The Sydney Morning Herald - Friday August 27 2004

So, you think you know the road rules

By The Drive team

Once again young drivers are in the headlines for the wrong reasons. But are they unfairly targeted? Would the rest of us pass the driving test, asks the Drive team.

Let's face it, many of our road rules have changed since Johnny O'Keefe was a hit -- about the time baby boomers got their driving licences.

You might have a licence and even a squeaky clean driving record but how well do you know the road rules? When asked, most drivers rate their knowledge of the road rules as good, even excellent, but do you have the faintest idea what that broken yellow line at the kerb really means? An artefact from the 2000 Olympics perhaps?

More importantly, would you pass your driving test if you had to re-sit it?
(An idea raised by NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney this month.) Even some police we polled had to consult their road rule handbooks to answer our questions correctly.

Do you know what happens if you get caught driving at or above 130kmh in a 110kmh zone? Think again if you assume this offence falls into the 15-30kmh over the limit range, which normally attracts three demerit points. From December 1, 2002, the penalty became an automatic one-month licence suspension.

For 20 years since the introduction of random breath testing it was not illegal in NSW to drink alcohol while driving. So long as your blood-alcohol limit remained under 0.05, you could legally crack a stubby and quench your thirst while driving.

That loophole was closed late last year when a new drinking alcohol while driving offence was added to NSW regulations.

It attracts three demerit points and a $237 fine.

Can you legally ride in the boot of a car? Until July last year, incredibly, it was not illegal to carry passengers in the enclosed boot of a car, or cram eight people in a vehicle with seatbelts for only five. It took the tragic deaths of two Sydney teenagers travelling in the boot of a Volkswagen Golf last year to shine the spotlight on this oversight and force an amendment.

Are you up-to-speed on which road rules NSW adopted in 1999 in an effort to make common the road rules across the country? Take our test, which focuses on recent amendments, and find out how you rate.

The Herald's mature-age drivers' road rules test

Part 1, multiple choice

1. When approaching a roundabout
a) Give way to vehicles on your right.
b) Give way to vehicles already in the roundabout.
c) Vehicles travelling on the major road have right of way.

2. When approaching a roundabout
a) You must indicate if turning either left or right.
b) Indicating on approach is not required.
c) Only indicate if other vehicles are in the roundabout.

3. When departing a roundabout
a) Indicating left at the exit is an optional courtesy to other road users.
b) You must always indicate left at the exit, even if travelling straight ahead.
c) You must indicate left at the exit unless it is impractical to do so.

4. When a police or emergency vehicle is sounding its siren and flashing its lights you must
a) Move safely to the left and stop.
b) Move safely out of its path and give way.
c) Stop as quickly as possible.

5. You are permitted to cross continuous double centre lines
a) Never.
b) When entering or leaving a property.
c) To avoid an obstruction.
d) Both b) and c).

6. Before leaving an empty vehicle the driver must
a) Remove the ignition key and lock the doors.
b) Apply the handbrake.
c) Both a) and b).
d) None of the above; it's not law.

7. When two lanes of traffic merge to a single lane and there are no painted lane markings, which vehicle has right of way?
a) The vehicle ahead.
b) The vehicle in the left lane.
c) The vehicle in the right lane.

8. When two lanes of traffic merge to a single lane and there is a broken line to indicating which lane ends, which vehicle must give way?
a) The trailing vehicle.
b) The vehicle in the lane that continues.
c) The vehicle in the lane that ends.

9. You are in a built-up area, driving in the left lane. A bus is stopped at the shoulder just ahead. It indicates right, signalling its intention to move off. Who must give way?
a) You.
b) The bus driver.
c) You if the speed limit is 60kmh or less, otherwise the bus.

10. When moving onto the road from a stationary position, you must indicate right to signal your intent. What is the minimum requirement for this procedure?
a) There is no minimum requirement specified.
b) Indicate for five flashes.
c) Indicate for five seconds.

11. When stopping in a rural (non-built-up) area, you must ensure your vehicle is visible to approaching vehicles for a minimum distance of
a) 50 metres.
b) 100 metres.
c) There is no minimum requirement beyond selecting a safe and reasonable distance.

12. Stopping or parking on a nature strip is permitted
a) Where stopping on the road would obstruct the flow of traffic.
b) Except where the vehicle would obstruct a footpath, shared path or cycleway.
c) Only where signposted.

13. What is the minimum distance you may park from an intersection without traffic lights, measured from the edge of the road?
a) 5 metres.
b) 10 metres.
c) 15 metres.

14. What is the maximum permissible speed at which a P2 (green provisional) licence holder may drive?
a) 90kmh.
b) 100kmh.
c) 110kmh.

15. What is the maximum permissible blood-alcohol concentration for a provisional licence holder?
a) Zero.
b) 0.02.
c) 0.05.

Part 2

16. Are you allowed to stop in a No Parking zone?

17. If you are caught street racing, what action may the police take?

18. What does a broken yellow line painted on the side of the road near the kerb indicate?

19. What does a solid yellow line painted on the side of the road near the kerb indicate?

20. Transit lanes, designed to expedite traffic flow in peak periods for vehicles with multiple occupants, are marked with either T2 or T3 signs.
Does the 2 and 3 refer to the number of passengers in the vehicle, or the number of vehicle occupants (ie, including the driver)?

21. Are bicycles allowed to block a lane by riding two abreast?

22. What do flashing yellow traffic lights signify?

23. If you are at a give way or stop sign, who do you have to give way to?

24. When turning left or right at an intersection without signs or signals, is the driver of a vehicle required to give way to pedestrians?

