By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
Ahh, another day, another revenue-raising attempt.
Or so you can’t help but wonder when news starts to surface of Australians left out of pocket once again thanks to yet another obscure and petty road rule that just about no one has actually heard about.
In the latest episode of Aussie Drivers Forced To Pay Petty Fines, a famished Sydney man was slapped with a $112 fine after stopping off at his local service station to grab a quick meat pie, all because he left his car unlocked.
On 22 February 2019, Ben Judd was on his way to work in Sydney’s eastern suburbs when he pulled over at a BP because the poor fella simply needed breakfast.
He parked his vehicle in the designated parking area close to the front doors of the filling station, ran inside and grabbed himself a meat pie. The hungry labourer left his car for “no more than a minute”.
With his minced beef bakery treat in hand, he exited the Woollahra service station only to find a police officer standing beside his car.
Mr Judd was smacked with a penalty notice in the sum of $112 for failing to lock his car door, the notice reading, “It is alleged that at 9.50hrs on Friday (day) 22/02/19 at BP Woollahra the following offence was committed… not lock doors/secure windows (vehicle unattended)”.
Famished Man Takes to Social Media to Express Frustration Over Obscure Fine
Evidently bewildered, Mr Judd turned to social media to share the news of the scornful incident.
“Upon arriving back to my car, I was greeted with a lovely breath test and random drug test, both came back negative,” he wrote on Facebook.
“The officer then picked on my LED light bar which is installed correctly so he had nothing once again.”
Alas, the bizarre behaviour did not stop there.
The police officer then handed Mr Judd the $112 fine for leaving his windows down and his car unlocked, following which he offered the driver a stern warning.
“The officer also told me if he saw me again, he was going to pull me over, even though I was doing nothing wrong to start with.
“Revenue raising at its finest…
“Thoughts? Is that even a law?”
The post attracted a plethora of comments from outraged members of the public.
“That’s so f&*ked a day’s wage for some for a damn pie I’m sorry for you,” one person posted.
“I’m actually so furious for you dude. I cannot believe that they would fine you for that,” posted another.
“I think you have the grounds to fight that,” wrote another.
“An Absolute Joke”: Online Users Encourage Mr Judd to Contest Fine that Nobody has Heard of
A baffled Mr Judd was encouraged by hundreds of equally-confused online supporters to contest the fine, labelling the ticket as “an absolute joke”.
Indeed, Mr Judd was perplexed by the penalty, saying he had never heard of the road rule before. He also pointed out that he was, in fact, parked inside the petrol station rather than on the road.
“I had no idea about the law, I can understand it being appropriate on a main road, but in a service station… almost every car parked in there has at least one window down,” he said.
“Majority of the people I’ve spoken to had no idea about the law, and the few that knew about it thought it was ridiculous in a petrol station.”
Fact Check: Obscure Road Rule Actually A Reality Australia-Wide
Despite Mr Judd being urged to fight the fine by social media users, it turns out that the little-known road rule is indeed enforced by law.
According to Australian Road Rules, it is an offence to leave a car unlocked or with the windows down.
The law states that if a driver is over three metres from a vehicle, they must turn off the engine, remove the ignition key, secure the windows and lock the doors.
Speaking of the road rule, one Facebook user pointed out to Mr Judd that it was “the shi&*est rule in the book”.
“It’s your own fault if your sh*t gets stolen, why do they need to fine for it,” they wrote.
What are the Penalties for Failing to Lock Your Car Before Walking Away From it?
According to rule 213 Road Rules 2014 (NSW) any driver guilty of walking away from a motor vehicle after stopping on a road will face an on-the-spot fine of $112 fine and incur 2 demerit points if he/she:
- Fails to effectively apply the parking brake; or
- Fails to switch off the engine before leaving the vehicle while he/she is at least 3 meters away from the closest part of the vehicle; or
- Fails to remove the ignition key before leaving the vehicle while he/she is at least 3 meters away from the closest part of the vehicle, in circumstances:
- No one else is left in the vehicle or if there is a child under 16 years of age left in it; or
- Fails to secure the windows or fails to lock the doors of the vehicle before leaving the vehicle while he/she is at least 3 meters away from the closest part of the vehicle, in circumstances:
- No-one else is left in the vehicle.
This regulation is understood as “making a motor vehicle secure”.
Where a person is faced with an on-the-spot fine for any of these infringements, he/she will face a maximum penalty of up to $2,200 fine if he/she is found guilty or pleads guilty in court after court-electing the matter to be determined by a Magistrate in the Local Court. However, the Magistrate has the discretion to impose a section 10 dismissal or non-conviction Conditional Release Order as a penalty on sentence- resulting in no fine, no conviction and no demerit points being incurred.
On the other hand, the infringement will be dismissed in court if he/she disputes the allegation by electing to go to court over it if the Magistrate makes a finding of not guilty.
So, About Stopping at The Servo for that Meat Pie…
As ridiculous as it seems, ultimately, there’s a good chance you could end up with a hefty fine if you do not comply with any of the following in an area that has driving as one of its primary uses:
- Apply the parking brake before leaving the vehicle
- Switch off the engine if you are more than three metres away from the vehicle
- Remove the key from the ignition if you are more than three metres away from the vehicle and there is no one other than a child or children under 16 inside
- Ensure the windows are no more than two centimetres open and the doors are locked.
While it is a traffic offence to not do any of the aforementioned, you can still contest your penalty notice if you believe you are not guilty of the offence. Keep in mind, however, that a court can impose a maximum fine of $2,200 if you do and are found guilty.
In other words, if you’re heading out for a morning meat-pie-run, it’s probably best to turn off your car engine, secure the windows and lock your vehicle before you run into the service station.
Oh, and on that: If you’re planning on eating behind the wheel, you may want to read up about the road rules that apply when snacking whilst driving.
Happy eating – and safe driving!
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