10 May 2022

See flashing lights? Slow down or get fined

| Claire Fenwicke
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Police lights

Motorists must slow to 40 km/h when passing emergency vehicles in the ACT. Photo: File.

Canberra motorists are being reminded they are required by law to slow down to 40 km/h when passing emergency services vehicles displaying a blue or red flashing light.

It comes after a 40-year-old man was recently charged and found guilty of drug driving, driving with a suspended licence and driving in excess of 40km/h when passing an emergency service vehicle.

ACT Policing said the driver passed them at speed while officers were conducting a routine traffic stop. The man has been fined $500 for not slowing down when passing police. If the man fails to pay, he will be imprisoned for two days.

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Acting Superintendent Road Policing Stephen Booth said that while most Canberrans comply with these road rules, there are some who do not.

“We all have a role to play in providing a safe working environment for our emergency service workers on the road or roadside,” he said.

An ACT Policing spokesperson said while this law was introduced in 2018, officers still found people are unsure of the 40 km/h requirement.

“Sticking to this speed limit is an important safety measure for emergency service workers as they go about their work on Canberra’s roads,” they said.

The fine for failing to slow near emergency vehicles is $257 and two demerit points.

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Many seem to think the 60km/h road works on the Tuggeranong Parkway and Monaro Highway (Hume) should be ignored. I’d estimate more than 50% of drivers are doing 20-40km/h faster than the limit. We would need a concerted blitz before most would start to slow down. The rules need to be consistently enforced, or they are ignored.

A question – I do know and observe this rule however does it apply across all lanes or only the one bordering the incident? If the vehicles are off the road with, say, 2 lanes free for movement of traffic does the rule apply across the whole road? Thanks for words of wisdom.

@kiwi66 I had always thought that on a two lane road, it was only necessary to slow to 40kph on the lane adjacent to the emergency vehicle, as that was the “hazardous region”. However, after reading your post, I checked the ACT policing site (https://www.police.act.gov.au/road-safety/road-rules-and-regulations/40km-hour-road-transport-offence), which references Road Transport (Road Rules) Regulation 2017, Section 300C, and states that you are only exempt from the 40kph limit if “the emergency vehicle is on the other side of a divided road, separated by a median strip”. If I read it right (and happy to be corrected), the rule applies across all lanes until the median strip is reached. So, for example, all vehicles travelling north (i.e. both lanes) on the Tuggeranong Parkway are required to slow down to 40kph if an emergency vehicle, with lights flashing is encountered on the shoulder, but vehicles travelling south do not have to slow down because of the concrete “median strip” separating the traffic in each direction.

While it is a sensible requirement to slow to 40, safe execution depends on traffic, visibility and the drivers awareness of immediate hazards. Rounding a blind curve in a 100kmh zone with traffic following too close, (yes, tail-gateing happens in Canberra) it would be reckless and irresponsible to suddenly reduce speed to 40 kmh without being aware of and warning other drivers. Flashing the brake lights and slowing as rapidly as possible without creating chaos in following traffic would be a sensible response, though it might not be sufficient to safely reduce speed to 40kph before passing the emergency vehicle. Getting down to 60kph and avoiding an accident would surely address the intention of the rule. Till you’re safely past, hogging the left lane to discourage under-takers might also help protect the emergency personnel.

I asked a cop about this once a few weeks ago, they didn’t know either.

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