9 Australian road rules you have probably broken

By Kellie Buckley, 17 Jan 2017 Car Advice

car key in ignition

There’s a handful of road rules that are unlikely to be enforced, but could catch you out if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There’s a handful of road rules that are unlikely to be enforced, but could catch you out if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time

States and Territories in Australia all have their own specific set of road rules and varying subsequent consequences, but they’re all covered by the Road Traffic Act (1961). We delve into the legislation’s small print and find there’s more than a few doozies that could catch you unawares

1. Tooting your horn

According to Regulation 224 of the Australian Road Rules (ARR), you are actually breaking the law if you honk your horn as a friendly goodbye or hello gesture.
“A driver 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 road users or animals of the approach or position of the vehicle; or it is being used as part of an anti-theft device, or an alcohol interlock device, fitted to the vehicle,” the rule reads.

tooting horn

2. Driving abnormally slow

We’ve all become frustrated with slow drivers, but unless you or the person holding you up ahead is driving ridiculously slowly, there’s not a lot we can do about it.
Watch out of you are driving abnormally slowly, though. You might cop a fine for unreasonably obstructing drivers or pedestrians. According to the legislation, an example of abnormally slowly is “Driving at a speed of 20 kilometres per hour on a length of road to which a speed limit of 80 kilometres per hour applies when there is no reason for the driver to drive at that speed on the length of road.”

3. Speeding up while being overtaken

It’s against the law to speed up while you are being overtaken by another vehicle on a two-way road.  According to Regulation 145, “the other driver must not increase the speed at which the driver is driving until the first driver has passed the other driver, has returned to the line of traffic where the other driver is driving and is a sufficient distance in front of the other driver.” And yes, it really does use the words driver or driving eight seperate times.

4. Not leaving your handbrake on

This rule and the next one are all covered under Regulation 213 of the Act under the subheading of Making a motor vehicle secure. According to the regulation, “before leaving the vehicle, the driver must apply the parking brake effectively or, if weather conditions (for example, snow) would prevent the effective operation of the parking brake, restrain the vehicle’s movement in another way.”

man using parking brake

5. Leaving your keys in the ignition and car unlocked

Yep, and that’s before we get to the issue of your insurance company not coughing up if your car is stolen with the keys in the ignition. Because as written in the aforementioned Regulation 213, “the driver must remove the ignition key before leaving the vehicle. “If the driver will be over three metres from the closest part of the vehicle and there is no-one left in the vehicle, the driver must secure the windows immediately before leaving the vehicle (if the windows of the vehicle can be secured) and lock the doors immediately after leaving the vehicle (if the doors of the vehicle can be locked).

6. Using your fog lights in clear conditions

Regulation 217 says it is an offence to operate either front or rear fog lights “unless the driver is driving in fog or other hazardous weather conditions causing reduced visibility.” According to the rule, a front fog light means any light other than headlight fitted to improve visibility while a rear fog light is defined as “a light other than a brake light, a tail light, a number plate light or a reversing light which is fitted to the rear of a vehicle to make it more visible”.

With the increasing popularity of LED lights bars, the definition of a front fog light may have changed in in state and territory legislation.

7. Reversing for too long

Regulation 296 of the Australian Road Rules, it is an offence for a driver of a vehicle to reverse a vehicle “further than is reasonable in the circumstances.”

8. Use of a phone mount that isn’t commercially manufactured

If you regularly use your phone’s maps app to direct you while driving, the small print of the Australian Road Rules says unless you’ve got it mounted in a unit that has been commercially designed and manufactured, you might be breaking the rules.

“The driver of a vehicle must not use a mobile phone while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked, unless it is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while being so used. For the purposes of this rule, a mobile phone is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle if, and only if the mounting is commercially designed and manufactured for that purpose.”

9. Splashing mud on someone using a bus

Okay, so this is a rule specific only to New South Wales road users, but it’s so unique that we had to mention it. According to the New South Wales legislation, “a driver must take due care, by slowing down or stopping the vehicle if necessary, not to splash mud on any person in or on a bus, or any person entering or leaving any stationary bus, or any person waiting at any bus stop.”

It’s perfectly okay, it seems, to splash someone waiting for a taxi or a tram with mud, just not somebody waiting for a bus.