samotor Magazine

9 often-debated road rules

1 Do you have to stop at stop and give way signs?


Where there’s a stop sign or painted stop line on the road, your car must come to a complete stop and remain stationary until it’s safe to proceed. 

However, contrary to popular belief, there’s no set time period that a driver is required to stop for. 

When it comes to give way signs or the broken give way lines on the road, you don’t necessarily have to come to a complete stop. 

Rather, you’re legally required to slow down to ensure your approach speed allows you to stop if necessary.


No2 Do you have to stop on a yellow light? 

9roadrules_YellowLight-cmykIt’s a question that’s often debated by samotor 
readers: is yellow simply a warning that the lights are about to go red, or are you actually required to stop?

Under Australian Road Rule (ARR) 57, you must stop on a yellow light, unless you’re so close to the line that you’re unable to do so safely and without entering the intersection. 

No3 Can you drive barefoot? What about in high heels?

9roadrules_Slippers-cmykThere are no specific laws relating to what a driver should or shouldn’t wear on their feet.

However, for safety reasons, bare feet, thongs, slippers and high heels are not recommended, as your feet are more likely to slip off the pedals, particularly in an emergency situation. 


No4 Can you speed when overtaking on a country road?

9roadrules_OvertakingTruck-cmykSome drivers argue that you’re allowed to speed when overtaking on a country road as it helps you return to the correct lane of traffic as soon as possible.

This is certainly not the case.

Indeed, it’s illegal and dangerous to exceed the speed limit at any time.

The courts have often described speeding as being an absolute offence – meaning an offence with no excuses.

However, did you know that if you’re the car that’s being overtaken, you’re not allowed to increase your speed until the other car has passed you and safely returned to the correct side of the road?


No5 How much space do you legally need to leave  between you and the car ahead?


Tailgating is illegal – there isn’t debate about that. But how close is too close? Well, that's something drivers can't seem to agree on.

Legally, you must keep enough distance between you and the car in front so that you can stop safely to avoid a crash.

To figure out what’s classed as a safe distance, use the three-second rule.

Simply pick a fixed object, such as a road sign, and count the time between when you and the car in front pass this object – it should be at least three full seconds (one, one thousand; two, one thousand etc.).

When you first try this, you might be quite surprised at how much distance you should be leaving.

But consider this: a car travelling at 60km/h will take about 32m to come to a stop – and that’s assuming the driver has a good reaction time, that the car has 75 per cent braking efficiency and that the weather and road surface are both good.

No6 A pedestrian is standing on the edge of the road  about to cross a slip lane and a driver is approaching  from a few metres away: who needs to give way?

9roadrules_Pedestrian-cmykUnder road rule 72, drivers using a left-turn slip lane must give way to any pedestrian on the slip lane.

If the driver’s approaching the lane and there’s a pedestrian about to cross, the driver must still give way.

A good tip is to make eye contact to establish what each other’s about to do.

So why are there painted pedestrian crossings or signs at some slip lanes but not others?

Well road authorities may choose to put extra signage or line markings in high-traffic areas; however, even in the absence of a painted crossing, drivers must still give way.  

No7 The zip merge – how does it work?

9roadrules_ZipMerge-cmykThe zip merge is one of the rules we see broken most often.

In many cases, one lane narrows and appears to come to an end (as pictured).

In these cases, many incorrectly assume that the driver in this lane should always give way. Not so.

Others think that you must always give way to your right. Again, this isn’t true.

So what is the law? When two lanes of traffic become one without a lane marking between them, you must give way to drivers that have any part of their vehicle in front of your own – regardless of what lane they’re in.  

No8 Is the right lane the fast lane?

9roadrules_FastLane-cmykNo. There’s actually no such thing as a ‘fast lane’ or a ‘slow lane’.

The confusion is based on a similar rule that says: on roads where the speed is more than 80km/h (or where there’s a sign saying so) you can only travel in the right lane if you’re overtaking, turning right, making a
U-turn, avoiding an obstruction or if all other lanes are congested.

However, you should move out of the right lane as soon as you’re able to do so.

There’s no law saying faster-moving cars should travel in the right lane, while slower vehicles should stay to the left, although it is good practice to do so, providing speed limits are obeyed. 

No9 Can you be fined for driving too slowly?


Getting stuck behind a car that’s going way under the speed limit can cause drivers to see red. And in some cases, driving that slowly may be illegal.

Under Australian Road Rule 125, a driver must not unreasonably obstruct the path of another vehicle.

However, ‘obstruct’ doesn’t just mean the other car is driving slower than you. Rather, they’d need to be travelling abnormally slowly.

But what exactly is ‘abnormally’ slow?

Well that would be for the police and courts to assess depending on the circumstances. However, the road rules do provide one example –driving 20km/h in an 80km/h zone without reason would be classed as abnormal.

A good tip to remember here is that drivers travelling below the speed limit should be aware of traffic build-up behind them and provide opportunities for that traffic to pass.

Indeed, under section 45 of the road rules, it’s an offence to drive without reasonable consideration for other road users. 

Read the article in the e-magazine here