        (d) the NSW Rural Fire Service,
        (e) the NSW State Emergency Service,
        (f) the Authority,
        (g) the Transport Management Centre,
        (h) the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association.
        Note. This rule is an additional NSW rule. There is no corresponding rule in the
        Australian Road Rules.

      • They’re not unlikely hypotheticals. It’s very common to see a car pulled over for speeding on the side of the highway with a cop car flashing it’s lights.

        That said, I wonder whether we’re misinterpreting the rule. Take the line here;

        A driver approaching a stationary emergency response vehicle on a road

        I’ve bolded the bit that may be causing confusion. When they say “on a road” do they only mean the emergency vehicle is actually stopped in a lane traffic, or does it include an emergency vehicle pulled over onto the shoulder?

        If it’s the former I would agree that we should be slowing right down since it’s actually altering the flow of traffic (blocking a lane). However, if it includes cars that are completely pulled off the road and on the shoulder I’d disagree.

          • While I appreciate the link you could have saved everyone the time and just said here.

        • However, if it includes cars that are completely pulled off the road and on the shoulder I’d disagree.

          Why? They are in just as much danger if they are stopped in a lane than if they are on the side of the road. Ive seen footage from America where cops have pulled someone over and are standing next to the drivers side of the car only to have cars either narrowly miss them almost killing them or plow right into the car.

          Pull your car over on a highway and stand next to the drivers side for a period of time while people fly by at over 100, See how safe you feel.

          • I still disagree for a couple reasons. Firstly the shoulders are variable. In some cases they’re very wide and you can easily stand on the side of them to work on a vehicle or talk to a person and still feel safe while doing so (I’ve done so myself). Secondly, we’ve discussed whether it’s appropriate to slow down if you’re in the far lane. You could literally be three lanes away from the car on the shoulder.

            I think there are still flaws in the proposal and that it could use better clarification. Here’s a simple one. Many (probably all) emergency vehicles already have the emergency/breakdown markers. So you word the law along the lines of “the speed limit is reduced to 40k between the emergency markers”. When they stop at a smash or pull over someone they put down an emergency marker before and after the incident.

            That way there’s perfect clarity for drivers as to where the actual limits will be enforced.

    • Also has anyone considered the “tailback” effect in this on busy roads? For those unfamiliar tailback is where traffic slows for a maybe insignificant reason and impacts flow of traffic for considerable distances behind them. I am all for safety but common sense as well.

  • It would be great if the road agencies emailed all constituents to advise of such changes to road rules. It sometimes seems that advertising to the diminishing rump of TV watchers is the only mechanism for getting the message out.

    • Amen! Considering we get at least one letter in the mail a year when we have to renew our rego it’d seem logical to include a leaflet outlining rule changes in the last year, or at least pointing to a webpage with a list of the changes.

  • I agree with the opinion that this may cause a safety issue.
    I was driving at 100Km/h on the M2 this morning where a car was stopped by a motorbike cop. It was on a slight bend with a number of trucks on the inside lane and I didn’t see his flashing lights until maybe 100m away.
    The interesting point, I guess, is that nobody had slowed down (despite this article suggesting the change came into force today). That put me in a dangerous situation as I would have been the only one breaking.
    Once everyone follows the rule though, the car in the front of the line slows down then those behind will slow down due to his braking (even when they can’t see the reason) and hence we will all be doing 40Km/h by the time we reach the emergency vehicle.
    What will that do to Sydney roads? Car Park. There is plenty of scientific evidence that when cars slow down on a busy road the effect is a traffic jam going way back from the event that caused the slowdown.
    There is also an IEEE paper on it for those that are memebers.
    And finally …… I tried to find out the details of the law in NSW so went to the NSW website
    I couldn’t find anything about the rule change. I tried searching for “emergency vehicles”. Still can’t find it.
    There are lost of “discussions” about the law above with links to Vic road rules – can anyone find a link to a government site that lists the rules for NSW?

  • This law has existed in Vic for almost a year.

    Not a single accident cause. Not a single imaginary event occurred mentioned by those above.

