By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
As drivers, we’re all familiar with the road rules around speeding, drink driving (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/traffic-law/offences/drink-driving/) and illegally parking.
Indeed, the penalties for each of these offences are whopping, involving hefty fines and a loss of demerit points.
But how would you feel if you were fined for resting your limb on the ledge of your car window?
Hard to believe, but it turns out that having a limb protruding from a vehicle is a traffic offence – and one that can end up costing you, well, an arm and a leg.
Victorian Man Gets Fined $155 for Resting Arm Out of Car Window
The next time you’re tempted to leave your elbow on your car’s window ledge, or even wave goodbye to someone, just think of this man from Victoria who was fined $155 for dangling his arm outside his car window (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4182868/Driver-fined-150-resting-arm-window.html) whilst driving.
Believing he was being pulled over by the police for a random breath test, the man was left “furious” to find that he was instead copping a fine for having his elbow down to his hand simply resting down the side of his car door.
“It’s not as if I was waving and throwing my arms about and yelling at people,” the fuming driver said.
He was, however, warned that he could lose an arm if a tram happened to pass by or even knock a motorcyclist off their motorbike by leaving his limb outside the window.
Whilst the man eventually admitted he should have had both hands on the wheel, he also added that he “didn’t think that much of it”.
Driver in Breach of Victorian Road Rule 268(3)
According to VicRoads (https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/road-rules/penalties/fines), the driver was in breach of road rule 268(3) Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic) which now carries $165 on-the-spot fine – “Driving or travelling with any part of body protruding”.
According to this regulation, in Victoria, drivers or passengers cannot travel in a car with any part of their body outside a window or door.
The only exception is if the driver is making a hand signal.
What are the Penalties for Driving with Your Arm Outside of Your Car Window in NSW?
Like it or not, in NSW, legislation advises (http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_reg/rr2014104/s268.html) that it is against the law for a driver or passenger to travel in a motor vehicle with any part of their body outside the window or door. This is outlined in rule 268(3) Road Rules 214 (NSW).
This means acts such as sticking your hand outside the window and even waving at friends is breaking the law.
Drivers can cop an on-the-spot fine of $337, as well as three demerit points. The penalties are the same for passengers who breach this law.
The only exemption is if the driver is signalling with their arm to either turn right or slow down and stop.
In fact, across all states in Australia, motorists and passengers are prohibited from placing limbs outside of vehicle windows.
In NSW, if you elect to have this penalty notice offence heard in court, the Magistrate has the discretion to impose a maximum fine of $2,200 if you’re found guilty or plead guilty to this offence.
However, by court-electing the infringement, in the event you’re found ‘not guilty’, or if you plead guilty, you will walk away without incurring any demerit points or fine if the Magistrate is convinced to impose a non-conviction type of order as a penalty (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/blog/the-end-of-section-10-bonds-in-nsw-as-a-sentencing-option/).
NRMA Road Safety Expert Says “No Reason” to have Arm Outside of Vehicles
According to NRMA Road Safety Expert Dimitra Vlahomitros (https://au.news.yahoo.com/simple-gesture-lead-costly-fine-drivers-070854607.html?guccounter=2), who recently spoke to Yahoo News, when it comes to road safety, there is “simply no reason” for drivers or passengers to have their arms outside of vehicles, windows or doors while in motion.
“Drivers and passengers need to apply common sense – it’s not only illegal but downright dangerous, and that’s because you could risk losing a limb,” she said.
“We know that kids mimic our behaviour, which is why it’s so important to make sure we’re modelling the right road safety behaviours.”
The obscure road rule is one of many unfamiliar to drivers.
In fact, one NSW motorist was even recently fined $448 and copped three demerit points after having a dirty licence plate (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/blog/what-are-the-penalties-for-an-un-clean-or-un-clear-vehicle-number-plate/).
The Law on How Persons Must Travel in or on a Motor Vehicle in NSW
In NSW, the law on driving with a limb out of your vehicle window or door is contained in rule 268 Road Rules 2014 (NSW) (https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/regulation/2014/758/part16/rule268).
Rule 268(1) prohibits a person from travelling in or on a part of a motor vehicle that isn’t a part designed primarily for carrying passengers or goods.
Rule 268(2) prohibits a person from travelling in or on a part of a motor vehicle that’s designed primarily for carriage of goods, unless the part is enclosed and the person occupies a seating position suitable for the size and weight of the person (and that’s fitted with a seatbelt).
Rule 268(4) prohibits a driver of a motor vehicle (except a bus) from driving with a passenger if any part of the passenger’s body is outside a window or door of the vehicle.
Rule 268(4A) prohibits a driver of a motor vehicle from driving with a passenger in or on a part of the vehicle that’s designed primarily for carrying goods, unless the part is enclosed and the person occupies a seating position that’s suitable for the size and weight of the person (and that’s fitted with a seatbelt).
Anyone in breach of the above rules will face a maximum fine of $2,200 if heard in court. Otherwise each offence attracts an on-the-spot fine of $337.
However, these rules will not apply to a police or emergency vehicle, a person on a motor bike, or a person who is engaged in the door-to-door delivery or collection of goods, or in the collection of waste or garbage, in or on a motor vehicle that’s not travelling over 25km/h (Rule 268(5) (http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_reg/rr2014104/s268.html)).
These rules also do not apply to a person if in all the circumstance, there isn’t a reasonable danger of the person falling or being thrown from the vehicle or being injured because of the person travelling in a manner prohibited by that rule (Rule 268(6)).
The Last Leg: The Importance of Keeping Your Limbs in the Car When Driving
It might sound trivial; however, the fact remains that if you are hanging some part of your body out of the window when driving, it is likely that you are not in the best position to control your vehicle in the event of an emergency.
Resting your elbow on the window sill while having the morning takeaway coffee or cigarette may feel comfortable, but the capacity to wrestle your vehicle back into a straight line in the case of a bad driver nearby or should an animal run out from the side of the road almost becomes a circus act that you want to try to avoid for the sake of your safety.
By the same token, if you are a passenger and need to stretch out your body beyond the confines of the car, there is a chance you may not be agile enough to quickly react should your driver suddenly lose control.
This is why it is also important to make sure your vehicle is equipped with working seatbelts – and to actually wear them (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/blog/what-happens-if-a-passenger-doesnt-wear-a-seatbelt-in-nsw/).
So, if you have an urge to sprawl your head out the window to catch the breeze, you may want to resist doing this.
Ultimately, driving – and being a passenger in a vehicle – is not to be considered a game. Rather, having a driver’s licence bestows an enormous amount of responsibility so that the roads, your vehicle, and all traffic can be respected and get home safely.