Today’s correspondent has sent me an email ‘ … sent out by an Ambulance Victoria manager’. My correspondent says ‘It’s a new on me, do you have any thoughts on Emergency Service speed limits in Victoria?’ The email says:
… I am not sure if the current conditions in relation to driver standards are understood. Therefore, could you please pass the following on to your teams.
- AV are a signatory to a Memorandum of Understanding as are all Emerg services with the Traffic Camera Office of VICPOL.
- That agreement gives us an exemption under Road Rules Victoria – 2009, of any speed limit plus ’25 kms’ only.
- To exceed the limit by more than 25 kms, the driver of any emergency vehicle can be seen to then cross over into ‘Road Safety Act’. There are no exemptions in that Act and deemed excessive and dangerous by the ‘Act’
- The TCO [Traffic Camera Office] are losing patience with AV drivers, and may start to prosecute the driver, as they are with Police drivers currently over 25kms and would be seen to be ‘Careless Driving’ or ‘Manner Dangerous’ under the Road Safety Act.
- The potential is a substantial fine, loss of points on licence, and ‘loss of licence’ for a period of time. That could have implications on complying with maintaining a valid licence as in AV Policy.
This seems perfectly reasonable to me. Rule 306 of the Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic) 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 provision 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.
The critical question is what does a(i) and (ii) actually mean? They have to be determined by police. Without seeing the actual memorandum, we can infer from the email quoted above that Ambulance Victoria and Victoria Police have agreed that it is never reasonable to travel more than 25km/h over the posted speed limit. If you are travelling that fast clause (a)(ii) does not apply.
It is not their final say, it is up to a magistrate, but if a speed camera detects an ambulance travelling more than 25km/h over the limit this MoU tells you that police will not withdraw the infringement notice. If the driver wants to challenge that then he or she would need to elect to go to court. Whilst the onus of proof is always on the prosecution to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt, the presence of this MoU between Victoria Police and the employer of the paramedic driving the ambulance would go a long way to proving that the speed was not reasonable. As I say the driver can attempt to argue that in the particular circumstances their driving was reasonable but they’re certainly ‘behind the 8 ball’ from the start.
Further this email is warning that police won’t simply charge a person with exceeding the speed limit. Failing to comply with the speed limit is an offence contrary to r 20 of the Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic) and accordingly there is the possibility of taking advantage of the exemption in r 306. Driving at a speed or manner dangerous to the public is an offence contrary to the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 64. What this email is warning is that if paramedics drive in excess of 25km/h over the posted speed limits police will prosecute for these more serious offences. Whilst it still the case that the prosecution must prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, the defendant would not be able to rely on r 306.
The email says that if police do choose to proceed under the Road Safety Act ‘The potential is a substantial fine, loss of points on licence, and ‘loss of licence’ for a period of time’. Drivers should also be reminded that in some circumstances (eg where that driving causing death) they can expect a gaol sentence – see Court of Appeal dismisses appeal by RFS tanker driver involved in fatal collision (October 13, 2017).
In any case where paramedics drive in excess of the speed limit, police must consider whether they were taking reasonable care and whether their driving was reasonable in the circumstances. This MoU, at least as described in the quoted email, gives details of one factor that police will consider – the recorded speed – and note that both Ambulance Victoria and Victoria Police have agreed that travelling more than 25km/h over the posted speed limit is never ‘reasonable’. That is not the final word on the matter, any individual case can be determined by a Magistrate, but a paramedic or any emergency worker bound by the MoU would be putting their neck and licence on the line by ignoring this direction.
My correspondent who raised this question has sent me details of what he says is an official response from Ambulance Victoria:
A blog regarding emergency driving at AV has generated some discussion about traffic infringements and arrangements that AV has in place with the Victoria Police – Traffic Camera Office (TCO). To assist in clarifying any misunderstandings:
- AV has a MOU in place with the TCO regarding the management of traffic infringements from Road Safety Cameras. AV receives a considerable number of infringements each week and this arrangement serves to make that process as efficient as possible. You will have also noticed the fitting of a green light near the number plate which is activated with the beacons – this assists in identifying vehicles on a code 1 response.
- Where an AV emergency vehicle is operating under emergency conditions with beacons activated and less than 25kms/h above the posted speed limit, the TCO does not issue the infringement under this arrangement. When an AV emergency vehicle on a code 1 is travelling greater than 25kms/h above the posted speed limit the TCO issues the infringement. AV will then process for an exemption and any follow-up from the Driving Standards team.
- AV does not currently have a maximum speed at which an emergency vehicle can travel. However, all driving must be undertaken with safety front-of-mind, and in accordance with the Low Risk driving model.
I would not trust the traffic camera unit to be able to discern an appropriateness of response. And I wouldnt trust a magistrate from knowing an ambulance from his/her backside in many cases, let alone be capable of ruling on the merits of the urgency of an emergency response.
