Road Traffic Code 2000

Commentary Paper No. 2

“Drive Safe” and “How to Pass Your Driving Assessment”.


“Drive Safe. A handbook for Western Australian road users” is a defective publication and should be updated as soon as possible.  In places it fails to distinguish between advice and information.  More importantly, it is defective because it omits any reference to some important regulations and it makes statements that are legally incorrect.


This booklet is usually the only legal reference that drivers come into contact with and it should be concise, complete and accurate in the road regulations to which it refers.


This paper sets out complaints on a page by page basis.


“How to Pass Your Driving Assessment.. A Candidate’s Guide to the Practical Driving Assessment” is found to be useful except for one minor aspect.








Prepared by Ted Leech LLB (Hons.), B. Comm


41 Woodbine Road

Pickering Brook   WA   6076


Telephone:   9293 8170



23 August 2004

Road Traffic Code 2000

Commentary Paper No. 2

“Drive Safe. A handbook for Western Australian road users” and “How to Pass Your Driving Assessment.. A Candidate’s Guide to the Practical Driving Assessment”.



The publications mentioned above are government publications available from licensing branches.  In the ‘Message from the Director General of the Department for Planning and Infrastructure’ on page 2 of “Drive Safe” he says:

It doesn’t matter how experienced a driver you are, it is a worthwhile exercise to keep up to date with the driving techniques and road rules because the one thing we can be sure of in this world is that there will always be changes.


Road safety is the responsibility of us all.


While organisations such as the Department for Planning and Infrastructure can attempt to educate the driving public …etc”


The sentiments expressed are entirely accurate but with due respect to the Director General, the publication in which they appear is inaccurate, outdated and dangerous.  They are strong words and a serious indictment.  What follows is my justification for saying so.



“Drive Safe. A handbook for Western Australian road users”

This publication (quite properly) contains advice and statements of law A general criticism of it is that there are many places within this publication where the distinction is not clear.  For example Page 3.15.4 contains two points that are advisory and one that is mandatory.  It should be clear that the first two points are advice and the third point is a paraphrased statement of the law.

Page 38 – 3.1 Traffic Signs

This page should contain a “keep left unless overtaking” sign as contemplated by Regulation 113.  Regulation 113 prescribes restrictions on the use of the right hand lane in multi-laned roads where the speed limit is 90 km/hr or more or where there is a “keep left unless overtaking” sign.  If a relevant authority decides to erect such a sign, there is little chance of any compliance whatsoever because people would see no difference between these signs and the advisory signs commonly seen: “Be courteous: keep left”  or “drive safe keep left”, neither of which have any legal effect.  I do not believe that Regulation 302 has any bearing on this matter.

Page 41 – 3.2.1 Traffic lights

Page 41  provides advice in relation to a driver’s obligations if traffic lights are not functioning.  The advice is consistent with Regulation 46 (2).  However, for the reasons given in commentary paper No. 3, I believe the rule is wrong and should be changed. 

Page 45 – 3.4 Stopping & 3.5 Parking

‘Stop’ and ‘Park’ are both defined in Regulation 3:

"stop" , in relation to a vehicle, means to stop the vehicle and permit it to remain stationary, except for the purpose of avoiding conflict with other traffic or of complying with the provisions of any law;


"park" means to permit a vehicle, whether attended or not, to remain stationary, except for the purpose of —

(a) avoiding conflict with other traffic;

(b) complying with the provisions of any law; or

(c) taking up or setting down persons or goods ( maximum of 2 minutes );


The “Drive Safe” publication is stated in the disclaimer on page 1 to be a simplified version but I submit that the information included in it should be accurate.  It is not difficult to understand these definitions and in my submission the full definition should be included. 


Page 52 – 3.8.1 Basic Freeway Rules and 3.8.5 What You Must Not Do on a Freeway

One of the main problems with this publication is the lack of distinction between advice and rules.  This section is headed “…Rules” and contains mainly advice.  This section would be better broken into two sections:  Freeway Rules and Freeway advice.  Two of the major rules of freeway driving are not included in this section although one is described on the next page in section 3.8.3 – the rule in Regulation 12.


One of my main criticisms of this publication is that there is no mention whatsoever of Regulation 113 and the restrictions on the use of the right hand lane where the speed limit is 90 km/hr or greater.  In the entire section on freeway driving there is no mention of restrictions on use of the right hand lane.  While this rule is not unique to freeways it applies on most stretches of freeway.  The ignorance of this rule in the community is alarming and the fact that so many people ignore it in practice is highly frustrating (see Appendix).


