Red light rule confusing drivers. Picture: Jono Searle/AAP
Red light rule confusing drivers. Picture: Jono Searle/AAP

Red light rule we all thought we knew

IN EVERY Australian state drivers are required to move out of the way of emergency vehicles driving with their flashing lights on. But what happens when this coincides with other important road rules?

Not moving out of the way of an emergency vehicle can result in hefty fines and demerit points and many motorists may believe that it takes precedence over all other road rules, including stopping at red lights.

Unfortunately it is not this simple and there is no blanket rule saying whether drivers can or cannot disobey a red light in order to clear a path for an emergency vehicle.

This results in a lot of confusion about what drivers should do when they find themselves stopped at a red light with an emergency vehicle with its siren on coming up behind them.

The correct response varies from state to state and in some cases a lot of it can be left up to interpretation.

Different states have different rules about if it is OK to go through a red light to make room for an emergency vehicle. Picture: Jono Searle/AAP
Different states have different rules about if it is OK to go through a red light to make room for an emergency vehicle. Picture: Jono Searle/AAP

NEW SOUTH WALES

Under NSW law, drivers are required to get out of the way of the police, fire brigade or ambulances if they hear a siren or see they are displaying flashing blue and red lights.

A lot of the time this will mean pulling over to the left until the vehicle has passed.

The NSW Road Users Handbook warns not following this rule will make you liable for an on-the-spot fine.

Not moving out of the path of an emergency vehicle and not stopping at a red light both carry $448 fines and three demerit points.

Transport for NSW told news.com.au that motorists should only make way for these vehicles "if it is safe to do so".

"A driver should move out of the way of an approaching emergency vehicle that is displaying a flashing blue or red light or sounding an alarm, only if it is safe to do," a Transport for NSW spokesperson said.

"In some circumstances it may not be safe for the driver to move out of the path of an emergency vehicle, for example when they are stopped at a red light."

In all states, motorists need to safely make way for fire trucks, ambulances and police cars. Picture: John Grainger
In all states, motorists need to safely make way for fire trucks, ambulances and police cars. Picture: John Grainger

VICTORIA

In Victoria, legislation also states that motorists should move out of the path of emergency vehicles as soon as the driver can safely do so.

Failing to keep clear or give way to an emergency vehicle can leave drivers open to a $282 fine and three demerit points.

Disobeying a red traffic light can be incredibly dangerous and could result in an accident, creating even more hazards for emergency vehicles.

Motorists run the risk of copping a $403 fine and three demerits points if they disobey a red light.

QUEENSLAND

For Queensland drivers the rule is slightly different. Motorists are still required to move out of the way for ambulances, the police and the fire brigade but driving through a red light is also permitted under certain circumstances.

"The law allows you to drive onto the wrong side of the road or drive through a red traffic light to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle if it is safe to do so," the Queensland Government website states.

"However giving way to emergency vehicles should always be done with the utmost care and with the safety of yourself and all other road users as a priority."

Under other circumstances failing to stop at a red light could result in a $391 fine and three demerit points.

Drivers can cop a $304 fine and three demerit points for not moving out of the way of emergency vehicles.

Queensland drivers are allowed to drive through red traffic lights to let emergency vehicles pass.
Queensland drivers are allowed to drive through red traffic lights to let emergency vehicles pass.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Western Australia has quite a different approach to Queensland when dealing with moving out of the way of emergency vehicles.

The rules state that, while drivers are required to move out of the way, it specifically states drivers are not permitted to break the law in order to make way for emergency vehicles.

This means that both driving through a red light or speeding to move out of the way are illegal, with the former risking a $300 fine and three demerit points.

However if a motorists makes no attempt to legally and safely move out of the way they could be slapped with a $400 fine and three demerit points.

TASMANIA

Tasmanian motorists follow similar rules to Western Australia, with the law stating drivers shouldn't go through red lights in order to make way for emergency vehicles.

If they do, they risk a $163 fine and three demerit points.

Drivers can risk hefty fines if they disobey traffic lights in certain states to let emergency vehicles pass.
Drivers can risk hefty fines if they disobey traffic lights in certain states to let emergency vehicles pass.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

South Australia also follows the rule that motorists must move safely out of the way of emergency vehicles and not doing so could result in a hefty $428 fine and three demerit points.

NORTHERN TERRITORY

Drivers in the Northern Territory are also required to pull over to the left in order to let emergency vehicles pass when they hear a siren or see blue or red flashing lights.

It does not explicitly state whether drivers are permitted to run a red light in order to comply with this rule, but doing so under normal circumstances could lead to three demerit points and a $240 fine.


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