Today’s news from Victoria involves a tragic, fatal, multiple vehicle accident on a Melbourne freeway – see ‘Petrol tanker crash, rollover on Calder FreewayHerald Sun; and; see also ‘Calder Freeway crash: One dead after petrol tanker rolls, fuel spiltABC News (Online).

A correspondent who was there says:

I was in the vicinity of the area and on my drive into work I observed 2 VicRoads vehicles attempting to get to the scene.   In this instance, both were unmarked (Though they do have marked vehicles as well). They were both using their purple and white strobe lights, but I didn’t hear any sirens.  There seemed to be confusion among other drivers- they’re not red and blue as people would expect, and I noticed a lot of people seemed to just ignore them.

Where do VicRoads fit in with the Regs in relation to emergency vehicles and the use of lights and sirens?

The relevant rules are the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic).   On this blog we have often discussed the application of the road rules to emergency vehicles (ambulances, fire appliances etc) but a VicRoads vehicle is not an emergency vehicle.  For the purposes of the Victorian rules it is an ‘enforcement vehicle’ (Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic) r 4).

Drivers of other vehicles have an obligation to move out of the path, to keep out of the path and to give way to an enforcement vehicle that is displaying a flashing ‘magenta’ (ie purple) light (Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic) rr 78 and 79).    The driver of an enforcement vehicle has the same exemption from the road rules as a police officer or the driver of an ambulance (Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic) r 306A), that is

A provision of these Rules does not apply to the driver of an enforcement vehicle … if –

(a) in the circumstances—

(i) the driver is taking reasonable care; and

(ii) it is reasonable that the rule should not apply; and

(b) if the vehicle is a motor vehicle that is moving—the vehicle is displaying a magenta flashing light or sounding an alarm.

Rules relating to parking and pedestrians also do not apply to enforcement workers when on the road in the course of their duties (Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic) rr 307 and 308).

An enforcement vehicle may be fitted with a siren (Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 (Vic) Schedule 2, cl 34) and ‘may be fitted with any light or reflector’ (Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 (Vic) Schedule 2, cl 118).

Conclusion

The driver of an enforcement vehicle operating its magenta light and/or siren has the same right of way and exemptions as the driver of an ambulance, police vehicle or fire appliance.  It follows that ‘to just ignore them’ is to commit an offence. Having said that, however, I don’t mean to suggest that anyone at this accident did commit an offence.  Making way for the vehicles given the congestion would not have been easy, if it was possible at all and I certainly don’t know and can’t imagine the circumstances that everyone was facing.   I would also expect that even if there was an offence, a police officer at the scene had more important things to do that try to write an infringement notice.