The Road Traffic Code and Often Unknown Offences
Written by Twistie Venning
This article is not to be taken as legal advice and is written primarily for amusement and educational purposes.
Here at Kroon Legal we know the law can sometimes be peculiar and contain little known rules and regulations that at first sight seem bizarre. The source of some of these can be from old laws that are outdated, some that have a genuine but relatively unknown need and some that, well we just don’t know.
A great source of some of the less known laws in WA is the Road Traffic Code (the Code) and if you use a road, whether as a driver, cyclist or a pedestrian the law applies to you. The definition of ‘road’ is very wide and it includes places like shopping centre carparks. It could even be argued the drive through at a fast food restaurant is a road for the purposes of the Code.
50 km/h in built-up areas
We all know that the default speed limit in a built-up area is 50 km/h unless signposted otherwise; but what is a built-up area? The legal definition in the Code is any road that has streetlights or structures devoted to business, industry or houses at intervals of less than 100 metres for a distance of at least 500 metres. (r 3 & r 11 of the Code).
Difference between highway and freeway
Most of you would have seen the signs that prohibit certain vehicles on the freeway; for example animals, cyclists, pedestrians; but a little known law is the minimum speed. Unless it is unsafe or traffic congestion does not permit you to, you have to drive no greater than 20 km/h below the posted limit. On most parts of the freeways in WA that’s 80 km/h. What’s the fine? $50. (r 12 of the Code).
Interference with speed detection
Want to buy that special number plate cover that can’t be photographed or the radar / laser jammer? Most of us know these devices are illegal but what a lot of people don’t know is the fines are pretty hefty if you get caught. What’s the fine? $1200 for a car and $1500 for heavy vehicles. Plus a lot of demerit points. If you did this in a holiday period and double demerits apply; 14 points and you only have 12 before you can lose your licence (unless you’re a learner or P plater and then you have less points).
Turning left from the right lane
We’ve seen those red and orange signs on the back of heavy vehicles that say ‘Do Not Overtake Turning Vehicle’. There’s a good reason for that sign because if a heavy vehicle is turning left or right and you overtake them and it’s not safe to do so you’ve just committed an offence. It’s also lawful for a heavy vehicle to turn left from the right lane and vice versa if the size of the vehicle requires it to. Get caught trying to slip down the side of a heavy vehicle in circumstances like this and you’ve cost yourself a fine of either $100 or $200 depending on the circumstances. (r 21 & r 123 of the Code).
U-Turns at traffic lights
Unless there’s a sign in front of you that says ‘U Turn Permitted’ it’s against the law to do a U-Turn at a set of traffic lights. This one’s a $100 fine. (r 31 of the Code).
Give way to public buses
Similar to the orange and red signs on heavy vehicles, most public buses have a sign on the right hand rear that say ‘Give Way’ with a picture of the bus indicating right. That’s because it is law to give way to a bus that is indicating to the right from the left side of the road or a bus bay and is either stopped or moving slowly. The fine for this one is $200. (r 59 of the Code).
Courtesy when overtaking
No doubt, most drivers have experienced the person who speeds up when you’re overtaking them, particularly in the overtaking lanes. Well that is not lawful and this is the only part of our traffic laws that uses the word ‘courtesy’. If someone speeds up or drives in a manner that prevents people from overtaking they are liable for a $200 fine. (r 125 of the Code).
Stopping near a bus stop
We all know we shouldn’t park near a bus stop but have I’m sure most driver’s have sometimes stopped near one to drop someone off or something similar. Well if we do and it’s not because we have to (for example waiting for traffic or giving way to a bus), we can be fined. The relevant distances are 20 metres before and 10 metres after a bus stop. What’s the fine? $50. (r 164 of the Code).
Stopping near a letter box
Unless there are parking signs permitting you to do so, if you stop within 3 metres of a red public letter box and you’re not dropping off mail or passengers you can be fined $50. (r 167 of the Code).
Parking on the wrong side of the road
Sometimes we see vehicles parked on a road or a parking bay that’s facing the wrong way. Well that’s against the Code as so is parking on a road without bays marked but within one metre of the front or rear of another vehicle. $50 fine for either of these. (r 176 of the Code).
Securing your vehicle
If you leave your vehicle, you must stop the engine and apply your brake. Leaving your vehicle is defined as moving more than 3 metres away from it so if you stop somewhere and jump out to pop into a shop you can’t leave the vehicle running. It doesn’t matter if a passenger is in the vehicle. When there is no passenger in the vehicle who is 16 years or older, you must also lock your vehicle and wind your windows up to no less than 2 centimetres. So when you see someone’s parked at the shops and has left the windows down so the dog’s are cool they’re still risking a $50 fine. (r 181 of the Code).
Headlights must be on during hours of darkness
You would think this regulation is pretty straight forward but what’s the definition of ‘hours of darkness’? Turns out it is simply after sunset and before sunrise. So if you’re driving in twilight and the sun has just set, lights on or you may be fined $100. (r 182 of the Code).
Using fog lights when not in fog or other hazardous weather conditions causing reduced visibility is an offence and carries with it a $100 fine. An even more obscure part of the law on fog lights is if conditions permit you to have them on, you’re not permitted to have them on simultaneously with headlights, even at night. That’s also a $100 fine. (r 183 of the Code).
Using your horn
It’s illegal to use your horn when it is not necessary to warn other users or animals of your approach or position. So the little toot to say g’day or goodbye to friends or the friendly toot toot at the lights to the daydreamer in front could cost you $50. (r 190 of the Code).
Pedestrian crossing the road
Pedestrian’s must cross the road using the shortest safe route and not stay on the road any longer than necessary to cross. Walking down the middle of the road is unlawful and these pedestrians could be fined $50. (r 196 of the Code).
Pedestrian crossing available but not used
We’ve probably seen someone crossing the road at a set of lights without pushing the button to use the pedestrian crossing. Well that‘s a $50 fine if they’ve crossed against the red pedestrian light. It’s also illegal to cross within 20 metres of a pedestrian crossing. Again $50 fine. (r 197 & r 199 of the Code).
Games on roads
Cricket and footy are great to play on the road; right? Maybe but not according to the Code. Here’s another $50 fine if a person does. (r 205 of the Code).
Dinky rides on bikes
As a kid we may have given a friend a dinky ride on our bike. Well if it’s not designed for two or more the rider can cop a $50 fine. (r 212 of the Code).
The cheap $2 window wash you sometimes see at intersections might keep your glass clean but that person is breaking the law and can be fined $50. What a lot of people don’t know is the driver who pays them can also be fined $50. The same applies to people hitchhiking and those who give them rides. (r 259 of the Code).
All of the above applies in Western Australia and other states and territories may not have similar provisions. There are numerous exceptions to the above and nothing written here should be taken as legal advice. Kroon Legal are located in Bunbury and service the South-West of WA. We deal with traffic matters and can provide legal advice for specific circumstances. Feel free to telephone our office on (08) 97212900 if you would like to make an appointment.