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Road rules you may not know

Once we get our driver’s licence most of us are never tested on the road rules for the rest of our lives.

Not until we reach the tender age of 85 (in NSW) are we required to undertake a practical driving test – but even then we aren’t submitted to a rigorous assessment of the road rules.

In Victoria, there is currently no compulsory retesting of older drivers, let alone a knowledge test.

It is little wonder, then, many of us are unwittingly committing driving offences every day.

Some drivers may even willingly commit what they judge to be minor driving offences, perhaps not realising the consequences.

We all know about hand held mobile phones. Maybe!

For example, it is common knowledge talking or texting on a hand-held mobile phone while driving is illegal.

But did you know that includes holding it away from your face on loud speaker – even while stationary in traffic?

Technically, even pressing a button to answer the phone or check a text is illegal if it’s not in a fixed bracket.


Handling your phone while using it as a navigation device is also an offence, because it’s not properly docked and, technically, it is still a phone.

But here’s one aspect of mobile phone tickets many drivers don’t know: in NSW (a $298 fine) and Victoria (a $282 fine) each ticket also attracts three demerit points – a quarter of your licence.

But did you know, in NSW, if you get caught using a hand held mobile phone in a school zone the fine is $397 and four demerit points?

Is that phone call or text message that important now?

Hang an arm outside a running vehicle and you could be forced to pay up.

Driving with a TV or DVD (or similar) displaying moving pictures in view of the driver is, understandably, a ticket. In Victoria the fine is $282 (and no demerit points) and in NSW it attracts a $298 fine and three points – or $397 and four points if it’s in a school zone.

Rules you may nor know



If your car is parked legally and safely off the road (ie: not waiting at the lights or in slow-moving traffic) but the engine is running, you’re OK to use the phone in NSW.

But in Victoria, if you’re parked legally and safely off the road and the engine is still running – and you’re in the driver’s seat – that’s still a ticket. In Victoria the engine must be off otherwise you are “in charge of a motor vehicle”.

This is just one of many anomalies and unusual road rules we unearthed in a Drive survey of penalties in NSW and Victoria.

The dubious honour of the weirdest road rule belongs to NSW.

Splashing a bus passenger with mud after driving through a puddle can cost you $165. Oddly enough, splashing a pedestrian with water is OK. It’s the bus and the mud that seem to be most offensive in the eyes of NSW law.

Did you know it is illegal to drive through an orange traffic light – if it was deemed you had time to stop?

n NSW and Victoria it carries the same offence as running a red light: $397 and three demerit points in NSW and $282 and three demerit points in Victoria.

Police we spoke to asked us to remind drivers that a “stop” sign means “stop”, not roll through. “The car must come to a complete stop, the wheels must stop moving,” one officer says. Failing to do so is a $282 ticket and three demerit points in Victoria and $298 and three demerit points in NSW.

Stopping in a “no stopping” zone is also a no-no: a $232 fine in NSW ($298 and two demerit points in a school zone), or a $141 fine in Victoria. But in NSW, taxis are exempt from no stopping zones in the CBD if dropping off or picking up passengers.

Double parking in a school zone is also $298 and two demerit points in NSW, but only $85 in Victoria.

Parking on a footpath won’t keep you out of trouble either: it’s a $99 fine in NSW and $85 in Victoria.

Be careful how you say farewell to a friend or relative next time you’re visiting.

A toot of the horn and a wave goodbye out the window as you drive down the street could cost you almost $600 and three demerit points in NSW: $298 for the “illegal use of a warning device”, and a further $298 fine (and three points) for having a “limb protrude” from the car. The same “limb protrude” ticket applies to resting your elbow on the window ledge.

In NSW, a passenger can also be issued a ticket for having a part of his or her body outside a window of a moving car: $298 but no demerit points.


In Victoria, the toot and wave will set you back $282 – $141 for each offence, but no points.

We all know seatbelts are compulsory – but many are unaware that in the driver also cops a $282 ticket (Victoria) or a $298 ticket (NSW) and three demerit points if a passenger is unbelted.

In NSW, if two passengers are unbelted the fine and the demerit points double. Four passengers unbelted: $1258 and six demerit points. Better keep a close eye on the kids.

In Victoria if the unbelted passenger is under 16 the fine to the driver increases to $317 per offence.

Unbelted passengers over the age of 16 in both states also receive a fine ($282 and $298).

Ladies, do you tuck the seatbelt shoulder strap under your arm or chest? That’s also a $282 ticket (Victoria) or a $298 ticket (NSW) and three demerit points, because the seatbelt is not properly fitted.

