A Facebook post has sought to warn drivers of a series of purported new laws imposed on Australian motorists, including measures such as bans on horn-honking and waving while behind the wheel.
The February 2021 post, which has been reshared as recently as March 2022, carries the warning: “Australia’s new traffic rules, PLEASE drive carefully.” It continues with a list of five supposed rules, as well as several more labelled “unusual/unknown NSW road rules”.
But the post misrepresents existing traffic laws in the country. For one, there are no Australia-wide traffic rules. Instead, each state and territory sets its own road rules based on a set of model laws.
The post claims five new laws have been introduced in Australia: flashing lights to warn others of speed cameras, incorrect use of fog lamps, eating or doing make-up while driving, waving or honking a horn while driving and touching a mobile phone on the road.
While these rules are based to varying degrees on laws in place across Australia, the fines and demerit points associated with them differ by jurisdiction and in most cases don’t align with the figures in the post.
There is also no indication that any of the rules have been recently imposed.
The post claims that for “waving or honking your horn while driving” you will face a $337 fine and three demerit points. No state or territory has a road law related to “waving or honking” and sounding your horn is not outlawed outright.
In Western Australia the law states a person must not sound the horn unless it is necessary as a warning device or used as part of an alarm, with a $50 fine applicable. The wording of the law is very similar in Victoria, where you can expect a $182 fine. In NSW, you can be handed a $352 fine for “use/allow use of horn/warning device unnecessarily”. The wording is almost identical for laws in Tasmania, where you can expect a $130 fine.
For mobile phone use, the post claims motorists face a $1000 fine and four demerit points. However, at the time of writing the NSW penalty is $352 and five demerit points, in Victoria it’s a $545 fine and four demerit points, in Queensland it’s $1033 and five points, and in the ACT $487 and three points.
Penalties for inappropriate fog light use also differ from the $52 fine and one demerit point deduction in the post. In Western Australia the fine is $100 with one demerit point, but other states don’t impose demerit points. In NSW drivers only risk a $117 fine, in Victoria it is $182, South Australia $265 and Tasmania $130.
Avinash Singh, principal lawyer of Sydney-based Astor Legal, told AAP Factcheck none of the supposed new rules or the “unusual/unknown” NSW laws had been introduced recently in the state.
He added that many of the rules are either exaggerations of laws in the NSW Road Rules or “flat out fabricated”.
There are inaccuracies with the claims of flashing lights to warn of speed cameras and eating while driving, he said, as they are only illegal under certain circumstances.
For instance, he said the eating claim is based on a rule that requires the driver to have proper control of their vehicle. However, the rule “does not prevent a person from eating or drinking (or doing make-up) while driving, provided they still have proper control of the vehicle”, such as if they were eating a piece of chocolate, Mr Singh added.
There is no specific rule against flashing headlights to warn other drivers of speed cameras, although a driver could potentially be penalised if their lights were able to “dazzle” another motorist.
Mr Singh also pointed to several flaws in the list of supposed little-known NSW road rules.
For example, he said there was no current rule against splashing people waiting at a bus stop with mud, despite the claim in the post, as this regulation was repealed in 2020.
But Mr Singh said there were elements of truth in many of those stated, not least that you could be fined for leaving your car unlocked or windows open.
He said the post’s wording was an accurate interpretation of the law, although the rules provide exemptions for delivery drivers. The post misstates the amount of the fine as $99, rather than the actual $117 penalty.
In June 2021, a Sydney lawyer was fined for leaving his car unlocked with the windows open in North Bondi. He pleaded guilty but a magistrate elected to dismiss the offence.
The post misrepresents many existing traffic rules in various Australian jurisdictions. There are no Australia-wide traffic laws as suggested in the post, and while many of the supposed rules are based on real laws there are various problems with their wording, scope and prescribed punishments. There is also no evidence that any of the laws are new.
Misleading – The claim is accurate in parts but information has also been presented incorrectly, out of context or omitted.