… was wondering what laws surround the use of red and blue lights and a siren in SA.
I believe using these to pull someone over would be impersonating a police officer, right?
What about having them fitted to a vehicle, I understand it would be a breach of the ADRs and be defectable [sic] but would it be an offence to have them fitted and use them to, let’s say make way through traffic?
If so, what would be the penalty and offence?
Would the same also apply to using magenta lights?
For earlier posts on red/blue lights, see https://emergencylaw.wordpress.com/page/2/?s=red%2Fblue
In South Australia (Police Act 1998 (SA) s 74)
A person who, without lawful excuse—
(a) … or
(b) represents himself or herself by word or conduct to be a police officer,
is guilty of an offence.
Maximum penalty: $2 500 or imprisonment for six months.
I have no doubt that using red/blue lights to communicate to a driver that he or she is required to pull over would be representing oneself by ‘conduct to be a police officer’ and would therefore constitute the offence of impersonating a police officer (s 74(1)(b)).
The Road Traffic (Light Vehicle Standards) Rules 2018 (SA) cl 114(5) says ‘A vehicle, other than an exempt vehicle, a special use vehicle, or a State Government enforcement vehicle must not be fitted with a light that flashes…’. I think, given the context of the question, I can infer that we are not talking about any of the vehicles listed. For clarity, an ‘exempt’ vehicle is (cl 3):
(a) an Airservices Australia vehicle; or
(b) an Australian Border Force vehicle; or
(c) an emergency vehicle; or
(d) a police vehicle.
A ‘special use’ vehicle is (cl 114(1)):
(a) a vehicle built or fitted for use in hazardous situations on a road;
(b) a vehicle used on a road under a dimension exemption;
(c) a vehicle built or fitted to accompany a vehicle mentioned in paragraph (b);
(d) a vehicle that is a bus fitted, before July 1999, with a sign telling road users that the bus carries children.
A special use vehicle may be fitted with a magenta light (cl 114(3)). An exempt vehicle may be fitted with any coloured light (cl 114(2)).
It is a breach of the standards to drive a vehicle on the road where the vehicle does not comply with the standard (Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA) s 116) so to drive a vehicle that is fitted with flashing lights where it is not ‘an exempt vehicle, a special use vehicle, or a State Government enforcement vehicle’ is to drive in breach of the Standard. The driver is subject to a maximum penalty of a fine of $2500 (s 117).
As for using such lights to make way through traffic, another driver may believe that they are obliged to make way for the vehicle because, if it is displaying red/blue flashing lights it must be a police or emergency vehicle. It follows that the driver could be guilty of impersonating a police officer (Police Act 1998 (SA) s 74) just as they would be if they tried to pull another driver over. Equally they may be guilty of the offence of impersonating an emergency services officer (Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005 (SA) s 126). Given the driver would have no exemption from the road rules he or she would be criminally liable for any offence they committed along the way (eg failing to give way to other traffic, negligent driving, speeding etc).
The questions, and my answers are:
- I believe using these to pull someone over would be impersonating a police officer, right? Yes, that’s right.
- … would it be an offence to have them fitted and use them to, let’s say make way through traffic? Yes.
- If so, what would be the penalty and offence? A maximum fine of $2500 plus the penalties associated with any traffic offences along the way.
- Would the same also apply to using magenta lights? Yes.