I have been asked again about the application of the road rules when driving an emergency vehicle. My correspondent wrote:
I work for NSW ambulance service as a paramedic. I have been in the job for just short of ten years. Recent events have prompted me to investigate the legalities of rules regulating ambulances responding ‘lights and sirens’ in NSW.As is the nature of our job, we are given jobs that are categorized R1(hot)(lights and sirens allowed) to R2- R7 (cold). I’ve been trying to track down information that clearly sets out rules applying to responding ‘lights and sirens’. The concern I have is many times jobs are categorized R1 when it is not necessary hence giving the driver the authority to disobey the RTA road rules, driving above the speed limit hence endangering the other road users on the road. I spoke to our oh&s rep who said “there is no legislation that entitles an ambulance to disobey the RTA road rules.. It’s just police turn a blind eye”. I have consulted management on the issue and they say we must respond in a manner that gets us to the job in a reasonable time. I have looked up our Operating procedures SOP and it basically says all care must be taken .. There appears to be no clear legislation hence making it hard to make an informed judgement on appropriate behavior in this regard.
Do you have any clear information on this ?
I confess to being amazed that someone can still say ‘there is no legislation that entitles an ambulance to disobey the RTA road rules.. It’s just police turn a blind eye’. That is simply wrong. Australia now has national road rules so the principles, if not the fine details, are the same. In New South Wales the rules are in the Road Rules 2008 (NSW). Rule 306 says:
A provision of these Rules does not apply to the driver of an emergency vehicle if:
(a) in the circumstances:
(i) the driver is taking reasonable care, and
(ii) it is reasonable that the rule should not apply, and
(b) if the vehicle is a motor vehicle that is moving-the vehicle is displaying a blue or red flashing light or sounding an alarm.
All the jurisdictions have this rule, what varies is how they define what is an emergency vehicle (and see the extensive discussion under the post about mines rescue, https://emergencylaw.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/597/, about what is or is not an emergency vehicle in Western Australia). In NSW an emergency vehicle is defined as:
… any vehicle driven by a person who is:
(a) an emergency worker, and
(b) driving the vehicle in the course of his or her duties as an emergency worker.
“emergency worker” means:
(a) a member of the Ambulance Service rendering or providing transport for sick or injured persons, or
(b) a member of a fire brigade, rural fire brigade or the State Emergency Service providing transport in the course of an emergency, or
(c) a person (or a person belong to a class of persons) approved by the Authority.
This is better than trying to define what is an ambulance by reference to its design or use and ensures that vehicles used by the ambulance service, but not for transporting patients such as rapid response cars and motorcycles and command and support vehicles are ’emergency vehicles’.
The rules in the Road Rules 2008 are all the rules of the road including obligations to obey traffic lights, keep left, not speed etc. Serious offences such as dangerous driving are not in the Road Rules but the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) so the exemption does not apply. The exemption is not an exemption from civil liability. So how can we know that it is reasonable that the rules should not apply?
That’s a question that could be argued case by case, but by having a system such as the one described goes a long way to saying the exemption should apply to R1 cases but not others. If you use lights and sirens on an R2 you can expect a ticket and that you’ll have to go before a magistrate to try and show why your conduct was reasonable; if it’s R1 you could expect the ambulance service would write to the police confirming it was an R1 task and the ticket will be withdrawn. Whether a case should be classed as R1 is a matter of policy. I recall being told, when I was in NSW Ambulance that a ‘call to a person fallen’ may not sound like much, until you find they’ve fallen from the third floor so all 000 calls where ‘urgent duty’. I don’t know what criteria is now used for R1 or how you know, before you get there, whether it’s an appropriate coding. As the driver you are in charge of the vehicle so you have to drive in a way that is safe regardless of the call, the R1 code can only authorize, not require you to rely on Rule 306.
