Law enforcement & emergency vehicles

This page outlines the road rules around law enforcement and emergency vehicles.

Keeping clear of law enforcement and emergency vehicles

If a police, emergency, enforcement or escort vehicle has its red or blue lights flashing or its siren on, you must:

  • Get out of its way 
  • Give way and stop if necessary, even if you have a green traffic light.

You must also stop if twin red lights are flashing on a road, e.g. outside a fire or ambulance station. You can start driving again once the lights have stopped flashing and the road is clear of emergency or other vehicles.

In emergencies, law enforcement and other emergency vehicles are not required to follow the road rules.

Passing law enforcement and emergency vehicles

From 1 July 2017 a new road rule has been introduced to improve safety for our emergency and enforcement workers.

You must slow down to a speed that would enable you to stop safely when approaching and passing enforcement, emergency or escort vehicles that are stationary or moving slowly (less than 10km/h)*, and have either:

You must not exceed 40km/h when passing the vehicle and not increase your speed until a safe distance from the scene (more on this below).

The new road rule does not apply to vehicles on the opposite side of a divided carriageway (separated by a median strip) from an emergency or enforcement vehicle scene.

* A fire truck extinguishing roadside spot fires is an example of a slow moving emergency vehicle.


What is considered a safe distance?

A ‘safe distance’ has not been defined in the road rule because every incident will be different. 

For example, a fire truck may be stationed by the roadside with flashing lights but the fire fighters may be managing a fire further up the road. In this instance, drivers should not increase their speed until they are fully past all emergency personnel.

In contrast, a roadside vehicle stopped by Victoria Police will require drivers to slow down and travel at 40km/h for a much shorter distance. 

It is the responsibility of all drivers to be aware of the individual circumstances of each roadside incident and to drive accordingly.

Why is this new rule being introduced?

Incidents on our roads place first responders and others involved at a high risk of being struck by passing vehicles or debris.

Near misses are common. A recent survey of more than 1,600 emergency service and enforcement workers revealed that in the past three years: 

  • 17% had a ‘near miss’ involving a passing vehicle on four or more occasions
  • 3% had been injured while evading a passing vehicle 
  • 8% had their vehicle struck by a passing vehicle
  • 23% of those involved in an incident had consequential mental health issues.

The new rule means improved safety for emergency and enforcement workers who are performing work on the road or roadside, as well as others who are present at the scene.

40km/h is the maximum speed at which pedestrians are likely to survive vehicle impact.

Does the new rule apply on all road types?

Yes, it applies to all roads, including freeways.

It doesn’t apply to vehicles on the other side of a divided road from an emergency or enforcement vehicle scene.

What type of emergency or enforcement vehicles are covered by the new rule?

  • Police vehicles 
  • Ambulance Victoria vehicles 
  • Metropolitan Fire Brigade vehicles
  • Country Fire Authority vehicles
  • Forest Fire Management Victoria vehicles 
  • State Emergency Service vehicles
  • VicRoads Transport Safety Service vehicles (magenta/purplish red flashing lights)
  • Enforcement vehicles (magenta/purplish red flashing lights) under the control of a state transport body including Fisheries and Taxi enforcement vehicles
  • Other emergency patient transport vehicles with red and blue flashing lights.

Why are other special purpose vehicles with different coloured lights not covered?

The new rule has been kept to emergency and enforcement vehicles to avoid confusion.

Limiting the rule to vehicles with blue and red, or magenta flashing lights makes it easier for motorists to understand and comply with the new rule’s requirements.

The rule is consistent with existing road rules 78 and 79 that require drivers to move out of the way of an emergency or enforcement vehicle with flashing lights or sounding an alarm.

The rule doesn’t apply to special purpose vehicles with yellow flashing lights.

Can I be fined for not obeying the new road rule?

Yes, you can be fined but no demerit points will apply.

The infringement penalty for breaching the new road rule is 1.75 penalty units ($272.05), with the maximum court penalty of 5 penalty units ($777.30). 

Victoria Police has also advised that its primary goal is to educate the community about safe speeds around incidents to prevent the death or serious injury of workers and others at the scene.

Enforcement will likely focus on drivers who blatantly disregard the new road rule.

Don’t motorists already slow down if they see an emergency vehicle ahead?

Most people already slow down when they see an emergency vehicle ahead with red and blue flashing lights, and/or alarm sounding.

The new rule establishes a required standard for safe behaviour and further ensures emergency workers can get on with their important work without worrying about being struck by a passing vehicle or debris.

The rule has been designed to provide maximum safety benefits to emergency and enforcement workers while keeping it simple for the Victorian community to understand.

How should I slow down safely to comply with the new road rule on a high speed road?

If police need to stop a vehicle on a high speed road, they will always try to do this in a location that can easily be seen by approaching drivers so there is enough time to slow down safely. 

If an emergency or enforcement vehicle is in an area of low visibility due to the location or poor weather, it will be because it is absolutely necessary and there will likely be alarms sounding in addition to flashing lights. 

In these situations, drivers should slow down safely when they first see flashing lights, taking into account the current road conditions and avoiding sudden braking.  

Reducing speed, even if the vehicle does not get down to 40km/h, will still have safety benefits for law enforcement or emergency workers and will help drivers take evasive action if needed.

Is the new rule consistent with other safety speed restrictions?

Yes, the new rule is consistent with existing speed restrictions through:

  • School zones
  • Work zones 
  • Environments with vulnerable and unprotected road users.

 

 

Was this page helpful?


Take a moment to tell us why. If you'd like a response to your feedback, please message us instead.