Here are 15 road rules you didn’t know for the 2015-16 summer holidays
Want to get drunk and then get driven home by a learner? Move to Western Australia, the only state or territory where supervising drivers can be over the 0.05 alcohol limit.
Of course, we’re not condoning that behaviour. There is a bill before WA parliament to close the loophole, but in the meantime police are powerless to stop it.
This is just one example of 15 road rules we found in 2015 that most drivers are not aware of.
Given that many of us will be driving interstate this holiday season, we thought it a good idea to bring you up to speed on the fines you may be facing when you break the rules across the border.
1) Did you know it is illegal to creep forward through a red light to let an emergency vehicle through gridlock traffic?
You may not get booked, because the emergency services are clearly in a hurry, but you will likely be deemed at fault if you have an accident.
And if you’ve activated a red light camera, the ticket’s on you.
But here’s the catch: it’s also a fine in most states to not give way to emergency vehicles (three demerit points and fines of close to $300 in most states). The message: don’t do anything stupid or illegal, but do get out of the way.
Meanwhile many police, ambulance drivers and fire brigade officers we spoke to said they often switch off their lights and sirens in dense traffic so they don’t push cars into the intersection at red lights.
2) It’s an offence to run an orange light if police deem you had time to stop safely. The penalty is the same as for a red light, carrying three demerit points and a fine of up to $425 in some states.
Message from police: Australia, calm down. It’s not worth running a light … because you’ll only get stopped at the next one. Running a light is especially dangerous because it puts you on a direct course with someone else’s driver’s door at speed.
3) It is illegal for a driver to operate a mobile phone (other than to make a call) in a Macca’s drive-thru and similar driveways because “it is still a road by definition and technically a line of traffic”. So no checking in on Facebook, texting or posting on Twitter while you’re behind the wheel, even if you’re stopped to order a burger. While we’re here, resting your phone on your lap is a ticket as well — even if you’re not using it — with fines up to $319 and six points this holiday period in NSW, and $455 and four points in Victoria. Other states typically carry three demerit points and fines exceeding $200. Is that phone call or text message really worth at least a quarter of your licence?
4) We all know littering is illegal, but did you know that includes apple cores and banana peels, which many of us flick out the window because it’s biodegradable? Aside from the danger of encouraging animals to the roadside to eat the scraps, the fine for littering is dearer from a moving car in some states. In NSW it increases from $220 to $250, the same as flicking a cigarette butt. In Queensland the fine for “dropping injurious matter on a road” is $353 and two demerit points, so be sure to secure your load.
5) Don’t toot and wave goodbye to friends and family: that’s two tickets. One for improper use of a horn (up to $319 in some states) and another for “limb protrude” (in NSW, where the penalties for most offences are highest, the fine is $319 and three demerit points for the driver and $319 for the passenger).
6) Don’t forget to re-register your trailer. That trip to the tip could cost you up to $637 if it’s unregistered. And the cost of rego for a trailer in most states is less than $100.
7) It is illegal for a bike rack to obscure your car’s numberplate ($425 and three demerit points in NSW, the state with the harshest penalty in this instance) but in Victoria there is also a fine for having a bike rack fitted when it is not carrying bicycles ($152).
8) Driving with drugs in your system is illegal in all states and territories but did you know aside from a possible licence suspension, in Victoria you also accrue 10 demerit points and a $455 fine, so when you’re eventually back on the road you’ll have to be on your best behaviour for another three years, with a fine of just two or more demerit points pushing you over the limit — and back on the bus.
9) Making an unsafe U-turn or even attempting to make an unsafe U-turn — even if it is legal, over broken lines — is a $303 fine and two demerit points in Victoria. A U-turn over an unbroken line is $319 and three points in NSW. Other states have similar penalties. It is also illegal to make a U-turn at traffic lights ($248 and two points in NSW, for example) in most states except Victoria and when signposted otherwise.
10) Opening a car door and accidentally hitting a cyclist or pedestrian is a $379 fine in Victoria. Meanwhile NSW recently joined Queensland and other states by fining drivers who give less than one metre of space when passing a cyclist at less than 60km/h, and less than 1.5 metres of space when passing a cyclist at more than 60km/h. The fines for not leaving enough room for cyclists are up to three demerit points and $353. The message from police: be patient, indicate and move to the next lane when safe to do so, and get to your destination with a clear conscience, knowing that you haven’t put someone in hospital. Or worse.
11) In certain situations it is legal to cross an unbroken line — if there is an obstruction such as road works or a cyclist. When trying to pass a cyclist on a narrow road, police advise to wait until you have clear visibility of the road ahead (that is, do not attempt to overtake approaching a corner) and give them plenty of room as you pass.
12) Cutting in too early after overtaking a car is a ticket (up to $303 and two demerits in most states) as is speeding up to avoid being overtaken (same penalty).
13) It is illegal for the front passenger to recline his or her seat — if the seatbelt does not fit across their body tightly. It’s the same ticket for not wearing one at all, because the wording says “improper fit” of seatbelt. That fine is up to $319. If a person under 16 is not wearing their seatbelt correctly, the driver cops the fine and three demerit points.
14) Driving past a handheld “stop” sign at road works will cost you $353 and three demerit points in Queensland, so don’t run the gauntlet by trying to tack onto the end of the queue of cars ahead of you.
15) This is our annual favourite, although people are still surprised when we tell them: it’s OK to drive barefoot. In fact, police would prefer you to be able to feel the pedals rather than risk having thongs or high heels slip off the pedals.