By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
It was a day of frustration and feeling undeniably duped for Sydney man Laurence Tempany, who earlier this year, found himself in trouble with the law simply for having an unsecured parking cone in the back of his ute.
In April 2019, the tradie was on his way home from work when he was discovered with the loose load in the back of his vehicle.
Mr Tempany was slapped with a whopping $420 fine and stripped of three demerit points – penalties, he upheld, were unfair and handed out purely in the name of revenue-raising.
“I was a little bit annoyed to say the least, it certainly left a bad taste in my mouth,” Mr Tempany said (https://pressfrom.info/au/news/australia/-116720-parents-pain-after-driving-fine-issued-for-dead-son.html).
“I think the fine in this case was definitely not fair.”
So, What’s the Deal with Unsecured Loads on Vehicles in NSW?
There’s no denying that Mr Tempany’s fine sounds like pure fundraising.
Nevertheless, in NSW, the law makes clear that the load on any vehicle must be properly secured to the vehicle in a way that does not make the vehicle unstable or unsafe.
Additionally, it must be secured so that it is unlikely to fall or dislodge from the vehicle, and it must be restrained by an appropriate method.
Why is Load Restraint Important?
Unsecured loads such as household goods, building materials and green waste, present a serious hazard to other road users and the general public.
As the NRMA advises (https://www.mynrma.com.au/business/news/load-safety-is-road-safety), load restraint is important because unsecured loads, those overhanging from your vehicle, or those that can loosen in motion, can essentially become flying missiles with the ability to kill, particularly when you come to a sudden stop.
Other drivers on the road are then forced to swerve to avoid items that are falling or have fallen from vehicle, which can, in turn, cause them to lose control of their vehicle, leading to accidents and additional damage.
Even debris from unsecured loads can cause road closures, congestion and interruptions, incur thousands of dollars in damage and act as a major contributor to serious crashes.
As such, it is important to position your load correctly, use good quality restraint equipment, and monitor your load before and after your trip.
If faced with a penalty notice like this, and you wish to avoid incurring the 3 demerit points or dispute the allegation, contact our fixed fee traffic lawyers from Sydney (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/) for a free consultation to discuss your options.
What the Law Says About Driving with an Unsecured or Overhanging Load in NSW?
In NSW, it is illegal to drive a vehicle with an unsecured or overhanging load.
Given the ability of objects attached loosely to vehicles to become projectiles, the legislation around driving with an unsecured load is designed to protect drivers, other motorists and the general public.
In NSW, the law on driving with an unsecured or overhanging load is outlined in rule 292 Road Rules 2014 (NSW) (https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/regulation/2014/758/part18/div1/rule292).
Section 292 prohibits a driver from driving or tow a vehicle if the vehicle is carrying a load that’s not properly secured to the vehicle or is placed on the vehicle in a way which causes the vehicle to be unstable, or if the load projects from the vehicle in such a way that’s likely to injure someone, obstruct the path of other drivers/pedestrians, or damage a vehicle or anything else, including a road surface.
This will ordinarily result in an on-the-spot fine of $457 and 3 demerit points (https://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/documents/roads/safety-rules/demerits-general.pdf). You will note that the fine has increased from $420 in the case of Mr. Tempany.
If you’re issued with a penalty notice on-the-spot-fine for this offence, you may elect to have it heard in court where you can either plead ‘not guilty’ or ‘guilty’ to it.
The charge will be dismissed if the you’re found to be ‘not guilty’ by the Magistrate in the Local Court. There will be no demerit points or fine as a result.
The same result will occur if a ‘guilty plea’ is entered in court and the Magistrate imposes a non-conviction penalty, namely a section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order without conviction.
If the Magistrate imposes any penalty other than a section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order without conviction, you will end up incurring the demerit points with the Magistrate’s discretion to impose a maximum penalty of up to $2,200.
If court-electing, click on our guide on how to write a character reference letter for your traffic case. (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/traffic-law/good-character-reference-guide/driving-offences/)
Tips to Properly Securing your Load on your Vehicle
When it comes to properly securing loose objects on your vehicle, it is important to note that different loads will need to be transported differently.
Put simply, the way you carry a load will depend on the load itself.
For example, most headboards or loading racks are not strong enough to properly restrain heavy loads, so you should choose a suitable vehicle for your load.
Similarly, it is also important to use suitable restraint equipment appropriate for the type of load your vehicle is carrying, to ensure it is positioned correctly and not acting as a hazard.
For example, high and narrow items such as stacks of smaller cartons will likely need more than one restraint, while nets and tarpaulins can be used to restrain lighter items.
It is also recommended to bundle similar items together that package in a more stable single unit.
You can also fill spaces and gaps between piles with other items, making sure that these items are restrained as well.
Ultimately, your method of load restraint needs be suitable not simply for day-to-day driving, but also to stay in place in the event of sudden breaking or swerving, collision or rollover.
Call our friendly team 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218 to arrange a free first discussion of your case with our criminal lawyers in Parramatta (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/) & Sydney.