A reference to Regulation 113 should also be included in 3.8.5.

Page 61 – 3.11 Road Markings

The explanations given on this page are confusing for motor cyclists.  Quite often slow vehicles will move to the extreme left of the road to allow motor cyclists to overtake them without crossing the barrier lines.  Regulation 116 does not prohibit overtaking at all; what it prohibits is driving to the right of the barrier line.  Regulation 116 does not need to be simplified by putting it into other words. 


Section 3.11 should be redrafted to make it clear that the obligation is to keep to the left of barrier lines but also reference should be made to Regulation 120 (3) and Section 5 “obstruction”. 

Page 63 – 3.12 Keeping to the Left

“keep as far to the left of the road as possible, especially when you are turning left or going up a hill;” is wrong.  The obligation is to keep as far left as practicable (Regulation 112).  There is a world of difference between the terms.  Keeping as far to the left as possible may require a driver to drive in a dangerous manner by passing too close to possible hazards on the footpath or close to the left hand side of theroad, or on a bad road surface or through puddles on the side of the road.


Motor cyclists also learn to ride and therefore use these publications as a text.  It should be stated that motor cycles are exempt from this rule.


Section 3.12 on page 64 refers to keeping left on a multi-laned road.  The information is just plain wrong and has been wrong for at least 3 years.  Regulation 503 of the Road Traffic Code 1975 restricted the use of the right hand lane in multi-laned roads at any speed consistent with what now appears in “Drive Safe”.  However, it was repealed by Regulation 10 of the Road Traffic Code 2000.  Regulation 113 of the Road Traffic Code 2000 now applies which restricts the use of the right lane only where the speed limit in that area is 90 km/hr or greater or where there are appropriate signs.


The difficulty with the old rule was that where there are low speed limits eg 50, 60 or 70 km/hr there are invariably hazards immediately to the left of the carriageway.  These include houses closely abutting the road with the attendant danger of children unexpectedly and suddenly moving onto the carriageway.  It makes sense to drive in the right hand lane where possible so that vision and hence reaction time to any danger is maximised.  However, where the speed limits are higher (80 or 90 km/hr) the edges of the road are generally clear of obstructions and hazards.  In this case the competing interest of allowing faster vehicles free passage in the right hand lane can safely take precedence thus improving traffic flow and reducing frustration.


This is a very sensible and important reform but it has been rendered completely ineffective by the failure of the Department of Transport to get their publication right and the apparent disinterest of the police in enforcing it[1].

Page 65 - 3.13.1 Controlled Intersections

Regulation 51 (2) (a) provides that where there is stop sign with a stop line the driver shall ‘stop at the stop line’.  There is nothing difficult about that which calls for simplification.  Furthermore, there is nothing in the regulations that says anything about stopping within one metre of the stop line or allowing the front of the car to be over the stop line as is alleged in “Drive Safe”.


Moreover, Regulation 51 (2) (b) states: ‘if there is no stop line, stop as near as practicable to, but before the “stop” sign”.  It does not say: “If there is no line, stop as close to the road you intend to enter as possible without entering it.” as appears in “Drive Safe.  In fact if a motorist complies with the rule in “Drive Safe” he may commit an offence by reason of not stopping before the stop sign.


There seems to be no reason why “Drive Safe” prints inaccurate information instead of the perfectly simple and logical rule in the code.

Page 68 – 3.14.2 Types of Signals

In the 1975 Road Traffic Code Regulations 803 (2) provided that (paraphrased) indicators must be used for 30 metres by moving vehicles.  This was a bad rule because the purpose of giving signals is to indicate the intention of the driver to other road users.  No set distance can sensibly be prescribed for all conditions.  For example, giving a signal for 30 metres at very low speeds may result in it being equivocal such as where there are two possibilities within close proximity.  It may well be better to indicate for less than 30 metres in this case.  On the other hand if a car is travelling at 100 km/hr it covers 28 metres in one second which allows for one flash of an indicator and that is clearly not enough.  Even at 60 km/hr a vehicle covers 30 metres in 2 seconds.


The Road Traffic Code 2000 wisely abandoned the quantitative approach and Regulation 37 (1) now provides that indicators must be used ‘for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians’.  That rule is sensible and simple but, as with Regulation 113, it has been ignored by the Department of Transport in their “Drive Safe” book where the old rule is still declared to be in force.  Once again, drivers complying with “Drive Safe” may well be committing an offence.


