Some road rules every driver knows by heart, such as obeying the speed limit and giving way to the right. But there are also some more unusual rules and laws you might not be aware of, and they make for interesting reading when you consider you might be unknowingly breaking them. Buckle up and read on.
Wave goodbye to your licence points
Next time you’re tempted to farewell friends with the toot-and-wave combination as you drive away, you might want to reconsider. Not only are you breaking the law, it could also cost you almost $700 and three demerit points in NSW. Let’s break that down: that’s $344 for honking your horn, an ‘illegal use of a warning device’; and a further $344 fine and three demerit points for the wave, as it’s against the law to have a ‘limb protrude’ from your car, according to Regulation 224 of the Australian Road Rules.
Buckle up - everyone
You’re probably aware that children under the age of seven are required to use an appropriate child restraint (check the specific requirements for your state or territory), but it’s not just the little ones you need to look out for. When you’re behind the wheel you are legally responsible for all your passengers, so if you are pulled over by police and your passengers are not wearing a seat belt you could cop a fine of up to $400 in Queensland and lose three demerit points.
In NSW, it’s $344 per unbelted passenger and if two passengers are unbelted, the fine and the demerit points double. Four passengers unbelted will cost you an eye-watering $1376 fine and six demerit points. So tell your friends and family (in the nicest way) to belt up, as your licence may depend on it. Read more on double demerits here.
While we’re on seatbelts, they are mandatory in every state, so it is now illegal to carry more occupants than a car was designed to carry. If you’re tempted to squash in an extra passenger and you don’t have a seat or a seatbelt for them, it’s a $337 fine and loss of three demerit points.
Restrain your pets
The rules for passengers traveling in your vehicle apply to our four-legged friends, too. While Fang might take pride of place on your lap at home, the car is not the place for them - especially if you’re driving. Fines vary from state to state and can be up to $400 per offence, but in NSW you will lose three demerit points and be fined $397. It’s safer to keep your pet out of the front of the car altogether. Securing pets with a travel harness in the back seat will keep you from being distracted and your pet safely restrained in case you need to brake heavily or swerve to avoid a collision.
Hands off your handset
When you’re driving, the road deserves your full attention, which is why handling your phone while driving is now against the law. You probably know texting on a mobile phone while driving is not only illegal but dangerous. But the same applies to you handling your phone while using it as a navigation device, an offence which can incur a fine of up to $400 and three demerit points. It goes up if you are caught handling a mobile phone for any reason while driving in a school zone with a heftier fine of up to $500 (varying by state) and four demerit points.
But wait, there’s more.
There are 350 road rules in the Australian Road Rules, the national model that forms the framework of each state’s laws. Not every breach of the law carries licence point demerits, but most come with a fine attached.
Here are a few others to keep in mind:
- You must not reverse along a one-way street.
- Always stop fully at a stop sign. Looking left and right and rolling through a stop sign isn’t enough. Drivers must bring their vehicles to a complete stop behind the line before taking off again.
- Do not drive an unregistered, uninsured or unroadworthy vehicle.
- Splashing commuters waiting at a bus stop by intentionally driving through water will score you a fine in NSW (and won’t do much for your likeability, either).
- If you’ve had a few too many drinks and try to sleep it off in your car, you could be breath tested and may need to prove you had no intention of driving.
- Playing games on a road is a no-go (that goes for cul-de-sac cricket, too).
- Flashing your high beams to other drivers (as if to warn of a speed check) within 200 metres is an offence, as it could dazzle the approaching driver.
Of course, if you’re ever in doubt about what’s legitimately OK or not, it’s wise to do your homework and brush up on the road rules by contacting your state’s RMS or going to their website’s learner driver page for a rundown on the rules. Learner driver sample tests are also helpful to see how your road knowledge stacks up, then you can decide if it’s time for a road rule refresh.