25. Are U-turns at traffic lights permitted?

26. Can you park on a road with double centre lines?

27. What is the default speed limit in all residential areas?

28. When driving at night in rural areas, when must you switch your headlights from high beam to low beam?

29. If you are towing a caravan on the highway, what minimum separation must you leave between your vehicle and a heavy vehicle ahead (or another vehicle towing a caravan)?

30. When entering a driveway, who must give way - the driver of a vehicle, or a pedestrian?

For the answers, see below.

For more information see

Getting a licence in NSW

Getting a learner licence in NSW requires being at least 16 and passing a 45-question Driver Knowledge Test, as well as an eyesight test. A pass requires answering 41 questions correctly. On the road, learners must be supervised by a fully-licensed (not provisional) driver and are restricted to a maximum speed of 80kmh. They cannot tow a trailer.

After at least six months and not before age 17 and after logging at least 50 hours of driving experience, learners may attempt the Driver Ability Road Test. If they pass, they are eligible for a P1 (red P) licence.

Red P drivers are limited to 90kmh and they may not tow a trailer heavier than 250kg tare weight. They must not accumulate more than three demerit points. After a minimum 12-month term on red Ps, drivers who pass the computerised Hazard Perception Test graduate to a P2 (green P) licence, which is held for at least two years.

Maximum permissible speed on a P2 licence is 100kmh and the maximum number of demerit points allowed is six. At the conclusion of a P2 licence, a Driver Qualification Test remains the only hurdle before a full licence is issued. This two-part test is also computerised. Part one is a theory test based on relevant road safety issues; part two is an extended hazard perception test.

Do we need driver retesting?

The Federal Government's National Road Safety Action Plan targets a 40 percent cut in road death by 2010. Its major licensing thrust addresses the high proportion of unlicensed drivers involved in fatalities, bans on alcohol for inexperienced drivers and bans on the use of handheld mobile telephones by drivers. Retesting (or other catch-up road rule education
measures) doesn't rate a mention.

The NSW RTA requires annual medical reviews for older drivers, starting at age 80, and annual driving tests from age 85. Medical reviews and riding tests begin at age 70 for motorcyclists.

In the US, California requires driving tests for drivers over-70 involved in two or more crashes in one year. But only nine US states retest driver knowledge at licence renewal time. However, in mid-2003 an ambitious safety initiative challenging US drivers to voluntarily re-sit their driving tests was launched. Called Drive for Life, the program is sponsored by Volvo Cars of North America and the American Automobile Association.

In the UK, which has the lowest road death rate in the OECD, retesting of drivers is not performed before age 70. However, probationary drivers (like our P-platers) who accumulate six demerit points automatically revert to learner status and must re-sit the licence test.

In Norway, a driver retesting program required drivers to sit a knowledge test every decade. Evaluation of the practice found most drivers crammed for the test and subsequently forgot all they had learned. The program was declared ineffective and scrapped.

New Zealand authorities say: "Although there is a popular belief that periodic retesting will produce safer drivers, overseas experience has not shown this to be so. A crash would rarely be prevented by a driver having up-to-date knowledge of the road rules." They believe frequent exposure to new rules through effective publicity to be more effective.

Bridge trot
It must be a very rare sight these days but it is legal to ride a horse and cart across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Don't expect any favours from toll staff, however; the $3 toll still applies.

Burnt out
Making "unnecessary" noise or smoke when starting or driving a car is prohibited. For example, "Causing the wheels of the driver's vehicle to lose traction and spin on the road surface may make unnecessary noise or smoke", says the RTA's website.

Smash hit
Debris from an accident is the responsibility of the driver(s) involved in the crash. A driver must remove debris from the road, or take action to have it removed, as soon as it is safe to do so.

It's a date
Until recently, most traffic law was found in the Traffic Act 1909 and regulations introduced in 1916, 1935 and 1937. These were replaced on December 1, 1999, when the current road rules were introduced.

How did you go? Test answers.

Part one:
1. b, 2. a, 3. c, 4. b, 5. d, 6. c. You must do (a) if you move more than three metres from the vehicle. 7. a, 8. c, 9. a, 10. c, 11. b, 12. c. Note: police and emergency vehicles are exempt.13. b, 14. b, 15. a,

Part two:
16. Stopping for a maximum of two minutes is permitted to drop off or collect passengers or goods but the driver must remain within three metres of the vehicle. 17. "Conduct associated with street racing" attracts three demerit points. Police may additionally confiscate the vehicle and impound it for three months and charge the owner a storage fee. Conviction for a second offence may mean the vehicle is forfeited and sold. 18. This signifies a clearway. During the hours of operation (marked by signs) drivers may only stop during medical and similar emergencies. Buses, taxis and hire cars may stop to set down or pick up passengers. 19. This indicates No Stopping. Drivers may only stop in these zones during medical and similar emergencies. 20. The number refers to occupants. It includes the driver. 21. Yes, provided they ride not more than 1.5 metres apart. 22. For drivers: vehicles can proceed if there is no risk of hitting a pedestrian. For pedestrians: do not proceed from the kerb into the crossing. 23. You must give way to all pedestrians and all vehicles travelling in the intersection, whether turning left or right, or going straight ahead. 24. Yes. 25. Only if a U-turn Permitted sign is posted. 26. Yes, provided there is a minimum clearance of three metres between the outside of your vehicle and the centre line and provided no other parking restrictions apply. 27. 50kmh. (The 50kmh urban speed limit was introduced on November 1 last year.) 28. Within 200m of another vehicle regardless of whether it is oncoming or travelling in the same direction as you. 29. 60 metres. 30. The driver.