NSW adjusts stopped emergency vehicle passing speed rule

RFNSW backs move as a victory for common sense; tow trucks now included

NSW adjusts stopped emergency vehicle passing speed rule
A still image from an NSW Police video showing a B-double braking heavily a quarter the way through the 12-month trial


New South Wales has amended its speed-limit rule for passing stationary emergency vehicles, in a move welcomed by the state’s trucking industry body.

However, roads minister Andrew Constance and regional roads minister Paul Toole reveal 926 infringements were issued during the 12-month trial aimed at keeping emergency service workers safe while working by the roadside.

"We’ve monitored the impact of the rule over the past year and taken on board feedback from the public and stakeholders about the trial," Constance says.

"We’re now implementing changes to make the rule safer for everyone."

From September 26:

  • drivers will no longer need to slow down to 40km/h on roads with speed limits of 90km/h or over.
  • drivers will continue to be required to slow down to 40km/h on roads with speed limits of 80km/h or under.
  • the rule will be expanded to include tow trucks and breakdown assistance vehicles, which are displaying yellow flashing lights while stopped on the road.

The changes include the speed drivers need to slow down to in certain circumstances to avoid unsafe practices, such as hard braking.

On roads with speed limits of 90km/h or over drivers must:

  • slow to a speed which is safe and reasonable for the circumstances
  • give sufficient space between their vehicle and the breakdown assistance or emergency vehicle and workers
  • on multi-lane roads, drivers must change lanes to keep the lane next to the vehicle free if it is safe to do so.

"These changes are about slowing down safely," Toole says.

"If you are driving on roads 90km/h or over you will need to consider how close you are to the stationary vehicle and slow to a safer speed and give as much space to the vehicle as you can."

In the five years from 2014 to 2018 about 85 per cent of crashes where emergency service vehicles were stopped at the roadside happened in 80km/h speed zones and below.

Read RFNSW’s strong warning on the speed measure, here

On the eve of the Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) 2019 industry conference, chief executive Simon O’Hara says RFNSW is pleased the government had listened to "honest feedback" from RFNSW members and other industry stakeholders who thought the ‘go slow’ rule as it stood was a significant risk to truck drivers and light-vehicle drivers.

"It’s a common-sense decision," O’Hara says.

"Whilst RFNSW and our members always have safety as our Number 1 priority, we just couldn’t accept that forcing fully-laden trucks to slow down to 40km/h was the best way of protecting our first responders.

"The feedback from our members was that the rule didn’t differentiate between heavy and light vehicles and was proving to be incredibly dangerous for truckies travelling on freeways and major roads – forced to slow down very quickly to 40km/h.

"We saw that on the dramatic 7 News footage earlier this year, where a motorcycle police officer on the side of the road near Ballina, was in danger of being hit by a truck which skidded to slow down to 40km/h.

"They’re practical solutions aimed at allowing drivers to slow down in a safe manner and they take into account the concerns raised by truckies."

NSW Police practices have also changed so officers are stopping in safer locations that are more visible to approaching drivers.

New advance warning signs are being designed for use by emergency services.

Assistant police commisioner Michael Corboy said the new rule is about ensuring the safety of not only police, but also other road users.

"We need to provide a safe working environment for our police officers, whose job it is to enforce the road rules, in an effort to improve driver behaviour and drive down the road toll," Corboy adds.

"Motorists should always ‘drive to the conditions’ as part of their road safety plan."

 Responses have been sought from other state road authorities.

You can also follow our updates by joining our LinkedIn group or liking us on Facebook