A NSW truckie scored a notable win last Friday after he had fallen foul of police when charged with the alleged penalty offence of driving on/over a solid edge line in a Safe-T-Cam Zone.
The offence in question is a penalty notice offence in NSW. But when it gets to Court, it becomes road rule 150: ‘travelling on or across a white edge line, unless permitted to do so,’ which is the legislative offence, but not the penalty notice offence, as Highway Advocates Pty Ltd. CEO, Robert Bell told Big Rigs.
“In that road rule there’s no mention of the term ‘Safe-T-Cam’, ‘average speed zone’, or class B and C vehicle,” said Bell.
The driver was issued with a $1393 penalty notice and four demerit points.
“That’s a huge hit for a truck driver. It’s a third of your demerit points gone for three years,” said Bell.
“Drivers might drift onto the white edge lines thousands of times a year. The police in NSW think drivers are trying to avoid the safety-cam, but you simply cannot avoid the camera because there’s Armco railing around them.”
Bell believes this situation has effectively created a perfect storm. As road rules are strict liability offences which can’t incorporate an element of fault (e.g. intent).
“Say you crossed the white line intentionally which caused an injury. You could only be charged with reckless driving,” said Bell.
“So, when the case goes to court, it simply reverts to road rule 150, where none of those elements can be used in a charge.”
The client who received the penalty notice, did so in a strange section of road on the New England Highway near Singleton, where one lane goes into three and then back into two lanes.
When the police turned their red and blue lights on, the driver started pulling to the left towards the hard shoulder. The Safe-T-Cam was a few hundred metres up the road.
“The police alleged the driver was trying to avoid the Safe-T-Cam in the penalty notice,” said Bell.
“We explained all that to the magistrate, who still thought it was a serious safety offence and issued a penalty slightly higher than detailed in the original offence.”
Highway Advocates Pty Ltd. then appealed to the District Court last Friday with written submissions and a transcript. The District Court had no hesitation in dismissing the conviction under section 10(A) Of the Sentencing Act (NSW) A large element of our submission focused on the following provision of Road Rule 150;
A driver may drive on or over a continuous white edge line on a road if the driver is:
carrying out functions under the road transport legislation or complying with a direction given by a police officer or other person carrying out functions under the road transport legislation…
“It’s a permissive rule that allows you to do something. In this case, when instructed to pull over, the driver found a safe place to do so. In fact, it is almost an instinctive action,” said Bell.
Given the ruling was passed in the District Court, it will not provide a precedent, however it does demonstrate how the law can be questioned when applied to specific situations.
“It shows what law practice can do when it really digs into these offences,” said Bell.