Slow down, let common sense rule

YOU'RE driving down the highway when you come across a stationary emergency vehicle, its lights flashing blue and red.

The vehicle's roadside position means you're required by law to adjust your speed, possibly cutting it by more than half, to comply with the 40km/h slow down rule introduced by the NSW government a year ago.

One by one, the brake lights on the cars in front of you illuminate.

You also hit the brakes to slow your vehicle, hoping the drivers behind you are doing the same.

While the intention of the new rule - to provide extra protection for our first responders as they worked on the roadside - was clear, many drivers believed the rule didn't work in a practical context.

Concerns were quickly raised about the rule causing more accidents, due to people braking heavily to drastically reduce their speed.

There were also questions about why the slow down rule did not extend to vehicles like tow trucks.

Now, following the completion of a 12-month trial, the government has made changes.

The changes, announced this week, are a win for common sense.

From September 26, drivers will no longer have to slow down to 40km/h when passing stationary emergency services vehicles on roads with speed limits of 90km/h or more.

Instead, they must consider how close they are to the vehicle, slow to a safer speed and give the vehicle as much space as possible.

The 40km/h slow down rule will still apply on roads with speed limits of 80km/h or less.

In a win for Cowra tow truck drivers and roadside assistance providers, the rule will now include vehicles with yellow flashing lights while they are stopped on the road.

Safer Australian Roads and Highways president Peter Frazer has advocated for tow trucks and roadside assistance vehicles to be included. Mr Frazer's daughter, Sarah, and a tow-truck driver were killed when a truck hit them in the breakdown lane of the Hume Highway, near Mittagong, in 2012.

"When you see flashing lights on the road ahead, commit to 'Drive So Others Survive'. Slow down and give those who are vulnerable the space they need to be safe," he said.

It's a message we all must heed when behind the wheel. Let common sense rule.