Centre for Road Safety

Slow Down, Move Over and Give Space

  1. When was the new road rule introduced?
  2. Why was the rule changed?
  3. Why change the rule to include tow trucks and breakdown assistance vehicles as well as changing the speed that motorists need to slow down to?
  4. How will drivers know what a reasonable speed reduction is on roads with a speed limit of 90km/h or more?
  5. On roads with a speed limit of 90km/h or more, how can drivers provide sufficient space between their vehicle and the tow truck, breakdown assistance or emergency vehicle?
  6. Why does the rule now include tow trucks and breakdown assistance vehicles?
  7. How will drivers know if a vehicle is a tow truck, breakdown assistance vehicle or other type of vehicle with yellow lights?
  8. Does the rule apply to other vehicles with flashing yellow lights?
  9. Why is this rule now being referred to as ‘Sarah’s Rule’?
  10. What types of vehicles will be covered by the rule?
  11. What is considered a sufficient distance past the vehicle?
  12. Does the rule apply on all road types?
  13. What is a median strip?
  14. What is the penalty for not obeying this road rule?
  15. What is the government doing to educate motorists about the rule?
  16. How was the rule monitored over the trial period?

1. When was the new road rule introduced?

The changes to the road rule took effect on 26 September 2019.

2. Why was the rule changed?

This rule was changed to improve the safety of vulnerable roadside workers including tow truck operators and breakdown assistance workers, in addition to emergency service workers. The changes to the rule also make it safer and easier to comply with, particularly on higher speed roads where the time and distance required to reduce speed to 40km/h is the greatest.

3. Why change the rule to include tow trucks and breakdown assistance vehicles as well as changing the speed that motorists need to slow down to?

The NSW Government has been monitoring the rule since it was first introduced on 1 September 2018 and has also been listening to community and stakeholder feedback.

This showed that the rule was working well on lower speed roads. However, safety concerns and risks were highlighted on higher speed roads where the time and distance required to reduce speed to 40km/h was the greatest.

Tow truck and breakdown assistance workers face similar risks on the road to emergency service workers. A commitment was made to consider the application of the rule to other at-risk workers over the 12 month trial period.

After the rule was made safer in higher speed environments, it was appropriate to extend the rule and enhance safety for these at-risk workers.

4. How will drivers know what a reasonable speed reduction is on roads with a speed limit of 90km/h or more?

Motorists passing the flashing lights of a stopped tow truck, breakdown assistance or emergency vehicle in a higher speed environment need to exercise their judgment in order to slow down to a reasonable speed for the circumstances.

It is important to remember that anyone working on or around the road is vulnerable, especially on high speed roads. When slowing down safely, consider reducing your speed further if:

  • there is clear line of sight to the stationary vehicle displaying flashing lights
  • the stationary vehicle is positioned close to moving traffic with limited available space
  • there are pedestrians moving on the road near the incident or breakdown
  • speed can be reduced in a controlled way in the context of other traffic.

5. On roads with a speed limit of 90km/h or more, how can drivers provide sufficient space between their vehicle and the tow truck, breakdown assistance or emergency vehicle?

On a multi-lane road, drivers will need to vacate the lane directly adjacent to the stationary tow truck, breakdown assistance or emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights unless it is unsafe to do so.

On a road with one lane in each direction, drivers will need to move over within their lane as far as reasonably possible away from the vehicle.

6. Why does the rule now include tow trucks and breakdown assistance vehicles?

Tow truck and breakdown assistance workers face similar risks on the road to emergency service workers.

Tow truck and breakdown assistance workers are often the first - and sometimes only - responders to breakdowns or crashes. Given the unplanned nature of these incidents, they are often unable to choose a safer location or operate in a speed-reduced work zone.

A commitment was made to consider the application of the rule to other at-risk workers over the 12-month trial period.

After the rule was made safer in higher speed environments, it was appropriate to extend the rule and enhance safety for these at-risk workers.

7. How will drivers know if a vehicle is a tow truck, breakdown assistance vehicle or other type of vehicle with yellow lights?

The use of yellow flashing lights on a vehicle alerts other road users that the vehicle is in a hazardous position or is moving in hazardous circumstances.

Drivers should always slow down when approaching a vehicle displaying flashing yellow lights.

