samotor Magazine

10 burning road-rule questions: answered

Even the biggest road-rule buffs among us occasionally find themselves stumped. Here are the answers to 10 of the top road rule-questions you may have found yourself pondering.



1. Does my pet need to be restrained in the car?

Photoshopped Road Rule 1

Surprisingly, there are no official rules saying you have to restrain your pet inside the car. Despite the legal situation, RAA recommends using a purpose-made safety harness attached to the seatbelt, or a crate secured to the vehicle.

This will keep your pet – as well as any passengers – much safer in the event of a crash by ensuring the animal’s not thrown around the car. 

While they don’t have to be restrained, it is illegal for an animal to sit on your lap while driving. Breaking this law could cost you $176. 

When it comes to transporting your pets in the tray of a ute, the rules say they must be secured by a cage or tied to the vehicle so they can’t fall off or escape. If not, expect to be hit with a $105 fine.


2. Are motorcyclists allowed to ride between two lanes of traffic?

Photoshopped Road Rule 2

Skipping between two lanes of slow moving traffic – a practice known as lane filtering – was made legal in South Australia as of 15 April 2017. However, there are a few restrictions in place. Namely, motorcyclists:

• can only lane filter if it’s safe and practical to do so, and in a way that seeks to avoid collisions – for example, making sure there’s sufficient room between traffic;

• can’t travel more than 30km/h;

• are not allowed to lane filter at all if they’re on their learner’s or P1 permit, or on a moped (unless they have a full motorcycle licence);

• and finally, they can’t lane filter through a roundabout, school zone or crossing.

If you’re found to be lane filtering unlawfully, you could be fined up to $363, plus $60 as a Victims of Crime Levy. You could also lose three demerit points, so make sure you’re following the rules.

On a related note, motorcyclists can only overtake a motor vehicle on the left (other than when lane filtering) if the vehicle is stationary and it is safe to do so. 

Similarly, motorcyclists are not allowed to use a bicycle lane other than to enter or leave a road and then only if they are in the bicycle lane for less than 50m.

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2017 edition of samotor, at which time lane filtering broke a number of road rules. These changes bring SA in line with other parts of Australia such as Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT, where lane filtering is also legal.


3. Can you have your arm or elbow sticking out of the window?

Photoshopped Road Rule 3

It’s a common sight in our warm Aussie weather, but it’s against the law to have any part of your body outside the window or door, including your arm or elbow, even when stopped at traffic lights.

The penalty? A $176 fine. Interestingly, exceptions exist if you’re giving a turn-right or stopping hand signal – despite the fact that indicators have been mandatory for nearly half a century.


4. Can you eat or drink while driving?

Photoshopped Road Rule 4

There are no laws specifically saying you can’t eat or drink behind the wheel. So downing your morning coffee or scoffing your fast food after a pit stop isn’t explicitly against the law.

However, if police deem this behaviour to be a distraction, they could fine you $176 for ‘not having proper control of the vehicle’ or, in more serious cases, ‘driving without due care or attention’. You’ll have to go to court if you get charged with that last one, which carries a maximum penalty of $2500.

What’s more, we strongly recommend avoiding anything that takes your attention away from the road.


5. Can I be fined for speeding in a shopping centre car park?

Photoshopped Road Rule 5

Yes, absolutely. The road rules don’t just cover the streets and highways that we drive on, but ‘road-related areas’ as well. If you’re caught exceeding the limit in a car park, you’ll be hit with the same fine as you would for speeding on the road (which changes depending on how much you’ve exceeded the limit by).


6. When do I have to give way to a bus?

Photoshopped Road Rule 6

We’ve all seen the give-way signs on the back of buses, but what exactly do they mean? They’re not just there to remind drivers to be courteous; the law actually says you have to give way to any bus displaying the sign if it’s indicating to pull out from the kerb.

On a multi-lane road, this only applies to cars in the left lane (or the next lane over if the left one is a bike lane or is obstructed by a parked car).

It also only applies when the bus is moving into traffic from the kerb – not when it’s changing lanes.

If you fail to give way when required, expect a $203 fine.


7. Is it illegal to block the view out of your back window?

Photoshopped Road Rule 7

The road rules say you must have a clear view to the front, sides and behind your car. So, if you’re heading on a family holiday, don’t stack the luggage right up to the roof or you could be hit with a $176 fine.

It does come down to a police officer’s judgement and the specific situation – a tall person might still have a clear view, for example, while height-challenged individuals may not.

Stickers on back windows could also breach the road rules – again depending on the size and position of the sticker and the size of the driver.


8. Is it illegal to drive at night with your interior lights on?

Photoshopped Road Rule 8

No, it’s not an offence to have an interior light on, as long as it’s not so bright that it dazzles approaching drivers (unlikely).

However, it could be distracting for yourself and passengers or attract the attention of police wondering why they’re on in the first place (is the driver changing a CD, for example?).


9. Can I be fined for having L or P plates on my car when I'm on my full licence?

Photoshopped Road Rule 9

Yes, it is illegal for a fully licensed driver to display L or P plates – unless they’re a professional and licensed driving instructor. So, if you take your teen for a lesson, don’t forget to take the plates off before popping behind the wheel yourself.

These offences are dealt with in court and have a maximum penalty of $1250.


10. Do I have to carry my licence on me when I'm behind the wheel?

Photoshopped Road Rule 10

Fully licensed drivers don’t need to physically have their licence on them when they’re behind the wheel. So, if you forget your wallet or pop out briefly, don’t stress. If you do get pulled over by police, they can ask you to present your licence at a conveniently located police station within 48 hours. If you don’t, you’ll face a $187 fine.

If you’re on your Ls or Ps, have an interstate or foreign licence, or you’re driving a vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of more than 4.5 tonnes, then you must carry your licence when driving and show it to police when asked.


If any of these fines are issued by police, you'll also need to pay a $60 Victims of Crime Levy. Some of these offences will also attract demerit points.

Have another road rule question? Members can call us on 8202 4570 or email us here.


Images © Pip Kruger