NTC proposes changes to use of portable warning triangles

Change to road rule will require truck drivers to use extra portable warning triangle if a breakdown occurs on divided road

By Brad Gardner | July 31, 2013

Proposed changes to Australia’s road rules will require truck drivers to use three portable warning triangles if their rig breaks down or loses its load on a divided road with a painted median strip.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) has unveiled a number of proposed changes to rules governing road users, including allowing drivers to use GPS applications on a mobile phone as long as they do not touch it while driving.

Current road rules require truck drivers to use three warning triangles – two behind their truck and one in front – unless they are on a two-way road that has a median strip, in which case drivers do not need to place a triangle ahead of their truck.

The NTC says the exemption from using three triangles should be limited to roads with a physical median strip.

"The amendment will clarify that for the purpose of this rule, a road is only treated as a divided road if the separate lanes travelling in opposite directions are separated by a physical structure which forms a median strip," the NTC says.

It says the original idea behind excluding drivers from using three triangles on divided roads is that a warning sign for oncoming traffic achieves little if a physical structure separates traffic travelling in opposite directions.

"However, under the Rules, median strips can consist solely of painted road markings," The NTC’s proposal states.

"In that case, oncoming traffic should be warned of a disabled vehicle or fallen load ahead, as it is possible for oncoming traffic to enter the area in which the disabled vehicle or a fallen load is, in a way that is not possible if the median strip consists of a physical barrier."

The proposed change is now open to feedback until September 4, along with other recommendations to amend rules relating to keeping left of a divided line, stopping on crossings, giving way at a bridge or length of narrow road and the wearing of seatbelts by passengers.

The NTC has also proposed expanding the definition of level crossing to include all of the area marked by yellow cross-hatching.

"The proposed changes aim to ensure the rules keep pace with best practice in road safety and continue to meet the needs of all road users," NTC CEO Paul Retter says.

"The proposed changes, in many instances, reflect and legally recognise current community and driver behaviour by clarifying existing rules."

The NTC says its proposal to amend the rule governing the use of mobile phones is designed to keep pace with technological advances.

Existing road rules make it an offence for anyone to use a mobile phone while a vehicle is moving or is stationary but not parked. Drivers are exempted if a call is made or received on a phone secured in a fixed mounting, but drivers must not hold the phone and use it.

The NTC says many mobile phones can provide GPS services but that existing road rules stating phones can only be used to make or receive calls prevents the use of a GPS function or any other driver aid.

As such, the NTC says motorists using driver aids need to rely on a number of mounted devices in their vehicles.

"In addition to creating confusion and potentially causing driver distraction, this seems highly inconsistent and unreasonable," the NTC says.

"The proposed amendment is to enable drivers to use driver’s aid functions (such as navigational devices) co-located on a mobile phone, as long as the use of the phone does not require the driver to press anything on the body of the phone or otherwise to manipulate any part of the body of the phone and the phone is secured in an appropriate fixed mounting."

The proposed amendment will prohibit a motorist from touching their phone to use a driver aid function while their vehicle is moving, but they will still be able to touch the phone to make or receive calls.

"This amendment enables drivers to take advantage of modern technology and use the driver’s aid functions on their mobile phones and aligns the Rules better with community expectations that the Rules will incorporate technological advances where appropriate," the NTC states.

Retter says public feedback will inform the final proposals to go to transport ministers to vote on later this year. He says any amendments will only take effect once they are adopted into the law of each state and territory.

Australian road rules were introduced in 1999 to outline the basic rules of the road for motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians, passengers and other road users.

The NTC is responsible for reviewing the rules to determine if amendments or new rules are required.

Proposed changes are based on advice from the Australian Road Rules Maintenance Group, which includes representatives from government road agencies and police from each state and territory. The group also includes a federal representative.

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