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New Road Rules (reducing speed to 40km/h around stopped emergency vehicles)

Amanda Quin - Thursday, November 01, 2018

Blog authored by Tim Cullenward


Many would now be aware (either by print, news or social media) of a new road rule now in place in NSW, designed to improve the safety of emergency workers and people they are protecting. There is has been significant discussion about the implantation of this new rule, with many in favour of improved safety measures, with some expressing outrage over the dangers in having to dramatically reduce speed with very little warning.

Transport for NSW, with the support of emergency service agencies and other stakeholders, launched a community education campaign across NSW on 30 July 2018 to give the community time to understand the requirements of the rule. The campaign includes TV and radio advertising, social media promotion and digital signage on major roads.

According to the Transport for NSW, Centre for Road Safety, the rule was introduced to improve the safety of police and emergency workers, as well as the people they are protecting. Police, firefighters, paramedics, State Emergency Service and rescue volunteers perform difficult and dangerous work for the community and like everyone, they should feel safe and know that they are protected at work. The new rule provides certainty for motorists about how they should behave when emergency vehicles are stationary on the road and displaying blue or red flashing lights. The new rule also establishes a required standard for safe behaviour and further ensures emergency workers can do their work without worrying about being struck by a passing vehicle. The rule has been designed to provide maximum safety benefits to emergency workers while keeping it simple for the community to understand.

The NSW Government has stated it will monitor the safety and traffic impacts of the rule during a 12-month trial period in consultation with NSW Police, emergency service organisations and other stakeholders. This will allow an evaluation of the safety impacts and any other consequences of the new rule and enable consideration of reviews and outcomes from other jurisdictions implementing similar rules.

The NSW Government will monitor the safety and traffic impacts of the rule in the 12 months the trial is running, in consultation with key stakeholders, as part of an independent evaluation to determine the impact on the safety of emergency service workers and drivers.

The short version

  1. The new rule can be found in the Road Rules 2014, Regulation 78-1 (Approaching or passing stationary emergency response vehicles).
  2. The new rule requires motorists to slow down to 40km/h when passing a stationary emergency vehicle displaying blue or red flashing lights.
  3. The rule also requires motorists to give way to any person on foot in the immediate area of the emergency vehicle. Motorists should not increase their speed until they are a safe distance past the vehicle.
  4. The rule applies to vehicles travelling in both directions, unless the road is divided by a median strip.
  5. Motorists who do not comply with the rule will face a $448 fine and three (3) demerit points.
  6. A maximum court penalty of $2,200 will also apply. This is comparable with the current penalty when it is determined that a motorist has driven negligently in the presence of obstructions or hazards, including stopped emergency vehicles and personnel.

Key Elements from Transport for NSW, Centre for Road Safety:

  • Motorists must not exceed 40km/h when passing a stationary emergency vehicle displaying flashing blue or red lights.
  • Motorists must also give way to any person on foot near an emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights and not increase speed until a sufficient distance past the vehicle.
  • The rule will not apply when an emergency vehicle displaying blue or red flashing lights is on the opposite side of a road separated by a median strip.
  • 40km/h is considered a safe speed around vulnerable road users. This speed is consistent with speed limits in school zones, many work zones, and environments with vulnerable and unprotected road users, such as high pedestrian activity areas.
  • The new rule will require that motorists do not increase their speed until a sufficient distance past the emergency vehicle so as not to cause a danger to any person near the vehicle (for example, a fire truck may be stationed by the roadside with flashing lights and firefighters may be managing a fire a short distance away from the vehicle. In this instance, motorists should not increase their speed until they are fully past the vehicle and the emergency workers. In contrast, motorists will be required to slow down to 40km/h for a shorter distance when passing a police vehicle that has pulled over another vehicle on the side of the road).
  • It is the responsibility of all drivers to be aware of the individual circumstances of each roadside incident and to drive at a safe and appropriate speed under the speed limit.
  • The rule applies to all roads, including motorways, highways and freeways.
  • If there is a median strip between your vehicle and the stationary emergency vehicle you will not need to slow down.
  • If the emergency vehicle is on the median strip, then the rule will apply to vehicles on both sides of the road.
  • A median strip is an area or structure that separates vehicles travelling in opposite directions. A median strip can be covered in grass, it can include or be a wire rope or concrete barrier or be a continuous painted island filled with diagonal bars.
  • A median strip does not include double white lines, a single white line or a broken white line on its own or in combination with a continuous white line. It also does not include wide centre lines or short painted islands typically found as part of intersection turning lanes.
  • Motorists must slow down to 40km/h when passing the following emergency vehicles when stationary and displaying flashing blue or red lights:
    • NSW Police Force vehicles
    • Ambulance Service of NSW vehicles
    • Fire & Rescue NSW vehicles
    • State Emergency Service vehicles
    • Rural Fire Service vehicles
    • Volunteer Rescue Association vehicles
    • Traffic Emergency Response vehicles
  • Motorists should always start slowing down in a controlled manner as soon as they first see blue or red flashing lights, taking into account the current road conditions including surrounding vehicles;
  • If an emergency vehicle is attending an incident in an area of low visibility, due to the location or weather conditions, it will be because there are no other options to move to a safer location. Further care should be taken in these circumstances.

For more information, please contact our office.