TRIAL OVER: From September 26, you'll no longer have to slow to 40km/h when passing a stationary NSW emergency vehicle in a 90km/h or faster zone.
TRIAL OVER: From September 26, you'll no longer have to slow to 40km/h when passing a stationary NSW emergency vehicle in a 90km/h or faster zone. Trevor Veale

Controversial 40km/h slow down rule scrapped

YOUR days of slowing down to 40km/h when passing stationary emergency vehicles on NSW roads with speed limits of 90km/h or over are numbered.

The controversial trial is due to end on September 26, much to the delight of peak state body Road Freight New South Wales.

Chief Executive Simon O'Hara said he was pleased the government had listened to 'honest feedback' from RFNSW members and other industry stakeholders who thought the 'go slow' rule was a significant risk to truck drivers and light-vehicle drivers.

"It's a common-sense decision," said Mr O'Hara on the eve of the RFNSW conference in Sydney this week.

"Whilst RFNSW and our members always have safety as our number one priority, we just couldn't accept that forcing fully-laden trucks to slow down to 40km/h was the best way of protecting our first responders.

"The feedback from our members was that the rule didn't differentiate between heavy and light vehicles and was proving to be incredibly dangerous for truckies travelling on freeways and major roads - forced to slow down very quickly to 40km/h.

"We saw that on the dramatic 7 News footage earlier this year, where a motorcycle police officer on the side of the road near Ballina, was in danger of being hit by a truck which skidded to slow down to 40km/h."

When passing emergency vehicles with flashing lights truckies will still need to slow down to 40km/h on roads with speed limits of 80km/h or under.

The rule has also been expanded to include tow trucks and breakdown assistance vehicles, which are displaying yellow flashing lights while stopped on the road.

Minister for Roads Andrew Constance and Minister for Regional Roads Paul Toole said 926 infringements were issued during the 12-month trial aimed at keeping emergency service workers safe while working by the roadside.

"We've monitored the impact of the rule over the past year and taken on board feedback from the public and stakeholders about the trial. We're now implementing changes to make the rule safer for everyone," Mr Constance said.

These changes include the speed drivers need to slow down to in certain circumstances to avoid unsafe practices like hard braking.

On roads with speed limits of 90km/h or over truckies will need to:

  • Slow to a speed which is safe and reasonable for the circumstances;
  • Give sufficient space between their vehicle and the breakdown assistance or emergency vehicle and workers.

On multi-lane roads, drivers must change lanes to keep the lane next to the vehicle free if it is safe to do so.

"These changes are about slowing down safely," Mr Toole said.

"If you are driving on roads 90km/h or over you will need to consider how close you are to the stationary vehicle and slow to a safer speed and give as much space to the vehicle as you can."

In the five years from 2014 to 2018 around 85 per cent of crashes where emergency service vehicles were stopped at the roadside happened in 80km/h speed zones and below.

NSW Police have also adjusted their practices so officers are stopping in safer locations which are more visible to approaching drivers.

New advance warning signs are being designed for use by emergency services.

Assistant Commisioner Michael Corboy said the new rule is about ensuring the safety of not only police, but also other road users.

"We need to provide a safe working environment for our police officers, whose job it is to enforce the road rules, in an effort to improve driver behaviour and drive down the road toll," Mr Corboy said.

"Motorists should always 'drive to the conditions' as part of their road safety plan."

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