Once a driver is able to identify the stationary vehicle, they will then be able to take the appropriate measure based on the speed limit of the road.

8. Does the rule apply to other vehicles with flashing yellow lights

Other vehicles which have flashing yellow lights which are not breakdown assistance vehicles or tow trucks are not part of the rule.

However, when workers are conducting maintenance on roads they will generally have signage and a work zone speed limit in place.

Regardless, motorists should always proceed with caution when they see people working on or by the side of the road.

9. Why is the rule now being referred to as Sarah's Rule?

The rule is also being called ‘Sarah’s Rule’ in memory of Sarah Frazer and the ongoing work of the Safer Australian Roads and Highways (SARAH) Group to improve safety conditions for roadside workers, as well as other road users.

Sarah Frazer tragically lost her life in 2012 when she was struck on the roadside after her car broke down on the Hume Highway. The tow truck driver who had come to her assistance also lost his life.

10 What types of vehicles are covered by the rule?

Drivers must obey the rule when passing the following vehicles when stationary and displaying flashing blue or red lights:

  • NSW Police Force vehicles
  • Ambulance Service of NSW vehicles
  • Fire & Rescue NSW vehicles
  • State Emergency Service vehicles
  • Rural Fire Service vehicles
  • Volunteer Rescue Association vehicles
  • Transport Emergency Patrol vehicles
  • Traffic Commander vehicles

Drivers must also obey the rule when passing the following vehicles when stationary and displaying flashing yellow lights:

  • Tow trucks
  • Breakdown assistance vehicles (e.g. NRMA and Allianz roadside assistance vehicles)

11. What is considered a sufficient distance past the vehicle?

The rule will require that drivers do not increase their speed until a sufficient distance past the stationary tow truck, breakdown assistance or emergency vehicle so they do not cause a danger to any person in the vicinity of the vehicle.

For example, a fire truck may be stationed by the roadside with flashing lights but fire fighters may be managing a fire further up the road. In this instance, drivers should not increase their speed until they are fully past the vehicle and the fire fighters in the vicinity.

In contrast, drivers will be required to slow down for a shorter distance when passing a police vehicle that has pulled over another vehicle on the side of the road.

12. Does the rule apply on all road types?

Yes, it applies to all roads, including motorways, highways and freeways. However, the rule will not apply when a stationary tow truck, breakdown assistance or emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights is on the opposite side of a divided road separated by a median strip.

If the stationary vehicle is on the median strip then the rule will apply to vehicles on both sides of the road.

13. What is a median strip?

A median strip is an area or structure that separates vehicles travelling in opposite directions. A median strip can be covered in grass, it can include or be a wire rope or concrete barrier or be a continuous painted island filled with diagonal bars.

A median strip does not include double white lines, a single white line or a broken white line on its own or in combination with a continuous white line. It also does not include wide centre lines or short painted islands typically found as part of intersection turning lanes.

14. What is the penalty for not obeying this road rule?

A $457 fine and 3 demerit points applies for motorists who do not comply with the new road rule. A maximum court penalty of $2,200 will also apply.

This is comparable with the current offence for when it is determined that a driver has driven negligently in the presence of obstructions or hazards, including stopped emergency vehicles and personnel.

This is also the same penalty level that applied during the 12-month trial period.

15. What is the government doing to educate motorists about the rule?

Transport for NSW, with the support of the emergency service agencies, tow truck operators and breakdown assistance providers, will be rolling out a comprehensive community education campaign across NSW.

To maximise awareness, the campaign will include television, online, radio and social media advertising. TfNSW is also releasing online animations to help explain the road rule to NSW motorists which can be accessed via this website and the NSW Road Safety Facebook page.

The new campaign focuses on communicating the two key changes to the rule – the different requirements in different speed limits and the extension of the rule to include tow trucks and breakdown assistance vehicles. Like all TfNSW campaigns, it will be monitored to ensure the campaign messages are understood by road users.

16. How was the rule monitored over the trial period?

The NSW Government monitored the implementation of the rule from its introduction on 1 September 2018 and how it impacted on the safety of emergency workers and the safety and behaviour of motorists.

The views of the community and key stakeholders were considered, including representatives from emergency service agencies, the road transport industry and road user advocacy groups.