NSW emergency speed rule extended

Cops police speed speeding extended

Despite criticism from motoring organisations and a motorcycle cop being hit by a driver, NSW has extended its rule to slow traffic to 40km/h past emergency services.

The 12-month trial will be extended to a permanent law on September 26  but with some changes.

It will now include tow trucks and and motorway recovery vehicles, police will stop in visible locations and new warning signs will be deployed by emergency services.

However, it will no longer apply on roads with speed limits of 90km/h or more.

Instead, motorists will have to slow to a “safe and reasonable” speed, give “sufficient space” to emergency workers and “change lanes to keep the lane next to the vehicle free if it is safe to do so” as is required in most US states.

Concerns

Then Motorcycle Council of NSW Chairman Steve Pearce told us when the trial started that it was “just a matter of time until a serious incident occurs as a result of this rule”.

He was right. In December 2018, a NSW motorcycle cop was hit by a car when he pulled over another car on a 100km/h highway.

Cop injured under new speed rule crash police emergency 40km/h extended
Cop injured during speed rule trial

The 70-year-old female driver was one of 936 fined $446 and three demerit points during the trial period.

Steve’s major concern with the rule was that vulnerable motorcyclists, such as the NSW police officer, would be at risk of being rear-ended.

In fact, the person the rule was meant to protect became the victim.

New MCC NSW chair Kevin “Trip” Henry says he experienced three trucks blocking his vision of a police car parked on a left curve of the M1 north of Sydney.

Motorcycle Council of NSW chair Kevin "Trip" Henry
Motorcycle Council of NSW chair Kevin “Trip” Henry

“The car in front applied their brakes forcefully when they became parallel with the police car, which caused the car in front of my motorcycle (in the wet) to have an emergency brake episode,” he says.

He move to the right of the right lane and the vehicle behind braked hard and slid to a stop.

“This was exactly what we at the MCC were concerned with,” he says.

“Thankfully the rule has changed and hopefully everyone will be safer on our roads especially those who have to use them for their livelihoods.”

Confusing rule

The extended rule could be confusing for motorists travelling interstate during holidays.

Emergency vehicles are defined as police cars, fire engines and ambulances displaying red and blue flashing lights and/or sounding their siren.

In Victoria it includes all “escort vehicles”. In SA, SES vehicles are included and in WA it extends to all emergency vehicles, including tow trucks, RAC roadside assistance patrol vehicles, and Main Roads Incident Response Vehicles removing road debris and broken-down vehicles.

The rule does not apply if the emergency vehicle is on the other side of the road where there is a median strip.

Fines also vary

Cop asleep on motorcycle extended
Would you slow down for this?

In South Australia, you can cop a maximum fine up to $1007 and some motorists have been disqualified for six months. In WA it is $300 and three points.

Victoria’s fine is $272.05, but there is a maximum court penalty of $777.30 if you unsuccessfully challenge the fine. The RACV says it could be difficult for motorists to see flashing emergency vehicles’ lights over a hill and have enough time to slow down to 40km/h.

The Queensland Government has rejected Police Union calls for a similar road rule.

Tips for avoiding tail-ender

If riders see the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle, there are several things they can do to avoid a rear-ender.

  • Look at traffic behind you to assess the danger;
  • Indicate and change lanes away from the emergency vehicle, if there is a vacant lane to move into;
  • If not, switch on the hazard lights;
  • Brake as smoothly as possible, perhaps activating the brake light on and off to attract the attention of following traffic; and
  • Search for an escape route, possibly between lanes or on the road edge.

6 Comments

  1. It strikes me this is in fact more likely a process that police lack to be able to impact those who make poor decisions around Em V stop sites, which ‘dangerous driving’ is probably too severe for… so as long as everyone is slowing down and paying extra attention, I don’t expect you’d be booked.

    If you were booked despite you paying reasonable attention, then ‘bad luck’ rather than ‘ok I learned something’ is likely to be how you feel – which does basically suck.

    I agree the effect of this rule may make some people overthink the situation and make a mistake, riders will have to continue keep their 3-sec survival zone top-of-mind.

  2. It’s a really bad law, take it from a rider who clocks about 30,000 to 35,000km per annum on NSW roads, and has been riding on road for 26 years.

    Your in the right hand lane with trucks, 4wd’s and trailers in the left. You cant see the breakdown lane for all the traffic and then at the last moment a car in front of you catches a glimpse of the flashing lights. They emergency break and suddenly you have a wall of trucks to your left, a barrier to your right and a car doing half your speed in front of you that out brakes you by a factor of 3.

    Motorcyclists will unfortunately suffer with this law, I have had numerous close calls already due to it. And when it does happen, I am sure the law will not be blamed, they will naturally stereotype the rider as a speeder and tailgater… It’s simple physics, poor visibility on congested roads, closed in lanes with nowhere to go and a vehicle in front of you that can out brake you…

  3. Honestly I cannot think of a better example of why traffic laws need to be set federally… Interstate drivers slamming on their brakes around emergency vehicles in Qld where no one has a clue as to why drivers are doing so…. road rage and rear ends. Good times.

  4. So over 90kph you keep fanging it…. under 90kph you slam on the brakes to 40kph, avoid a fine & be run down by other vehicles or indicate move to the side of the road, park & wait until the episode has finalised.
    Another logical safety approach by Nanny Australia!

  5. Riding the M7 in Sydney, topped a crest that has a left hander at the apex I was confronted by a copper issuing an infringement. Hard on the anchors I still couldn’t get down to 40 from 100 in the time available.
    Thankfully there was nothing behind me as there is no way a car or truck would have been able to drop their speed as quickly as I could.

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