By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
Nothing can ruin your good mood – or your clothes – like getting drenched in muddy road water by a car that’s driving past you.
Sometimes, it’s a legitimate accident on the part of the motorist – indeed, in wet weather conditions, puddles can form alongside the road and can be hard to avoid driving through, especially when the roads are narrow.
At other times, the splashing can seem like it was done deliberately.
Either way, with the rainy season upon us, it’s good to know exactly where you stand, whether you are a driver recklessly splashing about, or a bystander forced to welcome an unwanted shower.
So, what exactly does the law say about motorists who driver through puddles and spray pedestrians?
The Little-Known Road Rule of Splashing a Bus Passenger with Mud in NSW
It’s one of NSW’s most obscure laws to exist and chances are that you probably never even heard of it.
But it turns out that it is an offence for a driver to splash a bus passenger with mud after driving through a puddle and one that can cost you up to $2,200.
The Road Rules 2014 contains a unique regulation that deals with drivers who carelessly splash mud onto unsuspecting bus passengers.
It states that a driver must take due care to not splash mud on a person entering or leaving a bus, or any person waiting at a bus stop.
The offence comes with a $187 on-the-spot fine or penalty notice, however it does not incur demerit points.
Strangely enough, it does not account for drivers splashing a person with water or splashing someone waiting at a pedestrian crossing!
What are the Penalties for a Motorist Splashing Mud on Bus Passengers at a Bus Stop in NSW?
In NSW, the offence of splashing mud on bus passengers is outlined in Rule 291-3 Road Rules 2014 (NSW).
A driver is required to take due care to avoid splashing mud on anyone waiting at a bus stop, anyone entering or leaving a stationary bus or anyone in or on a bus if the bus is being used for public passengers or if the bus stop is a stop used for public passengers.
Taking ‘due care’ can be achieved simply by slowing the vehicle down or coming to a stop if necessary.
Breaching this law carries a maximum penalty in court of $2,200- but only if the matter is elected to be heard in court by the motorist.
However, it attracts an on-the-spot fine of $187. Upon payment of this fine, the matter is put to an end. However, if you wish to dispute this, then a court-election can be made requiring you to appear in court.
In court, you may plead either guilty or not guilty to this. If a finding of guilt is made, or if you plead guilty in court, the Magistrate can impose a fine of up to $2,200. However, if the Magistrate orders a sentence under section 10(1)(a) also known as a section 10 dismissal, then you will not incur the fine at all. This will then put an end to the matter.
In preparing for a sentence in court for this, it is a good idea to be prepared with well drafted good character letters and an apology letter outlining relevant and important aspects to your case to convince the Court.
The Dangers of Splashing Passengers for Drivers
When it comes to splashing pedestrians, although many people think of it as a funny prank despite being inconsiderate, the problem is that it puts the driver in danger.
Whether through water or mud, running one side of your car’s wheels through a deep puddle can cause you to lose control of your vehicle because of the extra drag on that side of the car, or through aquaplaning.
Aquaplaning – or hydroplaning – by the tyres of a road vehicle occurs when a layer of water builds between the wheels of the vehicle and the road surface, causing a loss of traction that thwarts the automobile from responding to control inputs.
If this happens to occur to all wheels at the same time, the vehicle takes the effect of an uncontrolled sled – or put simply, one that merely slides across the wet surface, almost like skating on a sheet of water with minimal direct road contact.
This leads to a complete loss of the vehicle’s control which can be extremely dangerous, both for the driver and other traffic.
Aquaplaning is different to when water on a roadway’s surface merely acts as a lubricant – although traction is weakened on wet pavement even when aquaplaning is not occurring.
How to Drive Safely in Wet Conditions and Avoid Aquaplaning
As the NRMA advises, driving in wet conditions can be more hazardous than normal dry conditions.
This is because in wet weather, the tyre’s ability to grip the road surface is affected.
In order to maximise the grip available to the types, water is dispersed via the tyre’s grooves. As such, when driving at a higher speed, the tyre – particularly if already worn out – may fail to disperse the water, which often leads to aquaplaning.
Accordingly, worn tyres have a tendency to aquaplane more easily due to lack of tread depth and should be checked regularly. Tyres worn below their tread depth indicators are simply no longer capable of clearing the road of water.
Ultimately, whether driving in wet conditions or dry conditions, the safest way to operate a vehicle is to ensure that under all-weather circumstances you can control the vehicle – the brake, corner and accelerate – in a safe manner.
Undoubtedly, wet roads significantly affect a vehicle’s tyre grip and this in turn can make corrective actions by the driver more complex to judge.
As such, drivers should also assess the condition of the road and adjust the vehicle speed, so it is suitable for the road’s conditions.
So, if You Spot Muddy Water Ahead…
Drivers have a duty to show respect and care for their fellow road users – indeed, reckless and potentially aggressive driving is unacceptable and highly dangerous.
If you see muddy water on the road, it’s best to slow down to minimise the height and amount of water that’s being splashed.
So, don’t be a crazy driver. If you really want to splash someone, save it for your mates and stomp away at the local park.