Regardless of the call, you have to take reasonable care, so you have to take into account a driver approaching a green light will probably assume that they have right of way so if you pull in front of them that’s not taking reasonable care , you need to stop and make sure they’ve given way to you before proceeding. If you do that you should not get a ticket for running the red light, and if you do, eg from a red light camera, you can expect it to be dropped. Equally you can’t drive so as put others at unnecessary risk, your desire to save a life doesn’t warrant killing or injuring someone else (see https://emergencylaw.wordpress.com/2009/10/24/suspended-jail-sentence-for-firefighter-involved-in-a-fatal-accident/, so if you are driving in a way that would cause a bystander to say’gee they’re going fast’ or ‘did you see that ambulance, that was dangerous’ then you’re not taking reasonable care.
If you crash the normal rules of civil liability apply but that’s ok, all vehicles, including vehicles that don’t need to be registered such as NSW RFS appliances, are covered by compulsory third party insurance schemes. In theory it’s the personal liability of the driver but in reality it is not and, unless the driver is intoxicated, will never be a matter of personal liability. Any criminal liability, such as for dangerous driving causing death, is personal and does fall upon the driver.
My shorthand answer, not based on law as such but my catchy summary is: when authorized to proceed with lights and sirens (and what authorized means will vary from state to state and service to service) you can do whatever you like, provided you don’t crash – so drive in a way that makes sure you don’t crash – don’t drive too fast and don’t assume others have seen you or are giving way to you.
I hope that helps.
I must say as a side isssue that my driving under emergency conditions DOESNT automatically put all other drivers in danger.If that were the case, I would never turn on a siren!
What I find interesting is a phenomenon such as the revolving status of Ambulances as Emergency Vehicles. It would appear now with the advent of speed cameras that the status of an emergency vehicle changes dependent on whether or nor you have you lights flashing. Clearly, a speed camera doesn’t record sound from an alarm fitted to the ambulance.
I don’t mean excessive dangerous exceptions, but moreso those jurisdictions where the camera margin of error has been reduced considerably. Now paramedics face fines as their lights, and maybe unphotgraphed sirens are not operating for 3 km over the limit.
Sometimes you are an emrrgency vehicle, sometimes you are not.
Under this premise, even the leeway of an emergency vehicle driver to leave an emergency vehicle on any part of the roadway at anytime can then be called into question. Do you need your lights and or sirens going to be able to leave it on any part of the roadway or again does your status change
All driving brings a danger, that is why we must all do it with care. Driving under emergency conditions necessarily creates special dangers, whether its how you drive or how others react to your vehicle, so you take care to reeduce that risk.
I’m not sure what you mean by your status changing. In NSW it’s an emergency vehicle if it’s being driven by an emergency worker as part of the worker’s duties. The driver is exempt the road rules under rule 306 if the relevant conditions are met, which includes having the beacons or siren on. If the red light camera doesn’t catch the beacons (hard to believe that they are all off at any given second, but perhaps its the camera angle) your still driving an emergency vehicle. If the police issuee a traffic infringement notice, then you write to them and teell them the beacons were on. If push comes to shove you can elect to go to court and give that evidence. Your status doesn’t change, but it’s a question of fact whether the beacons or siren were on.
As for parking the vehicle, rule 307 says:
Part 12 deals with restrictions on stopping and parking.
Rule 307 does not require the llights and sirens to be on to stop or park an emergency vehicle even where it would otherwise be ‘illegally’ stoppeed or parked.
I guess it’s the definition of an emergency. Non lights and sirens emergency cases are not exempt from speed camera action against the driver. Even though they are responding to an emergency. I realise that the light and or sirens is the overiding decider it’s just the various overlapping definitions that leaves you wondering about your status.
However, under the road rules the only time we are responding as an emergency vehicle is when the sound and light show is going.
So really an ambulance is not an emergency vehicle all the time. Without breaking confidence, assessment of a drivers action by a service ask if the vehicle was being operated as an emergency vehicle at the time? This determines a recommendation for a fine/caution to be issued.
I’m afraid you’ve lost me. You say ‘Non lights and sirens emergency cases are not exempt from speed camera action against the driver’ and that’s correct. The police can never know what’s your definition of an ’emergency’ nor can other drivers so lights and sirens are essential for the exemption so other driver’s can know what’s going on. You then say ‘I realise that the light and or sirens is the overiding decider it’s just the various overlapping definitions that leaves you wondering about your status’; I don’t know what you mean by overlapping definitions or where the confusion about status comes from, rule 306 makes it clear, no lights or siren, no exemption.
