Surprise! Bet you didn’t know these road rules…Once we get our driver’s licence, most of us are never tested on the road rules for the rest of our lives.
Not until we reach the tender age of 85 (in NSW) are we required to undertake a practical driving test – but even then we aren’t submitted to a rigorous assessment of the road rules. In the ACT, there isn’t even compulsory retesting of older drivers, let alone a knowledge test!
But back to the topic…little known road rules.
The dubious honour of the weirdest road rule belongs to NSW. Apparently splashing a bus passenger with mud after driving through a puddle can cost you $165. Oddly enough, splashing a pedestrian with water is OK. It’s the bus and the mud that seem to be most offensive in the eyes of NSW law.
Here’s some other obscure road rules that you probably have never heard of, but that you should still know about…
No people or animals on your lap
Never be tempted to get behind the wheel with your pet cat, dog or your child on your lap.
You will be fined.
Children must sit in an approved age appropriate child restraint or seat, and pets must be beside the driver or on the floor of the vehicle, and tethered at all times.
And in NSW, children under four years old are not even allowed in the front seat of a vehicle which has two or more rows of seats.
Children between four and seven years old can only sit in the front row of a vehicle with two or more rows when all other seats are occupied by passengers under seven years old.
Number plates – well lit and easily read
Have you ever checked whether the light illuminating your registration plate is working?
If you're driving at night, or in hazardous weather, and the light is out, then you could be fined by police for not obeying the road rules which stipulate rego plates be clearly visible 24/7.
In addition, according to ACT laws, the registered operator of a vehicle found to have a number plate obscured by equipment or a load, during an RTA inspection or on-road police inspection, may be issued with a defect notice.
NSW law dictates when driving you must not "negligently or wilfully interfere with, or interrupt" any funeral cortege or authorised procession on a road, or "any vehicle or any person" forming part of the funeral or procession. This is an offence and you will be fined.
Front and rear fog lights must only be used in fog or rain, or when conditions such as smoke and dust limit your vision.
It is a legal requirement that once conditions improve and you can see more clearly, the front and rear fog lights are switched off.
Watch out for those red boxes
Fines apply for stopping within three metres of a public post office box, unless (briefly) picking up or dropping off a passenger or mail.
A driver must not stop within one metre of a fire hydrant, fire hydrant indicator or fire plug indicator.
Lights and horns
The ‘friendly’ old Australian tradition of flashing your lights to warn oncoming vehicles of a police vehicle further up the road could actually get you fined.
If you’re using your high beam headlights, then you must dip your headlights back to low beam when a vehicle coming toward you is within 200 metres.
It is also an offence to use a separate light from within your car to dazzle oncoming drivers.
Don't be tempted to sit on your horn when you are frustrated with a traffic jam. It is actually an offence to use your horn or any other warning device unless you need to warn other road users your vehicle is approaching, you need to warn animals to get off the road, or the horn is part of an antitheft or alcohol interlock device in your vehicle.
The window gap rule
In the ACT, before leaving a vehicle, you must turn off the engine, apply the parking brake and leave it in gear or in the ‘park’ position. Unless the vehicle is occupied by a person 16 years or older, you must remove the key from the ignition. This rule applies regardless of whether you are leaving the vehicle for a few moments or for an extended period of time.
However, under Queensland law, if a driver is more than three metres from their car, the vehicle must be "secured" with the engine off, hand brake applied, ignition key removed (if no one over 16 years remains in vehicle) and windows also up with a gap no more than 5cm.
In NSW, the three metres rule insists if there is no one in the vehicle, you must have removed the ignition key and locked all doors and windows.
Don't startle the horses
It is actually an offence not to "give way" to "restive" horses, which means those animals refusing to move, or difficult to control on the road.
If the rider of a horse gives a signal, by raising a hand and pointing to the horse, the driver must steer his vehicle as far to the left side of the road as possible, turn off the engine and not move again until the horse is far enough away not to be aggravated.
A number of road signs applying to different animals, including native and farm animals, mean a driver must slow down or stop to avoid crashing with them. Fines apply if you do not obey these signs.
In NSW, a driver, motorcycle rider, bicycle rider or passenger must not lead an animal, including by a tether from the moving vehicle.
And, while this rule is not surprising, in the ACT animals are not permitted to be carried on a motor bike between the rider and the handlebars, or in any other position that would interfere with the rider’s ability to control the motor bike.
Phones and GPS
Handling your phone while using it as a navigation device is also an offence, because it’s not properly docked and, technically, it is still a phone.
But did you know that includes holding it away from your face on loud speaker – even while stationary in traffic?
Technically, even pressing a button to answer the phone or check a text is illegal if it’s not in a fixed bracket.
But here’s one aspect of mobile phone tickets many drivers don’t know: in NSW (a $298 fine) and Victoria (a $282 fine) each ticket also attracts three demerit points – a quarter of your licence.
But did you know, in NSW, if you get caught using a hand held mobile phone in a school zone the fine is $397 and four demerit points? Is that phone call or text message that important now?
If your car is parked legally and safely off the road (ie: not waiting at the lights or in slow-moving traffic) but the engine is running, you’re OK to use the phone in NSW.
But in Victoria, if you’re parked legally and safely off the road and the engine is still running – and you’re in the driver’s seat – that’s still a ticket. In Victoria the engine must be off otherwise you are “in charge of a motor vehicle”.
In the ACT all visual display units which are being used as a driver’s aid function, such as GPS devices, may only be used in a fixed mounting. The mounting must be commercially designed and manufactured for this purpose. The unit must be positioned in the vehicle so that it does not obscure the driver’s view.
You may want to be careful when out of the car, too. In NSW, pedestrians who don’t cross the road quickly enough – or who cross on a red signal – risk a $66 ticket. It’s the same fine for crossing a road “within 20 metres of a marked pedestrian crossing”.