7 misunderstood road rules that lead to car accidents

One of the main reasons we have road rules is to help drivers make quick decisions as to who has the right of way and therefore avoid car accidents. But some road rules are commonly misinterpreted by drivers – here are seven that commonly cause confusion on the road. If you are unsure if you are eligible for compensation, an experienced lawyer can help inform you whether you have a case.

1. Who has the right of way at a roundabout

It’s a simple rule but misread by many. To help avoid a car accident when entering a roundabout, drivers need to give way to any vehicle already in the roundabout. Drivers must also remember to signal left when leaving the roundabout.

2. Giving way to pedestrians

If a vehicle is turning into a road where pedestrians are crossing, then the driver must give way, regardless of whether or not there is a marked pedestrian crossing. Vehicles must also give way in any situation where there is a chance that a pedestrian may be injured in a car accident.

3. Keeping left unless overtaking

This is often considered to be a guideline rather than a rule. But a rule it is, and other rules apply here too. On multi-lane roads, drivers must stay in the left lane unless:

  • they are overtaking
  • they are turning right or making a U-turn
  • there is a lot of traffic causing congestion
  • they are avoiding a hazard on the road
  • there is signage that reserves the left lane for special use – i.e. ‘left lane must turn left’.

4. Stopping at a yellow light

When a traffic light turns yellow it means drivers need to stop, unless it is unsafe to do so. Penalties apply in situations where it’s safe to stop but drivers keep going regardless.

5. Speeding in a school zone

To minimise the risk of car accidents involving school children, a speed limit of 40 km/h applies within school zones during certain hours of the day – usually around drop-off and pick-up times between 8–9.30am and 2.30–4pm during school days. School zones apply and are enforceable on gazetted school days.

6. Alcohol and driving

One of the leading causes of car accidents is driving under the influence of alcohol. The amount of alcohol you may consume before driving varies for different classes of licence.

Learner and P-plate drivers must not consume any alcohol before driving – their blood alcohol level must be at zero. For commercial drivers of taxis, buses and coaches, the acceptable blood alcohol level is 0.02. And for fully-licenced private drivers, the acceptable blood alcohol level is 0.05.

It’s important to know that alcohol affects people differently according to a variety of factors including gender, weight and height, state of health, liver function and fitness. Depending upon your circumstances, even two standard drinks may put you over the limit for fully-licenced drivers. When it comes to driving, it’s safest not to drink at all.

7. Distracted driving and mobile phones

Distracted driving is another leading cause of car accidents, and the use of mobile phones has increasingly become a major source of distraction for drivers.

In NSW, it is now an offence to hold a mobile phone while driving and may lead to the loss of demerit points and a fine if you are caught doing so.

Fully-licenced drivers are allowed to use mobile phones while driving if the device can be used ‘hands-free’ and is mounted in a cradle that doesn’t obscure a view of the road. Learners and P-platers may not use mobile phones at all while driving.

If you’re uncertain of any of the road rules in NSW, check them out for yourself on the NSW government road authority site at rms.nsw.gov.au.

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