Why must you slow down when driving past first responders?

Published 06 Jun 2018

Author: Nassir Bechara

First responders regularly put their lives on the line to protect and serve citizens, so the ACT government has unveiled a new speed limit in order to help emergency services personnel feel safer on the job.

From April 14, drivers must slow down to 40 kilometres per hour (km/h) when passing a roadside emergency vehicle that has flashing red or blue lights. The rule only applies when the responder is either stationary or moving slowly, but in these circumstances, motorists must:

  • Approach emergency response vehicles at a speed that enables the driver to safely stop if necessary;
  • Give way to first responders who are on foot;
  • Pass an emergency vehicle at no more than 40 km/h, or below the applicable speed limit if that is lower than 40 km/h; and
  • Proceed at a safe speed until sufficiently far away from the emergency vehicle.

First responders at risk of roadside injuries

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman and Minister for Road Safety Shane Rattenbury claimed the changes would protect roadside emergency services staff from serious injuries.

“Incidents on our roads place first responders at a high risk of being struck by passing vehicles or debris,” said Mr Rattenbury.

“This new law is consistent with existing speed restrictions in place in other areas where vulnerable road users are commonly found, such as school zones, road works and town centres.”

Drivers that breach the 40-km/h limit will receive a $257 penalty and two demerit points. However, the law does not apply to situations where emergency vehicles are parked or moving slowly on the other side of a road that is divided by a median strip.

Emergency services: a hazardous profession

Since 2003, 47 first responders have lost their lives in the country, with vehicle collisions the most common cause of fatalities, according to Safe Work Australia.

The organisation’s statistics also show emergency services personnel are also four times more likely than any other profession to make serious workers compensation claims. The new speed limit should lower the number of first responder deaths related to road traffic accidents in the ACT.

“Our emergency services are often required to work on or near the road, protecting the community when we are most vulnerable,” Mr Gentleman stated.

“For an emergency services worker, this is their workspace and they have a right to feel safe in their working environment.”

Have you been involved in a car accident in the ACT? You could be entitled to compensation for any injuries you have sustained. Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to discuss a potential claim.