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.