Australian Civil Liberties Union

Your Rights 2005

Chapter 17


Types of drivers licences. Cancellation or Suspension of licence. Road Traffic Law.
Procedure after an accident. Breath Tests. Repair cost claims.

Drivers’ licence

If you wish to drive a car or a motor bike on a public road you should ensure you have with you a current drivers licence, which is obtainable from the relevant Authority in your State. A drivers’ licence may be either a learners’ permit, a provisional licence or a full licence. You can apply for a learners permit when you are 17 (in most States), which is available when you pass certain elementary tests (for example a test of your eyesight) and pay a fee. You must display “L” plates and have a licenced driver with you. You may obtain a provisional or probationary licence when you pass a rigorous driving test and you can then drive with “P” plates shown, may be subject to lower maximum speed limits than those for fully licenced drivers and will be required (in most States) to have a zero alcohol reading when driving. A full licence can be obtained after you have been driving for 2 years.

Cancellation or suspension

If your licence is cancelled for a driving offence you will need to reapply for it to be restored. If your licence is suspended, it will automatically be restored to you when the period of suspension has elapsed.

Your licence may be cancelled or suspended for offences such as driving with an alcohol reading above .05, or above zero if you have a learner or provisional licence, refusing to take a breath test; failing to stop after an accident in which someone is injured or killed; driving at a speed more than (usually) 30 kph above the speed limit. As well as losing your licence you may be fined and face imprisonment. Under the “points” system, you may lose your licence for a series of traffic violations. It is in your interests, and the interests of other drivers, passengers and pedestrians, that you drive carefully and observe the road laws. Note that a high percentage of accidents are due to loss of concentration, failure to keep a careful lookout for other vehicles, and failure to anticipate dangerous situations and take appropriate evasive action.

Road Traffic Law and Procedure

The average citizen is more likely to be prosecuted for a road traffic offence (either by summons or arrest) than for any other type of offence. It is suggested that the following procedures be followed to minimize the possibility of being prosecuted and to improve relations between motorists and the police.

Supplying Name and Address: Any person driving a motor vehicle is required to produce his licence and state his name and address to a policeman when requested to do so.

Signals: Signals are required to be given by the driver of the motor car when about to turn to the right or left, when about to diverge to the right or left, when about to pull out from the kerb, and when about to make a “U” turn.

Overtaking: The most dangerous places in which to overtake another vehicle are on an intersection, on a curve or bend, approaching the crest of a hill, and on a “blind” corner. When overtaking another vehicle, only overtake when it is safe to do so, giving a diverging signal, make certain you can safely resume your correct place in front of the overtaken vehicle without interfering with other traffic, and keep to the left of any double lines. On a two-way carriageway which is divided into three lames a driver must not drive in the extreme right-hand lane.You are permitted to overtake another vehicle on its left or near side when the driver of another vehicle signals his intention and is about to make a righthand turn at an intersection or into a private roadway or driveway on his right, and when driving along a road where two or more marked lanes are provided for vehicles travelling in the same direction. When the driver of an overtaking vehicle sounds his horn or warning instrument you should move to the left of the road to allow the other vehicle to pass and not increase speed until it has passed clear. A driver after overtaking another vehicle must not drive again in front of the other vehicle until safely clear.

Turning Right: When turning or intending to turn to the right, you must give the appropriate signal, and give way to any other vehicle which has entered or is approaching the intersection from the opposite direction, vehicles on the right, and pedestrians. You must also give way to any vehicle from the opposite direction turning left. If there are markers, marks or signs at the intersection showing the course to be taken, these must be obeyed. Right-hand turns should be commenced to the left of and as close as practicable to the centre of the road you are leaving, and the car should turn in a shallow arc to the right of the centre of the intersection to leave the intersection to the left of the centre of the road being entered. Turning Left: If you are turning or intending to turn to the left, you must give way to all other vehicles except for a vehicle from the opposite direction turning right.When making a left turn at a cross intersection, a driver must be on the left of any vehicle abreast of him and travelling in the same direction.

Right of Way: If there is danger of a collision at an intersection the driver on the left must give way to a driver on the right. Any tram which has commenced to cross an intersection has right of way. Emergency vehicles sounding a siren or bell have right of way. If facing a “give way” or “stop” sign a motorist shall give way to every vehicle travelling along or turning from the intersecting road. When turning left or right give way to pedestrians. Approach and enter an intersection at such a speed that would enable you to avoid a collision with any person or vehicle.

