New 40km/h road rule comes into effect for NSW drivers
A NEW road rule forcing NSW drivers to slow down to 40km/h around stopped emergency vehicles has been met with safety concerns, but the state’s Roads Minister has told drivers to just use “common sense”. The new law came into effect on September 1
and requires motorists to slow down to 40km/h when passing a stationary emergency vehicle — which includes police cars, fire engines and ambulances — displaying blue and red flashing lights. Similar rules are already in place in Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia but its introduction in NSW has been met with fierce backlash.
There are concerns that forcing drivers to slow down to 40km/h with little warning is a major safety risk, particularly for vehicles travelling in high-speed areas. Car’s travelling in both directions are required to slow down to 40km/h unless there is a median strip on the road. The Motorcycle Council of NSW said that, while making the roads safer for emergency workers is important, this rule may do more harm than good. “By suddenly reducing the speed limit on a major carriageway to 40km/h are we swapping the safety of emergency workers for the safety of ordinary motorists,” the council said in a statement. “Anyone who has driven on a high-speed road knows the effect of braking suddenly from 110km/h to 40km/h.
“The resulting snaking of traffic can produce a trail of rear end collisions, and often this is what happens”. The new rule is particularly problematic for larger vehicles such as trucks, as it takes them a lot longer to reduce their speed compared to cars and motorcyclists.
In response to these concerns, NSW Roads Minister, Melinda Pavey, said it is up to motorists to assess whether it is safe to slow all the way down to 40km/h. “To slam your breaks on to get down to 40 is dangerous and no one expects people to be driving in an unsafe manner,” she told ABC radio
. “We must be aware of what is behind us, appreciating and respecting that it takes a truck a lot longer to slow down. NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey said drivers aren’t expected to slam on their breaks if it is unsafe. “We are expecting common sense to be a very big part of this, and we don’t want our drivers or anybody to be put into danger.”
The Centre for Road Safety advises motorists to slow down in a controlled manner when they first see the emergency flashing lights, while also considering current road conditions and surrounding vehicles.
Ms Pavey agreed with this, saying motorists should “slow down towards 40” when they see stationary emergency vehicles with blue and red flashing light. However, there is still confusion around what drivers are expected to do as the law states they must slow down to 40km/h, not just do their best to slow towards 40. Drivers caught not following the rule can cop a $448 fine and three demerit points, along with a maximum court penalty of $2200. There have also been questions about how police will decide who to fine now that there is confusion surrounding whether drivers must be going exactly 40km/h.
There will be a 12-month trial period for the new rule, during which time the NSW Government will work with police to monitor the impact it has on traffic and road safety.