The top 5 misunderstood road rules

We’ve covered the Top 10 Misunderstood Road Rules in Tasmania. Now we’re highlighting another five commonly misunderstood rules. The road rules are about keeping people safe – motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists. For a booklet, please email rsac@stategrowth.tas.gov.au; pick one up in a Service Tasmania store; or click here for an online copy. New drivers and visitors to Tasmania can join us on a video journey that explains the road rules.

The rules for giving way at intersections are among the most misunderstood. Tasmanian intersections are controlled by:

  • Stop signs
  • Give Way signs
  • Traffic lights
  • T-intersections
  • Slip lanes

These controls make the roads safer and reduce the likelihood of crashes. For instance, some intersections are busy and traffic lights are needed to manage traffic flow. Other intersections have poor sight lines, where slowing down and stopping is important to safely use the intersection.

Remember, when giving way at an intersection it applies to all road users, cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists, not just other motor vehicles.

Stop signs

A Stop sign means stop, regardless of whether or not there is other traffic nearby or approaching.

Stopping is not optional.

Stop signs make intersections safer.  They are at intersections where there are reduced lines of sight for drivers.

Slowing down and stopping provides time to look carefully and assess when it is safe to enter or move through the intersection.

Drivers must remain stationary and give way to a vehicle which is in, entering or approaching the intersection.  Move only when it is safe to do so.

As well as other motor vehicles, drivers must give way to pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.  Drivers must also give way to pedestrians crossing the road into which they are turning.  This rule applies wherever there is a Stop sign, including slip lanes, children’s crossings, carpark exits, level crossings and T-intersections.

Exceptions

Drivers at a Stop sign do not have to give way to:

  • an oncoming vehicle turning right at the intersection, if a Stop sign or Give Way sign applies to the oncoming vehicle
  • a vehicle turning left at the intersection using a slip lane
  • a vehicle making a U-turn.

 

Give Way signs

At Give Way signs drivers must slow down and be prepared to give way to other traffic entering or approaching the intersection.

As well as other motor vehicles, drivers must give way to pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.  Drivers must give way to any pedestrians crossing the road into which the driver is turning.

Give Way signs are at intersections and other places where other vehicles have priority.

Slowing down enables time to check if it is safe to enter or move through the intersection.

Exceptions

Give Way signs do not apply to roundabouts.

As with Stop signs, a driver at a Give Way sign does not have to give way to:

  • an oncoming vehicle turning right at the intersection, if a Stop sign or Give Way sign applies to the oncoming vehicle
  • a vehicle turning left at the intersection using a slip lane
  • a vehicle making a U-turn.

 

T-intersections

At T-intersections a driver travelling on the road that ends must give way to any pedestrians crossing or vehicles travelling on the continuing road (unless there is a road-sign giving a different instruction).

The diagram below shows a T-intersection where the continuing road (which is marked with broken white lines) goes around a corner.  Car B must give way to Car A, and signal to leave the continuing road in order to enter the terminating road.

Slip lanes

Slip lanes are used to improve safety and traffic flow for vehicles turning left.

Drivers using a slip lane must give way to any vehicle approaching from the right or turning right at the intersection into the road the driver is entering (see diagram below).  Drivers must also give way to any pedestrians on the slip lane.

Drivers must not stop in the slip lane unless signs say parking is allowed.

Slip lanes can be marked by a painted island or traffic island.  Drivers must use a slip lane where one is provided.

Roundabouts 

The ‘give way to the right’ rule does not apply to roundabouts.

When approaching a roundabout, drivers must give way to all vehicles already in the roundabout, regardless of which direction the vehicle on the roundabout is approaching.  There is no need to give way to the right.

About roundabouts

Roundabouts significantly increase road safety, as they force drivers to slow down, which minimises crash impact.

Head-on or t-bone crashes (which can happen at other types of intersections) are not as likely, because roundabouts change the angles at which vehicles approach each other at the intersection.

Roundabouts also improve traffic flow, another important reason to stick to the correct give way rule.

Entering a roundabout

Drivers must slow or stop to give way to any vehicle already in the roundabout.

Drivers must also continue to use their indicator if they intend to turn left, right or make a U-turn.

Speed limits are the maximum safe speed to travel in good road and weather conditions.

Drivers should not travel faster than the speed limit.

Speeding is a major case of crashes, leading to death and serious injury on our roads.

Drive below the speed limit when:

  • road conditions are not good (when the roads are wet, gravel, narrow or winding)
  • weather conditions are not good (when there is fog or rain)
  • there is lots of traffic or pedestrians
  • the driver is tired, upset, worried or ill.

Speed limit signs

Speed limit signs show the fastest speed allowed on a road.

When you pass a speed limit sign:

  • never drive faster than the speed indicated
  • drive slower than the speed limit when necessary.

This current speed limit applies until:

  • another sign has a different speed limit
  • the driver turns off the road (where the default speed limit will apply if there is no speed limit sign).

Some speed signs are electronic.  The speed limit on an electronic sign only applies when the sign is illuminated.

If no electronic speed limit is displayed, the default speed limit or the speed limit shown on the last sign passed on that road applies.

Default speed

In Tasmania there are default speed limits if there are no speed limit signs, which are:

  • 50 km/h in urban (built-up) areas

  • 80 km/h in country areas on an unsealed road

  • 100 km/h in country areas on a sealed road.

A yellow traffic light or arrow means stop.  It does not mean speed up to try and get through the intersection.

Penalties for running a yellow light are the same as for running a red light.

 

 

The yellow light is the beginning of the red light phase, not the end of the green light phase.

Yellow traffic lights are an important part of safe road design.

Intersections are high risk places for crashes.  Yellow traffic lights reduce the likelihood of crashes, as they give drivers sufficient warning that the red light is imminent and they should stop at the intersection.

There is only one time when a driver should go through an intersection showing a yellow light, and that is when it is not safe to stop before reaching the stop line or traffic lights.

Flashing yellow lights

Flashing yellow lights mean slow down and proceed with caution.

There can be flashing yellow traffic lights at:

  • pedestrian crossings – when all pedestrians have finished crossing, a driver can go ahead
  • intersections – sometimes all the traffic lights at an intersection will be flashing yellow. This means the rules for uncontrolled intersections apply – giving way to the right and giving way when turning across another vehicle’s path.

How to give way at intersections displaying flashing yellow traffic lights

At all times when approaching an intersection with flashing yellow lights drive carefully and remember to look out for pedestrians.

Drivers can cross:

  • any type of dividing line, even solid/unbroken lines when turning right at an intersection, unless there is a sign that says it is not allowed
  • a single dividing line to enter or leave a road.

When passing a cyclist, the driver must maintain a safe passing distance of:

  • at least 1.5 metres in speed zones higher than 60 km/h
  • at least 1 metre in 60 km/h or lower speed zones.

 

Using indicators in Tasmania is not optional.

Drivers must always indicate to let others know what they plan to do: change direction, turn left or right, change lanes, enter or leave driveways.

Correct use of indicators is the responsibility of all drivers.  It helps to reduce the likelihood of crashes and enables everyone to share the roads safely.

Drivers should provide plenty of warning before turning or changing lanes by signalling.  This should be for long enough to give sufficient warning to other motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

Drivers must also ensure the indicator is turned off after each turn or lane change.

Correct use of indicators

Both Car A and Car B in the examples below and on the opposite page show the correct use of indicators.

 

Note

This webpage does not constitute legal advice and is provided only as a guide to a subset of the Road Rules 2009.  Road users must ensure they are familiar with the Road Rules and comply with the requirements of the law.