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New NSW road rules to protect first responders extended to tow trucks

A trial in which road users in NSW were required to slow to 40km/h when passing emergency vehicles with flashing blue or red lights will be expanded to include tow trucks and breakdown assistance vehicles it has been announced by the NSW Government.

Under the new rules drivers will continue to be required to slow down to 40km/h on roads with speed limits of 80km/h or under.

Vehicles such as tow trucks that flash yellow warning lights while attending incidents are also included in the protective speed reductions. 

Changes to the rules, however, won't affect heavy vehicle operators or passenger vehicle drivers on roads with speed limits of 90 km/h.

Drivers on roads with speed limits of 90km/h or over will be exempt from the 40km/h limit but are required to slow to a speed which is safe and reasonable for the circumstances and give sufficient space between their vehicle and the breakdown assistance or emergency vehicle and workers.

During the 12-month trial to keep emergency service workers safer by the roadside 926 infringements were issued according to Minister for Roads Andrew Constance.

“We’ve monitored the impact of the rule over the past year and taken on board feedback from the public and stakeholders about the trial," he said.

"We’re now implementing changes to make the rule safer for everyone,” said Constance.

These changes include the legal speed drivers must adhere to in certain circumstances to avoid unsafe practices like hard braking.

NSW Minister for Regional Roads Paul Toole said on multi-lane roads, drivers must change lanes to keep the lane next to the vehicle free if it is safe to do so.

“These changes are about slowing down safely,” he said.

“If you are driving on roads 90km/h or over you will need to consider how close you are to the stationary vehicle and slow to a safer speed and give as much space to the vehicle as you can,” he said.

In the five years from 2014 to 2018 around 85 per cent of crashes where emergency service vehicles were stopped at the roadside happened in 80km/h speed zones and below.

NSW Police have also adjusted their practices so officers are stopping in safer locations which are more visible to approaching drivers.

New advance warning signs are being designed for use by emergency services.

NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Michael Corboy said the new rule is about ensuring the safety of not only police, but also other road users.

“We need to provide a safe working environment for our police officers, whose job it is to enforce the road rules, in an effort to improve driver behaviour and drive down the road toll,” he said.

“Motorists should always ‘drive to the conditions’ as part of their road safety plan.”

President of Safer Australian Roads and Highways (SARAH) Peter Frazer supports the expansion of the rule to roadside assistance personnel and tow truck drivers.

“When you see flashing lights on the road ahead, commit to “Drive So Others Survive.” Slow down and give those who are vulnerable the space they need to be safe,” he said.

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