Comparative to many international emergency response organisations, our local services seem to have a much lower incidence of automotive collision. There would be few responders that would push the envelope in a typical emergency drive. However, if we assume a child drowning being the scenario, I would imagine few responders who would hesitate from exceeding 25kph over an arbitrary speed limit should conditions permit and rightly so. This is not typical traffic enforcement and these are not typical scenarios. An arbitrary cap on exemption of an arbitrary cap is not the definition of ‘safe.’
Unsafe travel should be up to the organisation to internally investigate or for the responder to argue post negative outcome. Delusional zero tolerance idealism has no place where grownups are working.
You may ‘not trust the traffic camera unit to be able to discern an appropriateness of response… [or] a magistrate from knowing an ambulance from his/her backside’ but that’s fairly irrelevant, because police decide whether or not to issue an infringement notice or commence a prosecution and it is a magistrate that has to determine guilt or innocence. And if you push the speed limit what difference does it actually make to response time and remember if there’s a crash en route, the response time is blown out. As I’ve noted that ultimately whether the response was reasonable or not is open to the responder to argue, but the memo is saying that the argument will be before a Magistrate.
How then do the police justify a high speed pursuit? A activity that frequently ends in injury or loss of life to other innocent road users of which many of us have seen first hand.
They don’t – there are multiple procedures to call off pursuits due to danger, and police get charged – see for example https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-18/canberra-police-officer-guilty-over-fatal-crash/10912696
This has bigger implications for Rural Vic, because of the distance and remoteness of an incident, it could significantly delay response times.
Is that really true? It’s surprising how little that extra speed gains particularly when you’re not going to be able to average it out over the entire trip so maybe you go 25km over the speed limit here or there. But you’re not driving a racing car and getting you’re own adrenaline racing may not be best for when you get on scene. And no job warrants killing yourself or someone else.
Welcome to the dilemma HWP members face each shift. No matter what the scenario, dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t. To the extent you don’t have faith in your supervisor, your employer or Magistrates.
How is that true? you start a pursuit, you get told to call it off so you call it off. You’re damned if you don’t follow the procedures and crash the car but is that a problem?
G’day Michael, I must start by saying I enjoy your informative blogs. I don’t know if anyone has bothered to send this to you, but after your blog regarding ambulance speed in Victoria (which gained wide circulation) I thought the matter pretty much settled. Ambulance Victoria issued a Bulletin in response which to my cynical mind is just an attempt to protect response times but only succeeds in muddying the waters and is just another example of the service trying to have it both ways. (Don’t extend response times, but don’t get caught). After re-reading your original post, I don’t see how this bulletin would legally change anything but it has served to re-inspire those who persist in clinging to the belief they need to drive at Warp 9 ( a reference to Star Trek – the greatest documentary ever made). Cheers… and thanks for your good work…………. Jack Doherty
On Thu, 4 Jul 2019 at 20:13, Australian Emergency Law wrote:
> M. Eburn posted: “Todayâs correspondent has sent me an email â â¦ sent out > by an Ambulance Victoria managerâ. My correspondent says âItâs a new on > me, do you have any thoughts on Emergency Service speed limits in > Victoria?â The email says: â¦ I am not sure if the current c” >
Poor assessment. Firstly, Ambulances have a duty to respond. They are provided with the equipment to do just that and they also have a duty to respond without delay. If they fail to do so they are breaching their duty to the public including their duty of care. To quote ‘you’re not driving a racing car’ suggests a level of bias. Professionally trained Paramedics are very aware of the limits of their vehicles. Their training includes Driving Skills. Determining how time affects the response especially on country roads when distance becomes an issue and patient down time has to be considered is dangerous. Even the courts have stated the public expects Emergency Service Personnel to perform above the level expected on the ordinary person. While nobody wants the Paramedics to kill themselves the law allows them to exceed the limit when safe to do so and does not quote a level of speed. The sooner they arrive the sooner lifesaving efforts can commence and even the government is setting benchmarks about response times. Would you do it in Bourke Street< Melbourne – no way but heading up the Calder Highway the need to pick up the pace would assist. On the Hume Highway this could become a task as the current vehicles become limited by their capacity and weight. Each case ought to be considered on its merits rather than a 'safe limit'. The public expects better.
Ray, ambulance services don’t owe a legal duty to ‘the public’. They may have a duty to the patient but they also have a duty to other road users. It’s true that the law doesn’t set a speed limit but that doesn’t mean AV in consultation with police cannot do so; but do note the postscript at the end of the post where AV says ‘AV does not currently have a maximum speed at which an emergency vehicle can travel. However, all driving must be undertaken with safety front-of-mind …’
Surely ‘you’re not driving a racing car’ is axiomatically true?
Where have ‘the courts … stated the public expects Emergency Service Personnel to perform above the level expected on the ordinary person’? And in what context have they said that?
Thank you Michael
I have been delving the dusty tomes but unfortunately the records I have found don’t go back far enough without reaching for funds in my retirement which I don’t need to spend. I believe it was used during a County Court Melbourne case around 1986 and was from a prior case possibly even a Coroners Case where actions were questioned. I will continue to search but it was a known statement back in that era.