Then you say:
That’s not quite right. As I said in the original post, an emergency vehicle is defined as
Your ambulance is always an emergency vehicle but an emergency vehicle is not always exempt. As the driver you only get an exemption from the road rules if the crriteria in rule 306 are all present, including lights and sirens.
You then say ‘Without breaking confidence, assessment of a drivers action by a service ask if the vehicle was being operated as an emergency vehicle at the time? This determines a recommendation for a fine/caution to be issued.’ I suspect that’s not what you actually meant to type as it doesn’t make sense and I don’t think I can infer what you meant to say there.
You might think I’m being unnecessarily pedantic but the words is in fact what the law is about.
“Your ambulance is always an emergency vehicle but an emergency vehicle is not always exempt.”
You’ve answered my query with this and highlighted what appears from what I read to frustrate some paramedics.
When infringements are received here, the question asked, ‘was the ambulance operating as an emergency vehicle’?
As an ambulance is an emergency vehicle then ‘yes’. But because it didnt have it’s warning devices going it isn’t.
So low level speeding fines are frustrating because of this distinction.
I’m not sure why this is frustrating or confusing. If the question asked is ‘was the ambulance operating as an emergency vehicle?’ then sure, that’s the wrong use of the language but it’s shorthand for ‘were the lights and sirens activated?’. The effect is the same regardless of the language used, if the answer to the intended or implied question is ‘no’ then there is NO exemption, there are no fine distinctions here. If you intend to drive your ambulance, or fire truck, or rescue vehicle in a way that you wouldn’t drive your car, put the lights and siren on (but note rule 306 does say beacons or siren). You need to be able to tick off ALL the requirements for rule 306 to apply, no beacons or siren, no exemption and the tickets are yours.
Rule 306 (and 307) are there not only to protect the driver of the emergency vehicle, but also the police officer. If there was no rule but it was expected or assumed police would turn a blind eyre, then the police constable would have to take responsibility for your action, and if you were pinged by a red light or speed camera a ticket would have to issue and be enforced so the police were not rightly criticized for ‘protecting their mates’ rather than applying the law. They would have to issue a ticket when someone complained that a fire appliance was blocking their acces etc. Rule 306 empowers a constable to refuse to issue a traffic ticket, or for the Commissioner to withdraw one, when rule 306 applies. It is not a matter of police being nice, but doing their job and applying the law.
And note that at least in NSW an emergency vehicle is ANY vehicle being used by an emergency worker. Assume the SES have been called to a road crash rescue. The volunteers turn out and when a crew is together depart in the rescue truck with lights and sirens. Other volunteers arrive and make their way to the scene in their private cars. At that point their cars are emergency vehicles, but so what, they get NO exemptions as they don’t have lights and sirens, but rule 307 applies when they stop at the roadside and report to the IC to start work. The police may issue a ticket to other parked cars, but they are entitled not to book the volunteers car because rule 307 applies. That protects not only the volunteer but also the police officer who can say, hand on heart, ‘I’ve done my duty’, when the other driver complains they got a ticket but the volunteer did not.
BUT there really should be no confusion, if you read rules 306 and 307 (or their equivalent in your State or Territory, and they can all be accessed at www://austlii.edu.au) and the definition of emergency vehicle and then accept that the rules ‘say what they mean and mean what they say’ then that is the law, anyone who wants to have or make some other distinction or rule (such as we have an exemption when the beacons/siren are not on) Is simply wrong. But asking ‘was the ambulance operating as an emergency vehicle?’ may be inaccurate, but the meaning, and effect of the question is clear. You could correctly answer yes if the vehicle was being driven by an ambulance officer in the course of his or her duties, but you would understand that they mean ‘were the beacons/siren activated?’ and you know that if the answer is ‘no’ then any traffic infringements are the driver’s problem.
