Another query re emergency lighting on private vehicles, this time from a doctor in NSW who says:
The majority of emergency calls are to private hospitals (where I am not a paid employee). I wonder if I fit the definition of an ’emergency worker’ and can fit (say) red-white flashing LED lights which would operate when the vehicle is moving. From the RTA…. may fit a red light when…. “Other emergency vehicles not referenced above that are driven by an emergency worker in the course of their duties, where an ‘emergency worker’ is a person (or one of a class of persons) approved by the RTA.”
There are a lot of doctors responding to emergencies on any given day. Unfortunately the general public doesn’t always understand the need for what may appear to be aggressive driving, with a certain element reacting in a dangerous manner.
It is undoubted that others will not ‘understand the need for what may appear to be aggressive driving’ when they would have no way of knowing who is driving the vehicle or why. It has to be remembered that whatever the emergency, it does not justify putting the lives of other road users at risk and if the responder has an accident then their ability to assist in the emergency is defeated. Hence the need for emergency vehicles to have warning devices but also the need to drive, at all times with due care.
One also has to query how much of an emergency is it if it’s occurring in a hospital? Whilst the doctor’s presence may be essential, there should already be health professionals on site, so what is gained by ‘aggressive driving’? The first legal lesson is that absence any emergency warning devices (red/blue lights and/or siren) doctors proceeding to a hospital should not be engaging in aggressive driving; it only puts others, unnecessarily, at risk and is not justified by law.
So can they fit warning devices? As we have noted before an emergency vehicle is a vehicle driven by an emergency worker in the course of their duties related to an emergency (Road Rules 2008 (NSW) Dictionary, definition of ‘emergency vehicle’). (What is an emergency, for these purposes, is not defined so for fire brigades/police/ ambulance services it is really a matter for their own internal processes to determine when members may proceed on ‘urgent duty’.) An emergency worker is
(a) a member of the Ambulance Service or the ambulance service of another State or Territory, in the course of providing transport in an emergency associated with the provision of aid to sick or injured persons, or
(b) a member of a fire or rescue service operated by a NSW Government agency, a member of the State Emergency Service or a member of a fire brigade (however referred to) or rescue service of the Commonwealth or another State or territory, providing transport in the course of an emergency, or
(b1) a member of Airservices Australia providing transport in the course of a fire or rescue emergency, or
(c) a person (or a person belong to a class of persons) approved by the Authority. (Road Rules 2008 (NSW) Dictionary, definition of ‘emergency worker’).
A doctor, therefore, is not an emergency worker unless the Roads and Maritime Authority has approved them, either personally or as a class as emergency workers. That is the approval could be given to an individual doctor or a class of doctors eg ‘all registered medical practitioners who have completed an approved driving training course’ or the like.
As for fitting emergency lights, without going through clause 124 of the relevant vehicle standards (that are set out as Schedule 2 to the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2007 (NSW)) in detail, they say in effect that if the vehicle is not operated by the recognised emergency services it can be fitted with flashing warning lights if approved by the authority (see also the Roads and Traffic Authority ‘Vehicle Standards Information #8, Flashing Lights and Sirens, 24 November 2010 (http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/registration/downloads/vsi/vsi_08_flashing_lights_and_sirens_rev_4_1__nov_2010.pdf)).
So the answer is that a doctor does not fit the definition of an emergency worker unless he or she has approval from the Roads and Maritime Services (formerly the Roads and Traffic Authority) and can also fit emergency warning devices if so approved. I would expect however, that the RMS would never give such approval or authority and certainly not to allow a doctor to proceed to an emergency at a hospital. The answer may be different if the doctor is a specialist in emergency trauma medicine and who’s duties require him or her to respond as part of a counter disaster team, but even then you would expect that they would respond to an appropriate ‘base’ and collect there a marked and approved emergency vehicle rather than respond in their private car.