Calls to ditch 40km limit near emergency cars
FIVE months after its introduction, the police union and NRMA have called for the ditching of a new law forcing drivers to slam on the brakes when emergency vehicles are stopped on the roadside.
Since September 1, NSW motorists must slow down to 40km/h to pass stationary police cars, fire trucks and ambulances with flashing lights or face a $448 fine and the loss of three licence demerit points.
The Slow Down, Move Over legislation is being trialled for 12 months with the aim of protecting emergency workers - but now even those who lobbied to bring it in say it has led to unintended dangers, especially on high-speed motorways.
A central issue is the hazard created when motorists travelling up to 110km/h have to suddenly slow down in heavy traffic. Many interstate drivers are not aware of the rule, adding to the confusion.
Last month senior police raised questions about the new law after a motorcycle cop conducting a traffic stop on a 110km/h section of the M1 near Nambucca Heads was hit by a car driven by a Queensland woman. The officer suffered a broken leg.
Police Association of NSW president Tony King said the 40km/h rule should be abandoned and replaced by laws like those in the US, which does not impose a speed limit for passing emergency vehicles and instead simply requires drivers to slow down and move into the next lane.
"We need to create space between vehicles and workers and we need motorists to slow down around emergency and roadside assistance vehicles for the safety of everyone on the road. However, the restriction of the 40km/h limit has caused some issues, particularly on major arterial roads," Mr King said.
The NRMA, which has campaigned since 2012 for similar laws, has also described the policy as "flawed".
"It defies the laws of physics to go from 110 to 40 within a couple of metres," spokesman Peter Khoury said.
"They need to introduce sensible measures to keep people who work on the side of the road safe. The policy was flawed to begin with. We felt it desperately needed to include roadside assistance workers too."
NSW Motorcycle Council President Steve Pearce said there would be deaths if the law was not changed soon. It has also been panned on NSW Police Force's media page, which has received almost 600 comments, most of them saying the law is unsafe.
"This needs to be revised before there is a major incident on (the freeway)," Sue Jenkins said.
A spokeswoman for Transport for NSW said the trial of the law was being evaluated by a stakeholder group which "will inform the government's decision about whether any changes should be made to the rule".