Do you ever recline the passenger seat on a long interstate drive – the seatbelt might be clicked in, but the straps are loose? That’s also akin to not wearing a seatbelt.

As with all traffic offences, it is up to the discretion of individual police. The officers Drive spoke to were divided on whether or not they would issue this ticket.

One police officer in Victoria we spoke to gave a sobering example. He said he had attended a collision where the front passenger lived because they were reclined (the car ran under the back of a truck) but he also attended another crash where a front-seat passenger in a reclined seat died because the seatbelt did not restrain them properly on impact.

Using an incorrectly fitted or non-approved child seat is a $298 fine and three demerit points in NSW, and $317 and three demerit points in Victoria. But, incredibly, in NSW, taxi drivers (who are still exempt from wearing seatbelts on the grounds of personal security) cannot be fined if infants are not in a child restraint.

Driving at night with your headlights off? That’s a $99 fine and one demerit point in NSW. Failing to dip your highbeams attracts the same penalties.

In Victoria, driving at night with headlights off is a $211 fine and 1 demerit point – and it’s the same fine for having a tail-light or number-plate light out.

Are you annoyed by drivers who use foglights in clear conditions – or in daylight? In NSW it’s a $99 ticket and in Victoria it’ll cost you $141 to use a foglight “unless in fog or other hazardous weather reducing visbility”.

Leaving your licence at home during a quick trip to the shops in NSW and will cost you $99 for “not producing” a licence. In Victoria, drivers aged 26 and over have seven days to present it to a police station. Provisional and probationary drivers must carry it with them.

Displaying “L” or “P” plates when not required (when the driver is fully licenced) is a $141 ticket in Victoria but not NSW.

Fully licenced drivers who supervise learner drivers must be under the 0.05 blood-alcohol limit (the learner driver must be 0.0).

But did you know that the driver of a car with a TV or DVD screen “likely to distract other drivers” can also be issued a fine: $282 in Victoria and $298 in NSW (although no demerit points in either state for this offence).

Failing to keep left on a freeway (or a road with a speed limit of 90km/h or more) unless overtaking is an offence and, contrary to popular belief, police do issue tickets.

In Victoria, if you’re holding up traffic in the fast lane it is a $282 fine and two demerit points. In NSW, it is $298 and two demerit points.

It is also illegal to fail to leave enough room when overtaking, or cut in too soon – or to speed up when being overtaken.

In NSW, unsafe overtaking attracts a $298 fine and two demerit points. Speeding up while being overtaken is a $298 ticket and three demerit points.

In Victoria, unsafe overtaking or speeding up while being overtaken each carries a penalty of a $282 fine and two demerit points.

Many of us know it is an offence to not give way to an emergency vehicle. But did you know the fines? In Victoria it is a $246 ticket and three demerit points. In NSW it is $397 and three demerit points.

As several police admitted to us, however, it is a difficult ticket to issue because they are usually on their way to an emergency.

Are you forgetful with your indicators, or do you not indicate when merging into a turning lane? That’s a $141 ticket and two demerit points in Victoria and $165 and two demerit points in NSW.

Not indicating left when leaving a roundabout: $165 and two demerit points in NSW and $141 in Victoria (if it was deemed practicable to indicate).

Opening a door on a passing cyclist is a $141 in Victoria, and $298 in NSW.

Following deaths in cars carrying more passengers than there are seatbelts, NSW and Victoria have changed their laws.

“You can’t do a clown car anymore,” says one highway patrol officer we  spoke to.

It is now illegal to carry more occupants than a car was designed to carry – and to carry passengers in “a part of a vehicle not designed for carrying passengers”.

This means the back of a wagon, van and ute – and the boot of a hatchback or sedan. In Victoria the fine for this offence is $282 and no demerit points, and in NSW it’s a $298 ticket and three demerit points.

But did you know that a supervising driver could be fined for talking on a mobile phone – if they “failed to prevent a traffic breach”? That is, if the learner driver runs a stop sign or red light or changes lanes into the path of another car – and the supervising driver was distracted by his or her phone – the supervising driver can be fined ($99 in NSW).

In Victoria the supervising driver can only be fined if he or she allows the learner to exceed the speed limit by 25km/h or more – a $176 ticket.

But Victoria also issues a fine to the supervising driver if the learner-driver’s car is not displaying ‘L’ plates ($141).