Michael, no confusion as such, I’m raising it because here in Victoria it is an often cited ‘excuse’ by operational paramedics. Previously on infringements acceptable reasons for exceeding the limit were transporting medical supplies or equipment to where they may be needed among others so the exemptions were quite liberal at least in the eyes of police/ ambulance services.
I wouldn’t put an ambulance in the same category as an SES volunteer heading off to a dedicated emergency, but I see your analogy.
I guess it’s a flow on from your previous discussion on the “outrage” on ambulance speeding fines.
Thanks for your thoughts.
The isssue of whether or not an ambulance should proceeed under lights and sirens when delivering ‘medical supplies or equipment’ goes to the second requirement for the exemption, that is, is it ‘reasonable that the rule should not apply’ that depends at least in part, whether it’s reasonable to seek to avoid the rules and that turns, again only in part, on the service policy on when lights and sirens should be used. If your service authorises lights and sirens in these circumstances that goes a long way to meetng this criteria. It’s not got nothing to do with whether the beacons/siren need to be on. If the story is ‘this is urgent and we need you to get these supplies to their destination asap’, if you don’t put the beacons/siren on you have to comply with the road rules; if the service doesn’t authorise the use of beacons/sirens then you have to comply with the road rules.
In QLD exemption for an Ambulance is found in Transport Operations (Road Use Management—Road Rules) Regulation 2009, Part 19 Exemptions 306 Exemptions for drivers of emergency vehicles. If this applys, am I correct that no matter what speed an Ambulance is travelling in an “Emergency” the Driver will be exempt from a speed infringement notice.
My main query is – What speed over the posted limit could be considered “Dangerous Operation of a Vehicle” as described under the Criminal Code Act 1899, Chapter 29 S 328A Dangerous operation of a vehicle.
The Section goes on the state that if at the time of the offence, the driver is excessively speeding (40 kmh over the limit) an additional offence is commited.
Or does the Criminal Code only apply in the event of an “incident” occurring during the “trip”.
Scenario – An Ambulance is photographed by a fixed speed camera, travelling Code 1, Lights and Sirens enroute to an “Emergency” scene as per QAS response criteria.
The Unit is clocked at 168kph in a 100kph zone at 1730 on a week day. It is a 4 lane motorway. There is moderate traffic. Weather, visibility and road conditions are all good.
The answer is ‘no’. The road rules require three things for the exemption;
1. It must be reasonable for the exemption to apply;
2. The driver must be taken reasonable care; and
3. The beacons and/or siren must be activated.
If you are driving too fast, the police may take the view that you were not taking reasonable care and issue a traffic infringement notice.
You then say: “My main query is – What speed over the posted limit could be considered “Dangerous Operation of a Vehicle” as described under the Criminal Code Act 1899, Chapter 29 S 328A Dangerous operation of a vehicle.”
There is no answer to that question. No regulator is going to want to be too specific as what is ‘dangerous’ depends on all the circumstances, driving under the speed limit could be dangerous in particular circumstances (see https://emergencylaw.wordpress.com/2009/10/24/suspended-jail-sentence-for-firefighter-involved-in-a-fatal-accident/). This is what courts are for; if the police think the driving was dangerous then they will commence proceedings. The final decision of whether, in the circumstances, it was dangerous, is a matter for the judge or jury if there is one. If you see my post on the police officer charged (https://emergencylaw.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/west-australian-police-officer-charged/; see also https://emergencylaw.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/uk-incident-controllers-cleared-of-manslaughter/) that is my point, these things need to be decided in a public forum where all the arguments and facts can be presented.
However, if ‘The section goes on the state that if at the time of the offence, the driver is excessively speeding (40 kmh over the limit) an additional offence is commited’ then I think that is a good guide that driving that much over the limit, in any circumstances, would be too fast.
As for your scenario “An Ambulance … clocked at 168kph in a 100kph …’ I would suggest that is way too fast in anyone’s language and yes would be dangerous driving. In NSW the Court of Criminal Appeal has said that a person driving 45kms an hour over the limit can expect to go to gaol for 2 years if they cause an accident where a person is injured, and 4 years if a person is killed.
