By Lauren Ferrone
Published: Thursday, May 14, 2020
Let’s face it: most of us haven’t sat down to recite the road rules by heart. There are probably a few niggling questions you’ve always wanted answered, like does a ‘no parking zone’ really mean no parking? And can you use your horn to say hello?
We clear up a few of your queries, leaving the legal jargon in the law book.
1. Is it legal to wear headphones while driving or riding a bicycle?
Tuning out from everyday life can be healthy – but perhaps not behind the wheel. While there aren’t any road rules specifically about using headphones while driving or riding a bicycle, you could be charged under a few general laws, such as dangerous driving or not being aware of your surroundings. The same could apply for blasting loud music from your stereo. Best to leave the earbuds for the gym.
2. Is it legal to drive with an open bottle of alcohol in your vehicle?
Believe it or not, as long as you’ve got your full licence and you’re not over the 0.05 limit, drinking beer (or any alcohol) while driving is legal in South Australia.
If you’re crossing borders though, it’s a different story. New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland, the ACT and Victoria all have explicit laws forbidding a driver from drinking alcoholic beverages – even if they’re under the legal limit.
Safety should be everyone’s top priority, so if you think your driving might be affected for any reason, then don’t get behind the wheel.
Remember: drinking anything, even if it’s just water, while driving is potentially dangerous because your concentration is momentarily diverted from the road.
3. Is it legal to open your door on the side of the road when there’s oncoming traffic?
The short answer is no. It’s illegal to open your car door when it’s not safe, for example, when there are approaching cars or cyclists. It’s particularly dangerous for passing cyclists who can suffer serious injuries.
Always check your mirrors for approaching vehicles and cyclists. Drivers, and rear passengers who can’t get out from the kerbside, should practice the ‘Dutch Reach’ – a technique that’s used in the Netherlands which involves opening a door with the hand furthest away from it. This forces people to turn and look for approaching cyclists and vehicles.
Between 2016–19, there were 116 expiations handed out to motorists in SA for creating a hazard by opening their car door. The penalty? A $192 fine, a $60 Victims of Crime Levy and 3 demerit points.
Other motorists should be careful too though, as there’ve been instances where the driver of an approaching vehicle has been charged for causing serious injury because they were speeding or not paying attention.
4. Is it legal to stop in a ‘no parking’ zone during an emergency?
No parking – sounds clear enough, right? There are, however, some exemptions during emergencies.
So, what counts as an emergency? The driver must be able to prove a medical incident has occurred, which has made them incapable of safely controlling their vehicle. If a passenger is having a medical episode and needs help, this is also a valid reason.
The other reasons for stopping in one of these zones? If you can prove your vehicle has carked it and can’t be physically moved to a safer spot, or if you drop off or pick up passengers, provided you don’t leave the vehicle unattended and it takes no more than 2 minutes.
So, if you’re caught stopping in a no parking zone just to take a phone call without evidence of medical or mechanical emergency, don’t be surprised if you’re slapped with $83 fine and a $60 Victims of Crime Levy.
5. Is it legal to drive through empty spots in a car park?
The go-to spot for teaching a learner driver the ropes is usually an empty car park.
While there’s no law against driving through empty parking spots, you do need to make sure your driving – or that of a learner driver – doesn’t endanger others. That applies both on the road and in parking lots, whether they’re empty, busy, private or public.
If you’re driving slowly and watching out for other cars and pedestrians, then there shouldn’t be a problem. Beware that pedestrians may not expect to encounter vehicles driving through vacant spots.
6. Is it legal to honk your horn to say hello or goodbye?
The horn is there so you can warn others of danger, and should only be used for that reason. While it’s unlikely you’ll be pulled over by police for a friendly toot, you can be fined $123 and a $60 Victims of Crime Levy for using your horn to distract fellow motorists – that includes overusing it.
While it’s up to the discretion of police, as a rule of thumb, honking for longer than 5 seconds would probably be considered a nuisance.
7. Is it legal to mount a dashcam somewhere other than on your dashboard?
While it’s clearly legal to mount a dashcam to the dashboard, the best place to mount this video device is, in fact, the centre of a vehicle’s front windscreen, just below the rear-view mirror. There are some criteria though.
You’ll need to consider the size, shape and design of the dashcam to determine the best spot. For instance, make sure the dashcam doesn’t distract you or obstruct your view of the road. If that’s the case, the penalty is a $193 fine, plus a $60 Victims of Crime Levy.
8. Is it legal to drive around with a bumper sticker on your rear window?
They’re called bumper stickers, but do they have to be stuck on the bumper of your vehicle? No – you can plaster stickers wherever you like, provided they don’t obstruct your view of the road.
That means sticking anything big across your windows so you don’t have a clear view of the road or vehicles around you, is not only unsafe, but you can be fined by police if you’re caught. The penalty? A $193 fine and a $60 Victims of Crime Levy.
So, where’s the best place to position your Gone Fishin’ sticker? Well, it depends on the type of car and the height of the driver. If you drive a big vehicle, low on the back windscreen is usually a good spot, while high on the back windscreen is normally best for small vehicles.
9. Is it legal to drive away from the scene of a car crash if you’re a witness to it?
Nobody wants to witness a crash, especially a serious one. Legally, however, the only people who need to stop are those involved in the crash.
If you do choose to stop and help, pull over safely out of harm’s way and make sure you’re not going to cause another crash in the process.