The Road Rules You Didn’t Realise You Were Breaking

The Road Rules You Didn’t Realise You Were Breaking

For most, the road rules you remember best are the ones that got you through the mandatory driving tests, beyond which rested a probationary license. Oh, and the ones a police officer has fined you for violating since acquiring said license. But no one’s really up to speed on every road rule in existence and certainly not the specific aberrations between Australian states.

The Sydney Morning Herald has an article over in the Drive section that covers some of the major differences in road rules between NSW and Victoria and highlights the stranger and less-known regulations.

Apparently, you can be fined $165 in NSW for splashing mud on a bus, but it’s perfectly OK to do the same in Victoria. If you regularly signal your street-bound departures with a push of the horn and a wave of the arm, you could be up for six demerit points and $898 in fines in NSW, while the most you’d cop in Victoria is zero demerit points and $282.

As you’d expect, phone usage is mentioned. Again, NSW and Victoria have varying opinions on what is and isn’t kosher:

If your car is parked legally and safely off the road (ie: not waiting at the lights or in slow-moving traffic) but the engine is running, you’re OK to use the phone in NSW.

But in Victoria, if you’re parked legally and safely off the road and the engine is still running — and you’re in the driver’s seat — that’s still a ticket. In Victoria the engine must be off otherwise you are “in charge of a motor vehicle”.

The SMH piece features plenty more comparisons, which you can read about at the link below.

The road rules you didn’t know [Sydney Morning Herald]

This story has been updated since its original publication.


    • Written tests are bogus. I’m 23 and have no need for a liscence other than for ID. I’ve aced 2 written tests with 30 mins prep. I have never driven a car in my life and they are THAT easy

      • That’s because a written test is testing knowledge of road rules (which are not that hard, once you do the 30 mins prep to learn them), not the ability to drive safely and proficiently. It’s important to test ability to drive when you get your license, which I’m sure you’d fail in your current state.

  • Interesting article. Slightly OT but in line with a previous commenters observations… I too agree that EVERYONE should have to pass at least a “written” road rules test EVERYTIME a drivers license is renewed

    And over the age of 75 every driver should have to pass “written” test, eye-test, and practical driving test. Harsh I know… and it may mean that my own parents may not have licenses shortly… but I’d rather that than they cause harm to themselves and/or others….

    • I’m a big advocate of this myself, I’d even go as far as to remove the use of a 4WD Vehicle (I’m talking large Range Rover / Landcruiser type 4WDs, not those silly ones you see mums picking up their schoolkids in that have 4WD as an option) to a standard Car Class Licence.

      It really should be a Light Rigid Vehicle. A large 4WD is very heavy, harder to drive / park than a standard car and harder to navigate in traffic (wider turning circle). Its no different to a 2-4 ton truck. They also have a larger stopping distance and lower viewing angle.

      • You obviously don’t own or have never driven a large 4WD.
        We got our first one a couple of years back to tow the horse float. And it is easier to park, has a tighter turning circle (than the Volvo sedan we had, which had an admittedly poor turn performance).
        Is EASIER to see hazards from height.
        If all basic driving precautions are taken (physical check to the rear of the car before entering, check that young children are not “loose” when reversing. I would go so far as to say our Prado is safer than all of the Volvos we have owned.

  • The thing that comes to mind after reading the SMH article is why on Earth don’t we have national road rules? Does something that’s dangerous in NSW become suddenly less/more dangerous as you cross into Vic or Qld or SA?

    • Its something to do with our Constitution. For some reason it gives the states the most control over laws, other than specific blanket powers federally. From what I understand, the majority of laws can be customised to suit a specific states needs, much like USA.

      Why Driving laws arent nationalised is beyond me, but it would require a referendum to amend the constitution which for the most part; never ends up passing anything. (Us Aussies – we’re a backward and stubborn lot sometimes).

      • Or the states could just get together and synchronise the rules… no referendum, just common sense. Apparently, it’s the same problem with bushfire monitoring and management.

  • The thing that gets me is not that there are rules that people aren’t aware of. Because really a 20 question multiple choice exam isn’t the most difficult to pass. But that all the different departments in charge of transport licensing have your address on file (that’s how we get those pesky fines in the mail). But that when a law is changes / repealed / whatever that we the road users aren’t notified by way of mail (electronic / snail). They remember to send you licence reminders and fines, but not the common courtesy of letting you know what new changes there are to the laws.

    • This has bugged me since i started driving, they introduce new laws all the time, there are laws that you were never told when learning (in fact i would go as far to say there are more laws than any normal person could remember and still be able to concentrate on actually driving instead of evaluating everything you do with the laws). They say ignorance isn’t an excuse, but i think passing a law and not telling people that it effects/making it easy for them to learn about is grounds enough to make it unenforceable.

      Granted a lot for the laws are common sense (although the number of people that have any common sense at all is getting lower all the time), then there are unclear laws like
      “Many of us know it is an offence to not give way to an emergency vehicle.”
      But does that count if your at a red light and a emergency vehicle with its lights on pull up behind you. (They make it clear when it suits them like the not using phone when engine is running)

      As other have said the rules need to be nationalised and made more accessible (as if they would actually want people learn the rules, then they would get less fine money).

  • The idea that making people do a test every time there is a renewal would place an enormous strain on government services, and frankly, is a complete waste of time since it wouldn’t influence driver behaviour at all. People would all just get 10yr licenses and there would be online cheat sheets available.

    Practical driving courses are a much more fruitful way to influence driver safety and behavior.

  • Pretty ridiculous that you can’t use your phone whilst parked in a parking spot if your engine is on (Melbourne). Perhaps the legislators lost sight of why there needs to be a ban on using a phone while driving.

    • That is pretty ridiculous, but is due to a very reasonable attempt to keep laws simple.
      If the engine is running, the person behind the wheel is “in control of a motor vehicle”.

      Another example is the blanket ban on sale of knives to minors in Vic. In order to keep the law simple and easy to enforce, it applies to all knives. No exeptions. Even (and here’s the ridiculous bit) plastic disposable picnic cutlery.

  • The article actually isn’t 100% correct.
    There is a lot of case law in Victoria that constitutes when someone is in charge of a motor vehicle. They appear not have taken any of this into account when they wrote the article. Merely having the engine running whilst talking on the phone would not constitute an offence. Sitting at lights waiting for the lights to change green is a different matter….

  • There are dozens upon dozens of rules which most people are unaware of, but they are almost all completely discretionary – the police can choose whether or not to apply them as they see fit. What this means in practice is that if they see that you’re driving like a moron it’s easy for them to pull you over and book you for *something* from their big bag of tricks.

    Then they send you on your (somewhat more cautious) way.

  • want to hear something even more ridiculous? As a kiwi that moved to QLD with a full NZ license, i didnt even have to do any sort of test whatsoever (written or practical).

    Walked in, gave my 100 points of ID and paid for the license, came about 10 days later in the post 😛

  • I have to agree with the idea of retesting every time you renew your licence. Otherwise, what’s the point of renewing the licence other than as an revenue generating exercise? Am I any worse a driver the day or week or year after my licence expires just because it’s expired?

    In the UK, it used to be a one-time licence until you turned 65. Then they cottoned on to the fact that they could make money by requiring renewals.

    But if they’re going to retest, as someone else already said, in this day and age they should be updating you (via email or other electronic means) with the latest additions and changes in rules before you’re retested.

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