Road Rules for Vehicles

Rules and guidelines for vehicles in Victoria

Important information about vehicles in Victoria

Is a bicycle considered a vehicle? Can I complain about a vehicle being too noisy? Do I have to pay for replacing my number plates?
We have summarised important information about vehicles in Victoria for you.


Bicycles are considered vehicles under the road rules, and riders are permitted to ride on the road, even if there is a nearby off-road path (unless signs indicate riding a bike is not allowed on-road). For more information see the section on rules for bicycle riders.


Motorcycle riders must obey the rules as other drivers would, however there are some additonal rules that apply. For more information see the section on motorcycle riders.

Noisy vehicles

A person must not start a vehicle, or drive a vehicle, in a way that makes unnecessary noise or smoke.

Drivers must not use, or allow to be used, a horn or similar warning device fitted to or in the vehicle unless it is necessary to warn other roads users or animals of the approach or position of the vehicle. Horns can be used as part of an anti-theft device or alcohol interlock fitted to the vehicle.

For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rule 24 and 291.

The Environment Protection Act makes it an offence to own or use a vehicle which exceeds prescribed noise levels. The Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) can require a vehicle to be presented at one of its approved motor vehicle noise testers to determine compliance with the limits. EPA officers also test on-road vehicles with the assistance of the police.

If you are regularly annoyed by a particular noisy vehicle in your street, EPA advises that you should note the registration number and details of the vehicle (make, colour, etc.) and ask your nearest police station (Traffic Management Unit) to keep a lookout for the vehicle. If the police assess the vehicle as being too noisy, it will report the vehicle to EPA and the owner will have to present the vehicle to an approved tester.

Complaints about noise from general traffic flow should be directed to the appropriate road authority who are responsible for traffic management.

For more information see the Nuisance Provisions of the Health Act and the Environment Protection Act or visit the EPA website.

Number plates

Number plates must be displayed on vehicles and be clearly visible from a distance of 20 metres. If your plates don’t meet the criteria, you run the risk of an on-the-spot fine. Number plates are made of a retroreflective material, designed to enhance visibility and ensure that your vehicle can be easily identified.

Take a closer look at your plates and if they are not up to scratch, contact VicRoads on 13 11 71 to arrange for a new set.

If you have a bicycle carrier on the rear of your vehicle, and it obscures your number plate then you need to remove your number plate and attach it to the rack, or fit a bike rack number plate that is issued by VicRoads. Hand drawn plates are not allowed. The number plate on the bicycle rack must be adequately illuminated at night. For more information, see the section bicycle carriers.

All number plates carry a 10 year warranty from the date of issue. Replacement plates are issued free of charge during this warranty period for any plate that has deteriorated due to the manufacturing process. The warranty covers deterioration ranging from simple cracking to progressive or complete blackening of the retroreflective sheet. Be aware though, that plates damaged due to normal wear and tear or impact damage are not eligible for free replacement. To order a replacement plate visit VicRoads website.

If your plates do not fall under the warranty guidelines, you will have to cover the cost of new plates. These replacement plates will display a new number and can be issued immediately by VicRoads. However, if you wish to retain your existing plate number, you will have to purchase duplicate plates which can take three to four weeks to be issued. For more information on pricing and the types of number plates available visit VicRoads website.

For more information see the Victorian Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 regulation 48.  

Self-driving and autonomous vehicles on Victorian roads

Autonomous vehicles are being used on Victorian roads. But what does this mean in terms of the road rules and legal responsibility for driving a vehicle?

Levels of automation range from those that have been available for some time such as dynamic cruise control to full-automation/driverless vehicles. While dynamic cruise control is common on Victorian roads these days, there is still a long way to go before we have fully-automated vehicles everywhere.

EastLink has a great explanation about the different levels of automation – from ‘level 0 – no automation’ to ‘level 5 – full automation’. Read the article.

What isn’t always clear is how the vehicle standards and road rules apply, as well as liability and insurance for automated vehicles on Victorian roads.

To provide certainty regarding the road rules and the use of existing technology in vehicles, “transport ministers reaffirmed the existing policy position that the human driver remains in full legal control of a vehicle that is partially or conditionally automated, unless or until a new position is developed and agreed.” Source: NTC.

This means drivers with vehicles using currently available technology such as dynamic cruise control, lane keep assist, parking assist or collision avoidance, are considered to be responsible for the control of their vehicle even when operating these autonomous technologies.

There are a number of trials being conducted of automated vehicles around Australia.

In Victoria, RACV is supporting a number of trials including a trial on EastLink testing the use of semi-autonomous features in cars that require the driver’s hands on the wheel and are already being sold in Australia (or will be released during the trials).  Find out more about the trial on EastLink.

Other trials include a NAVYA autonomous bus trial through an agreement with HMI Technologies, a trial on parts of CityLink, and a Melbourne University trial which sees the streets in a section of Fitzroy and Collingwood (between Hoddle and Nicholson Streets and Alexandra and Victoria Parades) being wired with smart city technology that can ‘connect’ with existing semi-autonomous vehicles, such as high-end Mercedes-Benz vehicles, BMWs and Audis.

In Western Australia, our counterparts RAC WA, are conducting the first public trial of a fully driverless shuttle bus. Watch their videos.

For more information on autonomous cars, the technology and how they work read our articles Autonomous car – coming to a street near you and The Autonomous Car – What it will mean for you.

Smoky vehicles

A person must not start a vehicle, or drive a vehicle, in a way that makes unnecessary noise or smoke.

For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rule 291.

EPA regulations state that no motor vehicle (including diesel engine vehicles) is allowed to emit visible smoke for a continuous period of 10 or more seconds. If an EPA or Police Officer observes an excessively smoky vehicle, and it is judged to be in breach of the regulation, the vehicle is reported to EPA. The owner is contacted by mail and required to make the necessary repairs.

Reasonable time is given for the vehicle to be repaired and for the owner to supply EPA with receipts and/or a statutory declaration as evidence of the repair. If no answer is received from the owner within 28 days, an infringement notice (an on-the-spot fine) may be served.

However if your smoky vehicle is detected during a publicly announced blitz or you are a repeat offender or a first time offender with an extremely smoky vehicle, you may be issued with an infringement notice without warning.

If you see a car or truck blowing smoke for more than ten seconds continuously, call the EPA on (03) 9695 2777 or 1800 444 004 if you live outside Melbourne. Both of these numbers operate 24 hours a day. Alternatively, you can report smoky vehicles via the EPA website.

For more information see the Environment Protection Act.