I still think my ‘rule of thumb’ although not the law, is a useful guide, if a person standing on the roadside would say ‘gee that ambulance is going fast’ then you’re driving too fast.
So with my 168 in a 100 zone scenario and the three criteria for exemption in mind;
1. It must be reasonable for the exemption to apply;
The Ambulance is despatched by the Communication Centre “Code 1” to a case that meets the predetermined criteria to be an Emergency response as the incident is considered potentially life threatening. The service driving code dicatates a Code One response is done under Lights and/ or Sirens.
If the Ambulance is despatched to respond under Lights and Sirens, is this all that is required for the first component of the Exemption criteria to be met?
2. The driver must be taken reasonable care;
How would one determine this, given the Unit was travelling 68kph over the posted speed limit and as you alluded to 168kph is “flying” in anyones language.
3. The beacons and/or siren must be activated.
The beacons and siren were on at the time of the infringement photograph..
I can supply you with a copy of the Vehicle/ Driving Code of Practice if it would help you make an informed decision/ reply.
1. The mere fact that your service has authorised lights and sirens is not all that is required for (1) but it will go a long way toward it, but there are some rules that should still apply for example the rule that says you should give way to pedestrians on a marked crossing if there is any risk of a collision. No matter where you’re going, or why, it’s never reasonable for that rule not to apply, so you slow down, stop if you have to, and go when there is no risk of a collision. It may be arguable, in other situations that other rules should still apply, but the fact that the service authorises say proceeding nder lights and sirens when responding To a triple zero call would defeat an argument ‘but you didn’t need to travel urgently, it was oly a call to a person fallen’.
2. Reasonable care is an objective standard, that is what would the reasonable person think, not you. The only way to get a definitive answer to that questions to have the matter put before a court, it’s only when the court says you’re guilty, or not guilty, that you can get a definitive answer and that is after the event. But think about an ambulance, I’m not sure what sort of vehicle your service is using but they’re bigger than the average family car, we know the faster you go the more distance you need to stop, the more damage you’ll do if you hit someone etc. The danger is also to you, you’re driving a car that I suspect has a high centre of gravity, you’re not on a race track and no helmet. On anyone’s view doings 168 in a 100 zone is ‘flying’. There’s no definitive he answer but I would expect a person driving an ambulance at that speed would be convicted of driving in a manner dangerous to the public or ‘dangerous operation of a vehicle’. As I said before if traveling more than 40ks is a separate or aggravated offence I’d take that as my starting point and work backwards.
I infer you or a mate received an infringement notice in these circumstances. If it’s just an infringement notice (a ticket) and not a court attendance notice or summons, then that’s pretty lucky. In any event, and in particular if the alleged offence is ‘Dangerous operation of a vehicle’ the defendant should consult a solicitor in Queensland and get specific advice on the circumstances. Regardless of the fact that it was an ambulance, the driver’s licence will be at risk.
I’ve had a look at s 328A and see that it says ‘excessively speeding means driving or operating a vehicle at a speed more than 40km/h over the speed limit applying to the driver under the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995′. The exemption under rule 306 may well exempt you from the obligation to strictly comply with the speed limit, but it doesn’t allow excessive speeding. I think you can be very sure that travelling more than 40ks over the speed limit would not be accepted by any court as ‘reasonable’.
Fortunately it was a hyperthetical scenario following a robust discussion on the Hospital Ramp after over hearing someone “bragging” about how fast they got to a job recently. Thanks for your thoughts.
I know I’m jumping in a little bit late on this (sorry!) but I have a question.
WA’s relevant section of the road traffic code read as follows:
ROAD TRAFFIC CODE 2000 – REG 281
281 . Exemption for drivers of emergency vehicles (other)
A provision of these regulations does not apply to the driver of an emergency vehicle that is not being used for official duties by a police officer if —
(a) in the circumstances —
(i) the driver is taking reasonable care; and
(ii) it is reasonable that the provision should not apply;
(b) the vehicle is a motor vehicle that is moving and the vehicle is displaying a blue or red flashing light or sounding an alarm.
