Last week saw the introduction of new “slow down” laws in NSW, which require drivers to slow down to 40km/hr when passing a stationary emergency or rescue vehicle that has its red or blue lights flashing.
Similar laws have previously been introduced in other states, to a positive reception from emergency services staff.
According to the Centre for Road Safety, “The NSW Government will monitor the safety and traffic impacts of the rule during a 12-month trial period in consultation with NSW Police, emergency service organisations and other stakeholders.”
For those who are found to be in violation of the rule, there will be a $448 fine and three demerit points. Additionally, a maximum court penalty of $2,200 will also apply.
While these penalties are comparable with other road rules surrounding negligent driving around obstructions and hazards, the new laws have nonetheless attracted criticism from multiple quarters, with concern that the rapid reduction in speed could cause more safety issues than it prevents.
Theoretically, these new laws could also present car insurers with new exposures if they are adopted permanently after the trial. For example, if an accident occurs as a result of slowing down for an emergency vehicle, which party could be considered liable?
Insurance Business spoke to Tony Dodd, general manager of sales and distribution for GT Insurance, for his comments on the changes.
“The introduction of the new Go Slow law in NSW provides protection for emergency services workers,” he said. “This is a common sense change that reflects increasing congestion on most roads and increase in drivers taking risks with regard to speeding, for example.”
However, he also raised a number of concerns, particularly in relation to heavy vehicles on the road.
“The nature of the operation of an emergency vehicle is going to provide motorists with little warning to reduce their speed; the sudden reduction to 40 km per hour in high speed areas may have an adverse effect on heavy vehicles as their braking distance is far greater than a car,” Dodd said. “It is important that all motorists pay particular attention to their surroundings when applying sudden braking manoeuvres so as to avoid further accidents.”
With the laws set to be reviewed in September 2019, it remains to be seen whether it will be necessary for insurers to develop new auto insurance policies that more effectively incorporate these changes.