A Wollongong police officer has backed a call to pull the brake on the state’s controversial new slow-down law, saying it poses significant safety risks to drivers trying to do the right thing.
The police union has called on the NSW government to ditch the 40km/h speed limit enforced near stationary emergency vehicles and instead allow drivers to slow down to a reasonable speed and move over.
The Police Association of NSW (PANSW) is campaigning for the introduction of a “slow down, move over” enforceable road safety campaign, amid “serious concerns” about drivers slamming on the brakes when they see flashing lights.
The current rule – which came into effect on September 1 and is being trialled for 12 months – requires motorists to slow down to 40km/h when a police car, fire truck, ambulance or SES vehicle is stopped and has its red or blue lights flashing. The law applies to vehicles travelling in both directions, unless the road is separated by a median strip. Those who don’t comply could be slapped with a $448 fine and stripped of three demerit points.
Wollongong detective, and PANSW executive member, Jason Hogan has called for “sensible amendments” to the current law – including that it be extended to cover NRMA roadside assistance vehicles and tow trucks.
“The legislation hasn’t really covered what we were lobbying for,” Mr Hogan said.
“We don’t want people to slow down to 40, we just want people to slow down and be mindful that’s there’s people on the roadway.
“Whether or not there should be a speed limit on, we’re just advocating that motorists should slow down and move over – because obviously you can’t slow down to 40 in a 110 zone when you immediately see a police car.
“We don’t want drivers putting themselves at risk either, it’s just a bit of common sense on [the part of] all people.”
The NRMA also has called for changes to the law.
Spokesman Peter Khoury said the NRMA had “learnt the hard way” that working on the side of the road was “a very dangerous place” and it needed to be “safer than it is”.
In 2012, NRMA contractor Geoffrey Clark and 23-year old university student Sarah Frazer, were killed in the breakdown lane of the Hume Highway near Mittagong.
Mr Khoury said the NRMA had been inundated with complaints from its members since the 40km/h rule was introduced. “There needs to be an acknowledgement [from the government] that there are concerns about this policy; that in the process of doing the right thing, people are putting themselves and others at risk,” he said.
The government has said it would monitor the safety and traffic effects of the rule, in consultation with police and emergency services.