RACV finds unannounced road rule changes

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motorcyclist stands on his bike while driving

RACV has uncovered a series of unannounced changes to road rules, days after they came into effect, and an error that VicRoads has advised it will correct.

In late June, the State Government announced five road rules that would affect most road users, including drivers having to slow to 40km/h when passing emergency services vehicles and on-the-spot fines for cyclists using mobile phones.

RACV provided a summary of these before they were introduced, but a subsequent trawling of the VicRoads website and 547 pages of road rules has unearthed more changes.

This is our summary of the most recently discovered changes:

Parked cars, bicycles and skateboards

Rule 300 (5)(a) about mobile phone use contained a clause that clarified that for the purpose of using a mobile phone, a driver could be legally parked with their keys in the ignition or the vehicle running. However, in the newly released rules, the clause has been removed. This amendment was only added in 2013 to make the rules clearer. We asked VicRoads why it was removed and have been informed that it was a mistake that will be corrected as soon as possible.

The revised wording for Rule 300 also stipulates that bicycle riders and others are not allowed to use mobile phones while “stationary but not parked”. We have received many queries from members wanting a definition of how to park a bicycle or wheeled recreational device like a skateboard or scooter. This needs to be explained so that riders know what they can and can’t do.

Motorbike riders

Two rule changes benefit thousands of RACV members by legalising a safe behaviour. A motorbike rider does not have to wear their approved helmet if the engine is off and  the bike is stationary (but not parked) or they are pushing it. Not wearing a helmet has to be safe in the circumstances. This change enables riders to move their bikes, with the engine off, without wearing their helmet. (Rule 270)

Rule 271(A) now allow riders of motorbikes and motorcycles, when moving, to stand on the footrests with both feet, provided it is safe to do so, or remove one foot from the footrest if the rider is sitting on the seat, their other foot is on the footrest and it is safe to do so. This enables riders on long trips to legally stretch their legs.

Bus drivers

A former rule required that a bus approaching a level crossing, where the crossing did not have gates, barriers or red flashing lights, was required to stop between three and twelve metres from the tracks, and to not change gears when crossing the tracks. The rule has been deleted.

Commercial vehicles

A few changes affect vehicles used for work purposes. To stop in a loading zone, courier or delivery vehicles must be dropping off or picking up goods – the previous rules didn’t actually require courier and delivery vehicles to be doing either when parked in a loading zone.

The rules have also been amended to permit the driver of a refrigerated food transport vehicle to leave a vehicle running while unattended. This is for the purposes of food safety.

Other clarifications

The rules have been modified to clarify that keep left, keep right and one-way signs on roads do not apply to postal motorbikes, bicycle riders and riders of animals who are riding on bicycle paths and separated paths, and are allowed to do so by the rules.

Changes to the rules also allow a rider 18 years or older to ride on a footpath with a rider 12 years and over, if the younger rider has a medical or other exemption that enables them to ride on the footpath. This enables adults to supervise teenagers riding on paths, when the teenager has an exemption that allows them to ride on footpaths.

Other amendments include drivers being able to drive past a stopped tram when the door is open on the opposite side of the tram, and for drivers to pass a stopped tram if directed by a police officer.

The are other changes relating to the use of personal electric transporters like Segways, giving hand signals, using seatbelts and the wording of the rules applying to speed zones.

RACV will be progressively updating our road rule pages to incorporate the changes.

What RACV says

The lack of transparency and notification about the many changes introduced on 1 July has led to major problems with the updated rules, with many Victorians not being aware of new laws that affect their everyday lives.

RACV strongly believes that there must be a mandatory minimum consultation period, with publication of the actual rules, so that issues like those we’ve uncovered can be identified and resolved before the rules become law.

In regards to the new rule requiring drivers to slow when passing emergency vehicles, RACV has already expressed concern at the practicality and safety of vehicles having to rapidly slow to 40km/h and we have called 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.

Written by Dave Jones and Emily McLean
July 12, 2017