Keeping to Lanes: When driving in lanes on roads a driver must drive his vehicle as nearly as is practicable entirely within a single marked lane or a single line of traffic.

Keeping to Left: You should drive as close as practicable to the left of the road except when about to make a right-hand turn when overtaking and passing another vehicle and in traffic lanes where marked.

Pedestrian and School Crossings: Give way to any pedestrian on a crossing.

Traffic Control Signals: When you are approaching a “Stop’ sign at an intersection, you must stop before entering it, and give right of way. A single flashing red signal at an intersection means you must stop. After stopping, proceed only when safe to do so. A flashing amber light at an intersection means you must approach and cross such intersection with caution.

Speeding: The speed limit is 60 km/in in built up areas which is an area with street lighting. Outside built up areas the speed limit is, subject to any contrary signs, 100 kph. Lower speed limits apply to holders of provisional licences and learner permits. Speeding offences are usually dealt with by “on the spot” fines.

Procedure After An Accident.

1. You must stop immediately and render assistance to any injured person. If visibility is poor, leave the car headlamps switched on and warn passing motorists of the hazards around the accident scene. If the risks created by the collision might endanger other road users, or if someone is hurt, contact the police. Sometimes a bystander will direct traffic until police arrive. Call an ambulance to care for anyone seriously hurt (dial 000 in metropolitan areas), and while waiting its arrival make the injured as comfortable as possible, but do not move seriously injured persons. Protect any injured person from oncoming vehicles by arranging for other cars, with headlights on if necessary to park around him. Keep the injured person warm, but do not give him food or drink.

2. You must give your name and address to an injured person and to the owner of any damaged property (or some person representing the injured person or owner of damaged property), and to any police present.

3. If the police are not present at the scene of the accident and if anyone has been injured or the owner of any damaged property (or his agent) is not present (for example the owner of a parked car), you must report the fact that the accident occurred to the nearest police station.

4. You are not obliged to give the police details as to how the accident happened. In particular you may refuse to answer specific questions designed to obtain specific details such as speed, when brakes were applied, and when you saw the other car, etc.

5. If the other party to the accident says something of importance, make a note of it.

6. You should take the names and addresses of any eyewitnesses you see at the scene.

7. You should be very guarded in what you say at the scene of an accident since you are likely to be excitable and distressed. A chance remark later repeated in a slightly different form may be used to secure your conviction for a serious offence.

8. If you decide to make a statement to the police it should be short, and unambiguous. It is preferable not to make a statement, especially in serious cases, until you have seen your solicitor.

Arrest or Summons. In serious cases, especially if there has been an accident and someone has been injured, or you have refused a breath test, you may be arrested and taken to a police station. If this occurs you should apply for bail and ask for your solicitor to be notified. The earlier sections of Your Rights relating to answering questions and procedure at the police station apply here. In less serious cases, such as speeding offences, the police will generally say that the matter will be reported and you may then receive a summons in due course. If you have committed a minor traffic offence and you believe there are good reasons, including a long clean driving record, why you should not be charged, written representations can properly be made to the Police Department. This also applies to Traffic Infringement Notices, commonly known as “pay on the spot fines”.

If you pay the amount set out on the Notice within 28 days you don’t have to go to court.

Breathalyser Tests. The police have power to require drivers of motor vehicles to furnish breath samples for breathalyser analysis. The penalties for refusal to submit to a test are substantial and include cancellation of licence. It is an offence to drive a motor vehicle where the breathalyser reading is more than .05.A male is likely to exceed .05 by drinking 3 middies of beer, or 3 glasses of wine, or 3 nips of spirits in one hour. One glass an hour would keep you over the limit. The amount of drink required by a woman to exceed .05 is slightly less.

The Police and the Motorist. You should give your name and address. You should be polite and calm when talking to a policeman. You don’t have to answer questions. If in doubt, don’t answer questions and then obtain legal advice. Don’t resist arrest. If arrested, ask for bail and obtain a solicitor.

Damage to Cars

It is advisable to take out insurance to cover damage to your car and damage you may cause to other cars. If the accident was not your fault and the amount of damage is less than the excess on your policy and the possible loss of no claims bonuses, you can send a letter of demand to the other party, including a quotation for repairs. You can take the matter to court if you are satisfied the other party can meet the judgement. However you may be unable to recover some of your legal costs (solicitor-client costs) from the defendant.

If you are insured you can put in a claim to your insurance company for damage to your car and pay an excess.This may lead to a loss of no claim bonuses.


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Australian Civil Liberties Union