There are some daft and not so daft road rules in Australia and you may not even know they exist. We tend to forget a lot of what we had to learn to pass driving tests. But it’s debatable how useful some of those rules are. For example, how many Western Australians carry heavy sacks of potatoes in their cars? Who today ties a goat to their vehicle in Victoria?
Some road rules obviously make a lot of sense. They are there to protect children, reduce mobile phone use and speeding, and keep traffic moving smoothly.
If you have a child, you already know they have to be in an approved car seat. But did you know children under 4 are not allowed in the front seat of a vehicle if there is a back row? Children 4-7 can sit in the front only if passengers under 7 are sitting in all the other seats.
School zones may seem obvious but they work differently all over Australia:
- NSW and Qld school zones work before and after school and are marked with flashing lights
- Vic has permanent school zones (where limit is always 40kmh) and time-based school zones
- ACT school zones work from 8am to 4pm with no warnings
- SA school zones are 25kmh anytime at all, “whenever a child is in the zone”.
It should be pretty clear by now where you can and can’t use your phone. But it’s not the same in every state.
- NSW is the only place in Australia where you can use your phone in a drive-through
- In Tasmania, you must use SatNavs because it’s illegal to use even a dash-mounted mobile for GPS.
There are some places you just can’t stop:
- Within 3 metres of a post box unless picking up or dropping off a letter or passenger
- Within 1 metre of a fire hydrant, fire hydrant indicator or fire plug indicator.
The 3-metre rule applies if you stop at a service station to pay for fuel and no-one is in the vehicle. If you are 3 metres away, you have to remove the key and lock all doors and windows. The rule applies even on your own driveway.
Don’t speed up!
One of the more annoying habits on the highway is actually illegal, and that’s where someone speeds up just when you are trying to overtake them.
- In Victoria, you can be fined for driving only 2 kmh over the speed limit
- In the NT, all roads have a maximum speed limit of 130 kmh.
In NSW, pedestrians pay a fine if they are too slow, cross on a red light, or cross within 20 m of a pedestrian crossing.
Lights and horns
The sound of people honking their horns is common in the city. But unnecessary honking is against the law, even when intended to be friendly. Horns are supposed to be used only as a warning signal, or as part of an anti-theft or alcohol interlock device.
Meanwhile, if you’re tempted to kindly flash your lights to warn an oncoming car about police presence – don’t. That is illegal too.
Keep your hand in
While it’s hard to believe, hanging your hand or anything else out of the car window or door will cost $349 and 3 demerit points! The exception is making a hand signal to indicate changing direction or slowing or stopping.
Never reverse a vehicle “further than is reasonable in the circumstances”.
Did you know there is a light illuminating your registration plate? It needs to be working at all times so police or cameras can read it.
The daft rules
The rules we consider daft belong to a bygone era or, luckily, don’t even apply in Australia:
- Vic: you can’t drive with a goat tied to your car in a public area
- WA: you can’t carry more than 50 kg of potatoes in your car
- NSW: you pay $194 fine and get three points for driving through a muddy puddle and splashing someone at a bus stop
- Denmark: always check there are no children underneath the car before starting the engine
- Scandinavia: keep lights on all the time, whatever the weather
- Cyprus: never take your hand off the wheel to eat, drink or rest your arm on the door
- South Africa: animals have right of way on all streets
- Alabama: never drive blindfold!
Following the road rules will keep the price of your green slip down.