    Some of you seem to just want to grasp at straws so you don’t have slowed down for our emergency services personnel

  • As somebody who has almost been killed multiple times while attending a crash on public roads – this law is just common fucking sense. When I jump out of my ambulance I take all reasonable measures for my own safety and that of the patient, but I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. If you hit me at 100km/hr, you’ll kill me. There’s a reason I hide behind the pump truck – if you hit that, you’ll probably just kill yourself. But I’m usually first on scene and my ambulance doesn’t hold up to the same punishment. Depending on the scene that shoulder on the side of the road might only just give me enough space to work – on a smaller capacity road there isn’t much space there at all. I also need to leave the scene eventually – and on a motorway merging into 110km/hr traffic from the road shoulder isn’t fun. Having you slow down gives you time to assess the hazard (i.e. the scene we’re attending) and react to any changes – like a direction to stop, or to merge, or to allow us to move some equipment or vehicles.

    For all the people suggesting it’ll cause more accidents – I’ve observed loads of people successfully slow down when they notice a speed camera on the side of the motorway without causing a massive pile up. I’m sure if you can notice that, you can notice the flashing lights on the side of the road.

    Honestly if I had my way, we’d just close the next lane adjacent to the incident, because to be perfectly honest I don’t particularly care that you’re 30 minutes late for work when I’m trying to extricate somebody who is critically injured. The times I’ve almost been hit have actually been on regular public roads signposted at 60 to 80km/hr – people knew there was a hazard, but people tend to naturally steer where they’re looking, and came way too close to us as they were rubbernecking.

    This isn’t just about protecting the highway cop writing a ticket on the motorway.

    • A couple comments in relation to this. I view a crash differently to a police stop. But the law doesn’t in this case. So that’s a problem.

      I actually agree with you that if you’ve got a serious crash they closest lane should be blocked off to allow you working space. I have no problem with that at all.

      As for the people hitting you at 100k, I suspect that the sort of people who hit emergency services workers at speed are not paying attention and probably won’t actually respect a speed limit anyway. So changing the limits probably only affects the people who are careful and wouldn’t hit you. Meaning it doesn’t really solve the problem.

      I understand your point about the shoulder being narrow in some places. And it definitely is, but it’s also huge in others. Similarly, in some places it one lane others 2 or 3, narrow roads versus wide, shit weather v clear and so. I feel like the rule is being made for worst case and ignoring a variety of other scenarios.

      I also feel like it should be clearer about when you can “return to speed”. Is it the moment you get past the accident or do you need to wait 30m or 100m or what?

      • The people hitting us at 100km/hr (or coming close) actually do know that the accident is there – in fact, that’s why they come close. They rubberneck, naturally steer in the direction they’re looking, and come too close. Alternatively they rubberneck and create a hazard for someone else. A slow zone around the incident scene calms all the traffic around it, hopefully from before the accident (you should slow down before reaching it, not slamming on the brakes as you approach), and makes it less likely for these fucking morons to cause major injuries or damage if they do get distracted.

        The rule is made for worst case scenario because expecting people to apply it in different situations is asking for trouble – people deal with simple blanket rules better than multiple rules. For example in Qld everyone harps on about ‘you must keep in the left lane unless overtaking’ but completely ignores that the rule only applies if the road is over 80km/hr or a sign tells you to do so. Asking people to only slow down if the shoulder is 2 car widths or whatever is going to lead to people fucking it up.

  • Being in an emergency service agency, it is amazing how many people:
    1) Can’t see witches hats
    2) Do not slow down at all
    3) Try to drive through a road that has been blocked (or doing illegal u-turns)
    4) In a hurry to get to there destination

    And I have seen police with there radar guns out while on scene, so you can get a fine if you’re not slowing down.

  • As a South Australian I’m amazed at how many spoiled so and so’s there are in the eastern states. get over yourselves. We slow down to 25km/hr with no issues, it is about being a safe and considerate road user who drives to the conditions. What id there was a tree down across the road, would you expect to go 100km/hr through it? No.. you should be driving in a manner that gives you time to stop, so slowing down to 40 is a no brainer.

    And while I’m at it, we gave up single use plastic bags years ago and the world didn’t collapse. Taking bags with you when you shop is just common sense.

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