… and an emergency vehicle is defined as follows:
ROAD TRAFFIC CODE 2000 – REG 3
3 . Terms used
(1) In these regulations —
emergency vehicle means a motor vehicle —
(c) being an ambulance, answering an urgent call or conveying any injured or sick person to any place for the provision of urgent treatment
I want to focus on the “urgent call” part. Who determines whether or not a call is urgent? The easy answer would be any “Priority 1” call, which the service dictates is a lights and sirens response. But would this stand up in court if challenged? Priority 1 can cover a lot of things. Is the Priority 1 call to the 4 year old not breathing after being pulled out of the backyard pool an urgent call? Of course! How about the Priority 1 call to the 97 year old gentleman in a nursing home with a simple sore foot, who is “not alert” because he has taken his sleeping medication? Maybe not so much.
Obviously the fact that you’re on a Priority 1 call will get you out of speeding fines etc, but what would happen if you were involved in an accident under while under Priority 1 conditions? Could the details of what you were responding to be called into question, and then the driver challenged in court about the appropriateness of driving under emergency conditions based on the seeming urgency of the description (as opposed to the automatic coding) of the call?
Interested to hear your thoughts!
It’s your agency that will determine whether a call is ‘urgent’ or not by having procedures, whether documented or just ‘practice’ about what calls are to be treated as urgent. When I was in the ambulance (some 20 years ago now) all triple zero calls were ‘urgent’ on the assumption that you have no idea what the real situation is. Fire brigades will treat all automatic fire alarms as warranting an urgent response even though many of them will turn out to be false alarms. No one is going to be able to challenge the notion that you should not have been responding ‘urgently’ when it turns out the matter you were responding to was not in fact urgent.
Equally however, once you are involved in an accident all bets are off. In terms of civil liability, a person who’s involved in an accident with an emergency vehicle should not be denied their compensation (payment of medical expenses, out of pockets, lost wages etc) just because the vehicle that they were unfortunate enough to collide with was an ambulance, police vehicle or fire appliance. All these vehicles are insured just as your private motor vehicle is so any claim for personal injury insurance will be met by the Compulsory Third Party insurer (which may be a State government self-insured scheme), the same is true for property damage. Because we know the driver will not be paying (the doctrine of vicarious liability also says that, even if the vehicle is not insured, the employer will be liable, and they’re insured) then the normal rules will apply. (There is case law to the effect that even when you have ‘right of way’ with lights and sirens on, you have to assume that other drivers aren’t going to expect you to come through a red light or stop sign or behave in any other way than ‘normal’ but equally they should expect that other drivers wont always obey the rules and emergency vehicles do have right of way, so in any accident the starting point will be an assumption that both drivers were equally at fault).
In terms of criminal law, the exemption only applies to the normal road rules, not the significant driving offences, so again, if you are in a crash the use of lights and sirens will go to the degree of negligence. In those cases the question will be were you responding reasonably and that will have some question about whether the urgent response was in accord with policy/practice of the service, but the question cannot be ‘but what was the actual on scene situation’ because you couldn’t have known that. It may be an issue if you are not the first responder, so for example you’ve been called to support another crew in which case the on scene crew could have reported the actual situation and that should have been communicated to you; but if it wasn’t, if your dispatcher has told you it’s urgent, then that’s all you have to go on. If you know it’s not urgent, you’re just using the lights and sirens for fun, then you wont fit within the exception because in those circumstances, you are not taking reasonable care and it is not reasonable that the exemption applies.
I hope that helps.
Michael, I deliver training in Drive Under Operational Conditions for CFA Volunteers. I’m interested in a particular aspect for Emergency Vehicles. I’m looking for your stated reference to Rule 307 (or part thereof) in the official docs regarding the non-use use of lights and sirens while stationary in an emergency vehicle. I’ve looked in the various stat docs, but can’t find the actual reference you refer too regarding… Rule 307, ‘does not require lights and sirens to be on to stop or park an emergency vehicle even where it would otherwise be illegally stopped or parked’.
