What new road rules mean for you

RACV RoyalAuto magazine

The State Government has announced four new road rules including on-the-spot fines for cyclists using phones, new give-way rules for vehicles at intersections with bike crossing lights, and cyclists and charter coaches being allowed to use bus lanes.

The new rules are in addition to the recently announced rule that drivers must slow to 40km/h for emergency services vehicles.

RACV has called on the State Government to give road users more notice of changes to road rules.

The new rules came into effect on 1 July, just days after being announced.

A subsequent trawling of the VicRoads website and 547 pages of road rules by RACV staff has unearthed further changes.

New road rules explained

The State Government has announced five new road rules that will affect most road users.

Drivers must slow to 40km/h for emergency services vehicles
On-the-spot fines for cyclists on phones
Give way to bicycles when turning
Bicycles/coaches allowed in bus lanes
Empty bicycle carriers allowed

Slow down for emergency services with flashing red, blue or magenta lights or sirens

Road users will need to slow to 40km/h when driving past stationary or slow-moving emergency or enforcement vehicles with flashing red, blue or magenta lights, or sounding an alarm.

Emergency and enforcement vehicles include police, ambulance, fire services and State Emergency Service vehicles, as well as VicRoads truck enforcement vehicles that have magenta flashing lights.

When emergency or enforcement vehicles are displaying flashing red, blue or magenta lights, or sounding their alarm, drivers must:

  • Approach at a speed that allows the driver to stop, if necessary, before passing the vehicle and give way to any emergency or enforcement worker on foot in the vicinity;
  • Not drive past or overtake the vehicle at a speed of more than 40km/h;
  • Not increase speed until the driver is a sufficient distance past the vehicle to not cause danger to workers in the immediate vicinity.

This rule does not apply on a road with a median strip, where the vehicle is on the other side of the median strip.

The rule applies when the emergency vehicle is in a service road adjacent to a main road – if you are passing on the main road you will still need to slow down.

The rule applies to the driver despite any other road rule.

We have received many questions about this rule, and have answered the most common ones here.

Illustration of Australian road rules
Bike phone holder

Mobile phone use by bicycle riders and users of wheeled recreational devices

A bicycle rider using a phone while cycling will be treated the same way as car drivers, with police empowered to issue on-the-spot fines of $476 to any cyclist using a hand-held phone while riding.

Cyclists are exempt from fines if the phone is secured in a mounting fixed to the bicycle (not held by the rider), or is not being held and doesn't require the rider to touch the phone.

The new rules apply to people using wheeled recreational devices, and any vehicle that is not a motor vehicle. This includes rollerblades/skates, skateboards and scooters.

The rider of a bicycle, or a person travelling in or on a wheeled recreational device, or the driver of a vehicle that is not a motor vehicle, can only use a mobile phone while the bicycle, wheeled recreational device or vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked if:

They are making or receiving an audio phone call or using the audio/music function and the phone

  • is secured in a commercially designed holder fixed to the bicycle, wheeled recreational device or vehicle, OR
  • can be operated without touching any part of the phone.

OR

The phone is being used as a navigation device and the phone is

  • secured in a commercially designed holder that is fixed to the bicycle, wheeled recreational device or vehicle, OR
  • can be operated without touching any part of the phone.

Operating any other function of the phone while riding is prohibited. This includes:

  • video messaging
  • text messaging
  • emailing
  • entering or placing anything into the phone (other than by voice)
  • sending or looking at anything in the phone
  • turning the phone on/off.
Green bike light

Give way to bicycle riders when turning

A driver turning at an intersection with bicycle crossing lights must give way to any bicycle rider at or near an intersection who is crossing the road the driver wishes to enter.

At present, drivers must give way to pedestrians, and this change requires drivers to give way to bicycle riders in the same way.

This rule change applies where there are bicycle crossing lights. It does not allow cyclists to ride across the road at a pedestrian crossing. Legally, bike riders must still dismount at a pedestrian crossing.

Bicycles, coaches allowed to use bus lanes

Bicycle riders and coaches (i.e. charter/hire buses) are now allowed to use bus lanes. Some bus lanes already have signs permitting bicycle riders, but this rule change will allow bicycle riders to use all bus lanes unless signed otherwise.

Empty bicycle carriers are no longer required to be removed from a vehicle

The rule that prohibited drivers from driving on a road with an empty bicycle carrier attached to the rear of their vehicle has been removed.

However, good practice is still to remove bike carriers to reduce the risk of injury to a passing pedestrian and also because racks can interfere with rear lights and sensors on vehicles. If your bicycle rack obscures your number plate you need to attach your number plate to the rack, or fit a bike rack number plate issued by VicRoads. Hand-drawn plates are not allowed. The number plate on the bicycle rack must be adequately illuminated at night.

There are other requirements relating to the use of bicycle racks that are outlined in VicRoads ‘Vehicle Standards Information VSI34’.

Our view…

RACV has called on the State Government to better explain new road rules and to alert the public to new rules well in advance, to ensure road users are well aware of changes and understand them fully.

This came after a new rule was announced less than two weeks before it becomes law on 1 July and four more rule changes just days before they start.

The rule that traffic must slow to 40km/h when passing emergency vehicles, which is designed to help save emergency workers’ lives, has proven contentious with many road users. RACV has been contacted by many Victorians, who are concerned about the lack of notification and have questions about how the rule applies.

We have contacted the State Government requesting the rule be amended so it will not require drivers to slow down when the emergency/enforcement vehicle is stopped in a service lane and the driver is travelling on the main carriageway.

RACV has also expressed concern at the practicality and safety of vehicles having to rapidly slow to 40km/h and we call for a review to explore safer alternatives.

We are in open dialogue with VicRoads to ensure we can get the balance right between protecting our emergency service workers and ensuring the safe and practical passage of vehicles travelling on our roads.

More information

The information above is a summary of the rule changes.

VicRoads is responsible for administering the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules. To obtain a copy of the exact wording of the rules or support our concerns about the lack of public notice please contact VicRoads. You can contact VicRoads online.

Written by Emily McLean
June 27, 2017