We know driving while over 0.05 is illegal – but it is also against the law for the driver to drink alcohol even if you’re under the limit ($298 and three points in NSW, and $282 and no demerit points in Victoria).

Reversing a vehicle “further than is reasonable” is a $141 fine in Victoria – and reversing along a one-way street is a ticket in both states ($232 and two demerit points in NSW), because you’re still travelling the wrong direction even if the car is pointing the right way.

However, at least you don’t need to wear seatbelt when reversing. That’s legal in both states.

In Victoria and NSW only delivery drivers and garbage collectors are exempt from wearing a seatbelt below this speed – while working, and when travelling at less than 25 km/h.

It is common knowledge radar detectors are illegal, but many people perhaps don’t realise how stiff the penalties are.

In NSW, it is a $1556 fine and nine demerit points to use a radar detector “or speed evasion device” (the wording changed because police also use laser devices to track speed), another $1556 ticket to own, buy or sell. And another $1556 if you fail to surrender the device.

That’s more than three times the average fine for carrying an unlicensed firearm. According to the Australian Defense Lawyers website, citing statistics from the Judicial Commission of NSW, the average penalty in NSW for carrying an unlicensed firearm is $400.

In Victoria, drivers caught with a radar detector are charged to appear in court and the device is seized as evidence, where the maximum fine is $2816.80 (20 penalty units at $140.84 each).

We all know driving an unregistered vehicle is illegal, but police believe if motorists knew the fine was dearer than re-registering a car, they’d be more inclined to pay up.

As NSW prepares to axe registration labels on cars from next year, it may be worth taking note of the penalty for driving an unregistered car (whether it was an innocent oversight or not).

Driving an unregistered vehicle opens the driver up to three tickets in NSW: drive unregistered vehicle, drive uninsured vehicle, not pay road tax. Each is $596, totaling $1788.

In Victoria, there is one fine for the driver of an unregistered vehicle ($704). But the owner also gets a $704 ticket for permitting the use of his or her unregistered vehicle.

Want to keep a number plate as a souvenir and hang on the garage wall? In Victoria failing to surrender a number plate is a $141 fine.

Altering or obscuring a car’s number plate – or making your own – is probably not worth the hassle: a $282 ticket in Victoria and $397 in NSW.

One unusual law we liked comes from Victoria: “leaving thing dropped from vehicle on road” (such as a piece of timber, or debris from a car crash) is a $176 fine.

If you don’t already, you may want to take your keys with you when go inside the service station to pay for fuel.

Did you know it is illegal to leave your car unlocked, leave the key in the ignition or leave the windows open if you’re more than three metres away from your vehicle?

In NSW each of those offences comes with a $99 ticket, in Victoria each is a $141 fine. Leaving the park brake off is also a $141 fine.

Tempted to leave a bicycle rack on the car – even if you’re not carrying a bicycle at the time? In Victoria that is a $141 ticket.

Driving with a TV or DVD (or similar) displaying moving pictures in view of the driver is, understandably, a ticket. In Victoria the fine is $282 (and no demerit points) and in NSW it attracts a $298 fine and three points – or $397 and four points if it’s in a school zone.


You may want to be careful when out of the car, too. In NSW, pedestrians who don’t cross the road quickly enough – or who cross on a red signal – risk a $66 ticket. It’s the same fine for crossing a road “within 20 metres of a marked pedestrian crossing”.

There may be some aspiring Paris Hiltons in the community, but you cannot drive with an animal on your lap. In NSW the fine is $397 and three demerit points, in Victoria it’s $211 (and no demerit points).

Leading an animal while driving a vehicle – or riding a bicycle – is illegal. It’s a $141 fine in Victoria and $66 in NSW.

Riding a bicycle “furiously or recklessly” is a $66 fine in NSW. Run a red light on a pushie, and it’s also a $66 ticket.

If you’re riding a horse alongside a road in NSW or Victoria, you are subject to the road rules. The law says: “animals being ridden are regarded as a vehicle. Riders are generally subject to the same road rules as drivers.” That means you must be below the 0.05 blood-alcohol limit while on horseback.

Here’s a road rule many may find welcome: it is illegal for a car to “emit offensive noise” from a stereo. We’re not sure if this refers to Burt Bacharach, heavy metal, or volume. In NSW it’s a $150 ticket but in Victoria there is no specific fine covering this.

Finally, we found something we thought might be illegal – but were glad to find common sense has prevailed and is not an offence.

Driving barefoot is OK in both NSW and Victoria. In fact, some road safety experts advocate it, especially if the option is thongs or high heels.