Our training documents states, ‘lights and sirens are to be turned off if caught in traffic and upon arrival. (Makes reasonable sense to me, as nothing worse than a mob of emergency vehicles, all competing at an emergency scene, with the ‘look at me’s’ ,and strobing like… ‘viva Las Vegas’).
Hope you can help; regards
Given you’re from Victoria, I’ll reference the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic). Rule 306 says:
You can see that to take advantage of rule 306, a moving vehicle must be displaying blue or red flashing lights or sounding a siren.
Rule 307 says:
There is no equivalent of r 306(b) ie no part of the rule says that to take advantage of the rule, there must be warning lights (given that a siren would seem silly on a parked vehicle).
As for travelling but turning off the lights/sirens when caught in traffic, you don’t need permission to do that. If you turn off the lights/sirens then no-one has to give way to you, or make way for you (rr 78 and 79) but if you’re stuck in traffic then I infer the driver has decided that the other drivers can’t do that anyway, ie there’s nowhere for them to go. Further the requirement in r 306(b) only applies ‘if the vehicle is a motor vehicle that is moving’ so if you are stationary in traffic you can turn the warning devices off.
In Victoria, an emergency vehicle is defined by who operates it. An emergency vehicle includes a vehicle operated by the Country Fire Authority (Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic), Dictionary, definition of ‘emergency vehicle’). It follows that a CFA vehicle is always an emergency vehicle, whether there is an emergency or not but that doesn’t mean they can just ignore the road rules. The driver is bound by the rules like anyone else unless there is an emergency so that it is reasonable to extend the exemption in r 306 or r 307. What we must know is that CFA vehicles, even though they are emergency vehicles, are driven on Victoria’s roads every day without their lights and sirens on. So you don’t need permission to not have them on, you need permission to have them on and the law requires you have them on only if you want the take advantage of the r 306 exemption, and you want others to give way or make way for the emergency vehicle.
What follows from all that is that you won’t find a document that says you can drive, or stop or park without lights/sirens. What you see is r 306(b) that says if you want to rely on the rule you must have lights/sirens on. But if you don’t want to rely on the rule because you’re not asking other drivers to make way, or the vehicle is not ‘moving’, or you are parking (and therefore relying on r 307) then there is no requirement to have the warning devices activated.
Across Australia and as silly as this sounds …I guess our agencies driving SOP’s also need to clearly reinforce that Lights/ Sirens have one purpose only .In that ,they are to be used only while responding (moving) to an emergency .They are NOT to be used while reversing the vehicle into the station, washing the truck on the roadside, roadside training or fundraising.
I think that is going a bit far. Take r 307, it doesn’t say that the beacons must not be used, it doesn’t say anything about them at all. So there’s nothing to stop a crew putting the beacons on when parked at an emergency if that is going to make them safer. Equally when reversing into the station; you’re asking drivers to give way and you want to be safe. As for roadside training or fundraising hopefully the appliance is legally parked, but in any event, as with everything, it comes down to risk assessment. In those circumstances the use of red/blue lights might be confusing and create a danger as other drivers try to identify what is the emergency and do they need to do anything out of the ordinary, so perhaps best not.
In short r 306 says you must have them on to take advantage of the rule, it does not say you can’t have them on in any other circumstance.
Confusion …I agree . I restrict the use of (code1) Magenta/ Red / Blue lights -sirens , only when responding -moving to an emergency and want to take advantage of r306 . Unfortunately at many emergency scenes especially at night, emergency vehicles operating with their red- blues while stationary in a group create a dangerous ‘strobing glare’ situation , which quickly becomes fatiguing for the workers as well as passing motorists. Some brigades manage a scene better ,especially if the job is going to drag on . However if I do not want to take advantage of r306 I treat all non emergency (code3) parking /reversing maneuvers in the appliance , as I would in my private vehicle, and activate my vehicle ADR hazard lights , as I’m now ‘a hazardous stationary or slow moving vehicle’ . Yes many of our big red/orange /white trucks have had situations where motorists and have been totally confused by our random red-blue intentions, whether stationary or moving.
