Slow down for emergency vehicles

You know what to do when you see red and blue behind you, now you need to know what to do when you see red and blue in front of you.

To help protect our emergency workers, a new road rule applied from 1 December when approaching any stationary or slow moving emergency vehicle with lights flashing.

You must safely slow to 40km/h as you pass the emergency vehicle. This applies whatever direction you are travelling in, unless there is a dividing barrier.

Take care when slowing and avoid braking suddenly. Click on the headings below to find out more.

To keep our emergency workers safe, from 1 December 2019 a new road rule will apply in Tasmania that will mean motorists must slow to 40km/h when passing a stationary or slow moving emergency or enforcement vehicle with red, blue or magenta (purple) lights flashing or sounding an alarm.

When passing a vehicle with red, blue or magenta lights flashing or an alarm sounding, you must:

  • slow to 40km/h (in all speed zones and in both directions unless there is a dividing barrier between you and the emergency vehicle)
  • give way to emergency workers who are on foot in the immediate vicinity of the emergency vehicle, and
  • only increase your speed when you are a safe distance from the scene.

Take care when slowing and avoid braking suddenly.

Incidents on our roads place first responders and others involved at a high risk of being struck by passing vehicles or debris.

Near misses are common. A recent survey of 179 local emergency service and enforcement workers found that:

  • 89% report that they have never been struck by a passing vehicle, however 85% report experiencing a near-miss while working by the roadside
  • of the 11% who had experienced an incident, those able to detail the incident most commonly reported speed and inattention as the cause (79%)
  • near-misses have mostly occurred on highways (52%), followed by urban roads (43%).

The survey results provide a reasonable indication of workers’ experiences and concerns.

The new rule means improved safety for emergency and enforcement workers who are performing work on the road or roadside, as well as others who are present at the scene.

The rule delivers on the Tasmanian Government’s commitment to keep emergency service workers safe on the road.

The rule will start officially in Tasmania on Sunday, 1 December 2019. 

All drivers and riders travelling on the same road as the emergency or enforcement vehicle must slow safely to 40km/h, unless there is a dividing barrier or median strip between them and the emergency vehicle.

Everyone should take care when slowing to 40km/h and should avoid braking suddenly, particularly on high speed roads or when a heavy vehicle is nearby.  Remember when slowing to focus on the task of driving and not to become distracted by the incident on the side of the road.

Yes. The new road rule will apply on all road types, in all speed zones, and when approaching the emergency vehicle from both directions (unless there is a dividing barrier or median strip between you and the emergency vehicle).

Yes, you must slow safely to 40km/h when approaching the emergency vehicle from both directions, unless there is a dividing barrier or a median strip between you and the emergency vehicle.  If there is a dividing barrier or a median strip, you can continue to travel at the posted speed limit if it is safe to do so.

Median strips or dividing barriers divide a road lengthways, and are designed to separate vehicles travelling in opposite directions.  Double white lines, a single white line, or a broken white line are not considered dividing barriers or median strips.

You can return to the posted speed limit once you are a safe distance from the emergency vehicle and you are no longer required to travel at a speed that enables you to stop suddenly if required.

The rule covers emergency and enforcement vehicles with red, blue and/or magenta lights.  These vehicle types have emergency response, enforcement, or traffic management responsibilities.

The rule applies to vehicles with red, blue and magenta flashing lights because they have emergency response, enforcement or traffic management responsibilities that require them to move rapidly to incident sites with little time to engage in site management or control activities, given the often critical nature of the work being conducted.

The rule doesn’t apply to vehicles with yellow flashing lights.

Yellow flashing lights warn drivers of a road hazard up ahead such as road works, the presence of a tow truck operator or roadside assist vehicle. Upon seeing yellow flashing lights, drivers should continue to drive in a safe manner, observing any traffic control measures in place and avoid endangering the welfare of other road users.

Yes, because this rule is introducing a new speed limit, existing speed related offences will apply. A full list of speed related offences can be found here.

Although the rule does not start until 1 December 2019, you should still drive safely and with caution when passing slow moving or stationary emergency and enforcement vehicles with lights flashing.

The Road Safety Advisory Council is providing a long lead-in time to the new road rule to help drivers and riders prepare for the new road behaviour.

In May 2019, the Road Safety Advisory Council invited emergency workers to participate in a survey, seeking information about their experiences of incidents or near-misses while working by the roadside.

The results of this survey provide a baseline data set for a future evaluation of the rule, which will occur within 12 months of implementation, as recommended by the Road Safety Advisory Council.

The evaluation will review emergency worker and community feedback, as well as enforcement and other roads data, to understand the success of the new rule.  The evaluation will also review the rule’s related communications campaign See Red and Blue, Know what to do.