Editorial: Not all road rules are simple common sense

Victoria’s road rules are in place for one reason: to help make what is an inherently dangerous activity – hurtling through the air inside more than a tonne of steel at speeds of up to 110 km/h –  safer.

And many of the laws set out in the rule book are common sense – wearing seat belts, not using a mobile phone, giving way at roundabouts – but there are some that leave motorists scratching their heads.

The new requirement to slow to 40 km/h when passing emergency services vehicles introduced this month sparked much debate, notably among tow truck drivers confused as to why they were excluded, despite also attending roadside crash scenes.

“If there are no police in attendance, then you’ve really got to watch yourself,” Bendigo tow truck driver Daniel Whitehead said.

“It still is dangerous – if not more dangerous because you haven’t got the extra support and extra pair of eyes to watch for oncoming traffic.”

Mr Whitehead’s concerns are understandable, and perhaps the exclusion of tow truck drivers is an oversight that should be addressed, but as he himself concedes – the intent of the change, improving safety for emergency services personnel, is sound.

But not all of the other 408 different possible infringements make as much sense.

One such example is the new prohibition on mobile phone use for cyclists and skateboarders which applies even when the bike/device is “stationary but not parked”.

As RACV roads and traffic manager, Dave Jones, points out, knowing what is and isn’t allowed in this situation is more than a matter of simple common sense.

“If they're standing with one foot on the skateboard are they riding it, or is it parked?” he said.

Similarly, as a motorcycle rider, I personally welcomed another change which means it is now legal to stand up on a bike while it's moving, as long as both feet are on the foot pegs, but was slightly confused by the addendum which still prohibits taking both feet off the pegs while still seated.

As any rider who has travelled long distances will tell you, this is a completely harmless action that only serves the purpose of allowing some blood flow to otherwise starved extremities.

And while you probably won’t see me wheeling about town standing on one leg any time soon, if stretching your legs is illegal, then I guess I’m guilty as charged.

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