I’ve noticed Australian Border Force vehicles have “reds and blues”, how do they meet the above definitions of emergency vehicles? They aren’t police, they aren’t emergency services workers, or are they?
Chris, in what state or territory have you seen them operating? Members of the Border Force are emergency workers in South Australia – Road Traffic (Road Rules–Ancillary and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2014 (SA) r 54
I have got a query regarding the speed limit for heavy vehicles descending steed grades where the speed limit for heavy vehicles is 40 km per hour whilst under response conditions in NSW. An example of this is Mount Ousley near Woolongong NSW.
I know you have been discussing reasonable care would you expect that to mean whilst responding down the hill that you would need to select a low gear and no exceed 40 km per hour
The obligation to obey the speed limit and the obligation to comply with ‘trucks use low gear’ signs are set out in the Road Rules 2014 (NSW) rr 20 to 25-1 and 108 respectively. Because the rules are part of the Road Rules 2014, the drivers of emergency vehicles are exempt provided it is reasonable in the circumstances, they are taking reasonable care and they have their warning devices activated (r 306).
Where there is a sign that says trucks must use low gear, it means ‘the driver must drive the truck or bus in a gear that is low enough to limit the speed of the truck or bus without the use of a primary brake’ (that is ‘the footbrake, or other brake, fitted to a truck or bus that is normally used to slow or stop the vehicle’) (r 108). Whether a driver is taking ‘reasonable care’ by failing to comply with that rule depends upon why it is there. If it is a safety measure that has something to do with the inherent nature of the trucks and the roads, then the emergency can’t justify ignoring it. The fact that the vehicle is an emergency vehicle won’t affect its inherent characteristics, any more than the fact that it is an emergency vehicle won’t stop a vehicle floating in flood waters.
Answer that question requires knowledge of the characteristics of the vehicle being driven (and I note here that I do not hold a heavy vehicle drivers licence). So whether ‘reasonable care’ would require the use of low gear to maintain a safe speed depends on the vehicle in question and all the circumstances. Remember the case discussed in an earlier post Suspended jail sentence for firefighter involved in a fatal accident (October 24, 2009). There the driver was travelling under the prescribed speed limit but, according to the sentencing judge, ‘there was an “inescapable inference’’ that [the driver], who knew the truck was top-heavy when filled with water, was driving it ‘‘just too fast’’. Equally a driver of a heavy vehicle may be able to claim an exemption but not if, when taking into account the nature of the truck, the driving is inherently unsafe.
Remember too the comment from Macfarlan J (albeit in dissent) in Logar v Ambulance Service of New South Wales Sydney Region  NSWCA 274 discussed in Appeal arising from NSW Ambulance collision (October 25, 2017). He said “A patient’s interest in being collected by an ambulance is hardly likely to be advanced by putting the ambulance at risk of a calamitous collision in an attempt to arrive at the collection point a few moments earlier.” That would also be true for those waiting for a fire or other emergency service.
The question cannot be answered in the abstract. It depends on what actually happens, the precise circumstances and the nature of the vehicle being driven. I still think my rule of thumb (recognising that it’s not completely accurate) is good advice – when driving under response conditions, you can do whatever you like provided you don’t crash. Once you crash all bets are off and prima facie there is evidence of a failure to take reasonable care. Again I note that’s not really correct but it does service as a useful guide and a reminder that the most important rule when driving under emergency conditions is ‘don’t crash’. If it’s not safe, because of the inherent nature of the vehicle, to travel in any gear other than low gear then it won’t be exercising ‘reasonable care’ to do that, regardless of the call. To answer the question of whether this is ‘reasonably safe’ you need to know your truck.
Michael, in reply to a point you made in one of your very early comments in this post. In NSW Ambulances are now fitted with a small green LED light attached above the number plate front and rear. The purpose of this light is that it is automatically illuminated only when the ambulance’s main red/blue warning lights are activated. It was fitted because of the nature of the LED lighting that is now used on ambulances in NSW they are not always detected as being “on” by speed/red light cameras. The green LED is however able to be picked up by the camera and this used to determine that the warning lights are activated if they are not detected in the photo.