Once again professional driving instructors are using the 30 metre rule and teaching young drivers the wrong thing[2].  As a general rule good driving practice is best served if the signal is given before beginning the manoeuvre, and that includes slowing down, unless there is a good reason not to do so.  Once again I stress that signals are intended to convey to other motorists what that vehicle is about to do.  For example if the indicator of a car in front comes on then the driver behind may anticipate that the car is about to decrease speed or move to the centre of the carriageway and take appropriate action.  There is no point at all in turning on an indicator 30 metres from an intersection if the car behind is already taking evasive action because of the sudden and unexpect change in speed or direction.  It is a common source of irritation to me that a car in front decelerates for no apparent reason and then brake lights appear.  Shortly afterwards and indicator comes on and the vehicle subsequently turns.  The indicator should be the first warning and not some meaningless attempt to avoid a traffic infringement notice.

Page 69 – 3.14.1 Signals at Roundabouts

The rule about signalling when leaving a roundabout is contained within Regulation 99 of the Road Traffic Code 2000.  It says:  “A driver drving in a roundabout shall, if practicable, give a left turn signal when leaving the roundabout.” (The emphasis is mine).


This section of “Drive Safe” should include the words ‘if practicable’ in the description of a drivers’ obligations.  On very large roundabouts there is no difficulty but on small roundabouts it is just not practicable to indicate.  For example, the small roundabouts on Canning Road east of Kalamunda can safely be negotiated on a motor cycle at the speed limit in the absence of other traffic if proceeding straight on.  In that case it is almost impossible and completely unnecessary to signal one’s intention to leave the roundabout.

Page 71 – 3.15 Turning

In three instances in 3.15.1 and 3.15.2 there are references to 30 metres for signalling which are dangerous and wrong for the reasons given above.

Page 73 – 3.16 Changing Lanes

There is no mention in the Road Traffic Code 2000 that someone who intends to change lanes must indicate for 5 seconds prior to doing so.  The rule is ‘for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians’.  5 seconds does not sound unreasonable but what is sufficient must be governed by the circumstances and not prescribed by the Department of Transport.

Page 74 – 3.17.2 When You Must Not Overtake

There is no such thing as ‘no overtaking lines’.  The lines described in this section mean that you may not cross them (subject to very limited exceptions).  As I have explained above, they do not prohibit overtaking if it can be done without crossing the lines.

Page 74 – 3.17.3 How to Overtake

There are two references here to signalling for 30 metres.  That is plainly ridiculous and dangerous for vehicles travelling at highway speed.  For example if vehicle 2 commences a manoeuvre to overtake vehicle 1 which is travelling at 100 km/hr, by giving one flash of its indicator, a third vehicle, which may not have been observed and which is already overtaking the vehicle 2, would have no time at all to react to the signal.

Page 81 – 3.19.2 Bicycles and Motorcycle Riders

The sentence “Cyclists may legally use the whole lane on roads with lane markings.” should be “Cyclists may ride wherever they choose in any lane on a multi-laned road but otherwise they must keep left. “.  I have met at least one cyclist who claims the current wording gives him licence to ride immediately to the left of the centre line on two-way roads.  The next sentences should be:  “They are allowed to ride two abreast (side by side) on two way roads and two abreast in a lane on multi-laned roads.  They are not required to keep to the left hand lane unless the speed limit is 90 km/hr or more.”

“How to Pass Your Driving Assessment.. A Candidate’s Guide to the Practical Driving Assessment”

Pages 42, 43, 45 & 71.

This publication is orientated towards openness in driving test assessment.  My only objections to the contents of this publication pertain to the repeated references to ‘at least 30 metres’ being the correct distance for signalling.  It might be that 30 metres is a useful rule of thumb under suburban testing conditions but, if that is so, it should be clear that it is a rule of thumb and not a distance that is set in stone by regulation.


This paper was compiled using information from any or all of the following sources and no others (unless explicitly stated);


The Road Traffic Code 2000 and amendments current until 10 November, 2003.


The Road Traffic Code 1975 reprinted as at 23 September 1997.


Drive Safe: A Handbook for Western Australian Road Users” Department for Planning and Infrastructure, published by the Road Safety Council of Western Australia, Revised Edition 1 December 2001.


How to Pass Your Driving Assessment:  A Candidate’s Guide to the Practical Driving Assessment” Transport, published by The Road Safety Council of Western Australia 1 September 2001.


[1] See appendix.

[2] I only have anecdotal evidence to support this assertion.  I would be very happy to be wrong.