Six road rules you’re probably getting wrong

Moving Well | Jade Thrupp | Images: Getty | Posted on 27 April 2021

The most commonly misunderstood road rules in Victoria explained.

So you think you’re a great driver? You might be able to power through a P-turn and parallel park like a pro, but how well do you really know the road rules? There are more than 500 pages of them and RACV’s resident road rules experts have trawled through every page. These are the six road rules many of us are getting wrong. 

A miniature toy car is pushed along a table alongside toy traffic signs.

Six road rules you’re probably getting wrong

Merging 

What you’re doing wrong

If you’ve ever merged onto a freeway, fuming that the non-merging drivers won’t let you in, you’re not alone. But you might be one of the many drivers getting this rule wrong.

What’s the rule? 

There are two different rules depending on the line markings, but drivers should show courtesy regardless of the lines on the road. A ‘zip-merge’ occurs when two lanes of traffic join and there’s no dashed line. Here, the vehicle in front would go first, regardless of whether they’re on the left or right. Where the vehicles cross a dashed line, like on a freeway entry ramp, the vehicle crossing the line must give way to cars already in the lane.

Roundabouts

What you’re doing wrong

If, like most people, you think when you enter a roundabout you need to give way to the right, that’s not the rule.

What’s the rule? 

As it turns out, roundabouts are actually quite straightforward. You need to give way to any vehicle already in the roundabout and any trams entering or approaching the roundabout. In most cases those vehicles already in the roundabout will be on your right. However, in some cases, such as smaller roundabouts, vehicles that have entered to the left or on the opposite side of the roundabout may mean you cannot safety enter and have to give way, as they are already in the roundabout. And, when exiting the roundabout, you should indicate, just as you would at an intersection.

U-turns

What you’re doing wrong

Many people incorrectly assume that, when making a U-turn, they don’t have to give way to drivers turning left out of a slip lane or street. In fact U-turning drivers need to give way to almost everyone else on the road, however an update to the road rules in November 2020 means there is now an exception.

What’s the rule? 

Following the latest update, drivers making a U-turn no longer have to give way to vehicles entering the road from the shoulder, footpath, nature strip or other road-related area. But they must give way to everyone else including pedestrians. 

Turning on a multi-lane road   

What you’re doing wrong

Line markings on multi-lane roads are another common cause of confusion for drivers making turns. People often don’t realise that the line marking on the road indicates which lanes they can turn into, or if they must turn into a specific lane.

What’s the rule? 

Essentially, if you are travelling in a lane with arrows painted on the road, you must travel in the direction shown by the arrows and you must follow any line markings indicating how the turn is to be made. But if there are no line markings, you can turn into any lane. In most cases, it’s safest to just stay in the same lane and change lanes once you’ve made the turn.

Passing a stationary tram  

What you’re doing wrong

Most of us know we’re supposed to stop at the rear of a stationary tram to let passengers get on and off safely. But what about if there are no passengers about, is it okay to creep forward alongside the stationary tram? 

What’s the rule? 

Whether drivers need to stop before passing depends on whether or not the tram is stopped at a safety zone. If a tram is stopped in a safety zone, a driver must drive to the left of the safety zone at a speed that is safe for pedestrians who may be crossing the road. 

If it’s stationed at a tram stop without a safety zone, a driver must always stop before passing the rear of the tram. Once the doors have closed and there are no pedestrians crossing the road, you can drive past the tram at 10 kilometres per hour or slower.

A good rule of thumb is to proceed with caution. Remember pedestrians might be in a rush for the tram and can suddenly appear.

Reversing out of driveways  

What you’re doing wrong

Probably nothing. Among the stream of queries and questions RACV receives, every so often someone will write in insisting that it’s illegal to reverse out of a driveway. 

What’s the rule? 

This one is a bit of an anomaly. Simply stated: it’s not a road rule. Drivers are permitted to reverse out of a driveway. When doing so they must give way to pedestrians, and when vision is impeded drivers are allowed to use their horn to alert pedestrians and other drivers of the position of the vehicle.

Check out RACV’s short videos of some of our most asked-about road rules

  1. Common road rules for bicycle riders.  

  2. The rules for merging.  

  3. What to do when U-turning

  4. The rules for yellow and red traffic lights

  5. Negotiating roundabouts

    These first five videos are also available in Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese.

  6. Negotiating hook turns.

  7. Driving around trams.

  8. Giving way to pedestrians.

  9. The rules for angle parking.

  10. The rules about blocking an intersection.