Emergency safety

July 06, 2017

New road rules to protect emergency workers on our roads have been welcomed by local police.

The Victorian Government has introduced the new law, which took effect on Saturday.

Drivers must safely slow to 40km/h when passing a stationary or slow-moving emergency vehicle that is responding to an emergency with flashing lights or a siren sounding.

After passing the vehicle, drivers should not increase speed again until reaching a safe distance from the scene, so emergency workers can do their job without fear of being hit by passing traffic.

A number of emergency workers have been killed and injured on Victorian roads after being struck by passing vehicles or debris, while almost one in five emergency service workers said they’d had four or more near misses while stopped on the roadside over the past three years.

Seymour Highway Patrol Acting Senior Sergeant David Gillespie welcomed the new rule, saying it would help make the work environment for emergency services workers safer.

‘‘In my experience working on the side of the road, whether at a collision, intercepting a vehicle or talking to someone, when a car goes past you at anything over 60km/h, which is what most rural roads are, it’s a frightening experience,’’ Senior Sergeant Gillespie said.

‘‘A driver’s reaction times and breaking distances increase the quicker they are going, so if a driver needs to take immediate action while passing the scene, the slower they are going the better.’’

However, the RACV has raised concerns about the new rule, with roads and traffic manager Dave Jones arguing the law needed to be more clearly explained to road users last month.

‘‘In some situations, for example high-speed country roads that have got hills, they’re undulating roads and sharp bends,’’ he told radio station 3AW.

‘‘It may be very difficult for someone to see the flashing emergency vehicles’ lights far enough in advance so they can slow down to 40 in time.

‘‘And if they do manage to slam on the anchors ... will any vehicle behind them be able to do it?’’

The new rule applies to Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria, CFA and SES vehicles.

Fines of $277 and a maximum court penalty of $793 will apply. No demerit points apply.

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