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MOTORISTS are now required to follow a new road rule when passing cyclists and could face a hefty $330 fine if they break it.
NSW motorists will have to leave minimum gaps when passing cyclists or face fines and loss of demerit points following a successful two-year trial.
This month the Minimum Passing Distance rule was retained as a permanent NSW road rule after an evaluation of the trial.
The rule requires drivers passing a cyclist travelling in the same direction to leave a minimum gap one metre between the car and bike when the speed limit is 60km/h or less.
That distance bumps up to 1.5 metres when it is higher than 60km/h.
An independent review of the two-year trial estimated a 15 per cent reduction in bicycle-to-vehicle crashes, Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey said on Wednesday.
Drivers who break the law face a penalty of $330 and two demerit points.
This new law should be relatively easy to remember unlike some obscure road rules catching out hundreds of Aussie drivers and cyclists.
Some of the seemingly innocuous offences drivers have been stung for in the past year include hanging an arm or leg outside of a vehicle window or sitting your pet on your lap.
The RACQ data shows that 400 motorists, in Queensland alone, copped fines for having part of their person’s body outside a window or door — an offence which you can be fined up to $126 for committing.
Additionally, 170 drivers had been fined for having an animal on their lap — an offence which can earn you a fine of up to $294 — and 113 pedestrians had obstructed a vehicle during a 12-month period in the Sunshine State.
Cyclists were also stung by lesser-known rules as 66 riders were issued an infringement notice for riding a bike without a bell in the same period and 52 drivers received a fine for improperly honking their horn.
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Nationwide since 2000
“Obviously, there are many motorists copping fines for breaking rules they may not be aware of,” said RACQ spokeswoman Lauren Ritchie.
“These road rules may seem insignificant to some but they’re in place to keep all road users safe.”
There is one particular law that varies from state to state that can have a very costly surprise if you are caught not following it.
Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia chief executive Robert Barwick took to the group’s Facebook page to alert travellers after a member of the club was stung by the obscure new rule.
It involves having to slow down dramatically when passing emergency vehicles in South Australia — 25km/h to be precise. The unaware member who was caught out claims she was fined $1007 and disqualified from driving for six months.
“A member, on their way to Adelaide, drove past two police cars parked well off the side of the road (approximately 12 metres) with their lights flashing. They appeared to be talking to a motorist.
“The member states that she was driving approximately 85km/h at the time (the speed limit was 110km/h). She continued driving and not long after she saw lights of a police car flashing behind her, requesting her to pull over — which she did.
“The police officer asked her speed, which she said was about 85km/h. He said she had been travelling at 83km/h and asked her if she was aware that the speed limit when driving by an emergency vehicle flashing their lights is 25km/h in South Australia?
“She was not aware of this. She tried to explain her case, but to no avail she was issued with an infringement notice — $1007 fine and an immediate six-month driving disqualification. As a single traveller with a 49 year unblemished driving record, she was dumbfounded and confused with what had just happened.”
Similar laws in Victoria and Western Australia require motorists to drop their speed to 40km/h.
Canberra is set to introduce the rule and it will be trialled in NSW this year.
Police are urging the Queensland government to consider similar laws in the Sunshine State.
Mr Barwick told news.com.au that while the rule is fine, it’s confusing to have laws that vary across states.
“I do think it is a good rule but motorists need to know about it. What I cannot understand how it varies in different states,” he said. “Generally it’s 40km/h but in South Australia (it’s less).”
He reinforced that it’s a broader issue that this one rule.
“National registration and national licensing should be brought in,” he said. “If your vehicle is registered in one state and needs an inspection you need to go back to that state to have it done, prior to registration.
“For example if you are holidaying in Western Australia in your RV and you are from Queensland, you need to undertake the inspection in that state. A national system would ensure it would be easier. However I don’t believe the states will agree because they will lose out on the revenue stream attached to registration and licensing.”
Hopefully this limits accidents on our roads with cyclists. If you would like to learn in a fun and friendly first aid course in Canberra contact us at www.canberrafirstaid.com