New 40km/h rule needs more thought, says volunteer

Emergency service workers have a right to get home to their families safe, says Bendigo SES deputy controller Natalie Stanway. Picture: GLENN DANIELS
Emergency service workers have a right to get home to their families safe, says Bendigo SES deputy controller Natalie Stanway. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

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Bendigo’s State Emergency Service deputy controller says she supports the intent of a new 40km/h rule when overtaking emergency vehicles, but it needs more finessing.

The controversial rule came into effect on Saturday and requires drivers to slow down to 40km/h when passing a stationary or slow-moving emergency vehicle with its lights on.

Deputy controller Natalie Stanway said she appreciated the intent of the law, but was not sure it was the best option.

“I just want my team to always feel safe when they’re out there and I’m in favour of anything that can make that happen so long as it doesn't have any unintended consequences,” she said.

The Bendigo volunteer has seen two instances where drivers have put other lives at risk by driving through an SES scene.

One was at Strathdale where a driver drove onto a footpath to get past a fallen tree and caused children to run to avoid being hit.

The second was at Epsom and occurred in a similar situation where members were attempting to remove a fallen tree.

“Both drivers made a choice and had time to assess the scene,” she said.

“It’s just amazing they feel that’s acceptable. It’s just astounding, it’s just jaw-dropping – why do you think that’s OK?”

Ms Stanway said fortunately no one was injured in either event, but it had the potential to be dangerous if members didn’t have situational awareness.

“Any behaviour that makes our already very risky work place safer is to be encouraged and supported,” she said. 

“Whether this law falls into that category or not, I don't know.”

Just one day after the rule was introduced, a truck slammed into the rear of a car whose driver had slowed down to adhere to the new rule at Bacchus Marsh.

Ms Stanway said requiring drivers to reduce their speed quickly in a high-speed area created risks to other people on the roads.

“I do think if you’re asking someone to slow rapidly you are going to get additional hazards,” she said.

“It’s the intent of the law I support, but it needs some finessing to be effective.”

The SES volunteer said more consideration was also needed in the communication of the change. She said all the information she had seen came from social media and thought there were many drivers who would not be aware of it.

“We all have families and we have a right to get home safe to them,” she said.