Lesser Known Traffic Offences and Penalties

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Drink driving and speeding are well known traffic offences, but there is also a range of other driving offences that can get you in trouble with the courts.

When you are driving, it’s important to be aware of as many traffic offences and penalties as possible, so you don’t run the risk of getting charged for something you didn’t even know was illegal.

Here are a few of the lesser-known traffic offences (and the penalties) in NSW.

Throwing objects out of a vehicle

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 it is against the law to throw litter or any other object out of the window of a moving vehicle. This includes cigarette butts.

If you are found guilty of littering from a vehicle, you could face a $200 fine.

If you have been reported for littering, you will be found liable unless you provide a statutory declaration stating that you weren’t in charge of the vehicle at the time, and giving the details of the person who was.

Throwing rocks at a vehicle

In 2008, the Crimes Amendment (Rock Throwing) Bill was introduced to make it a criminal offence to throw rocks at a moving vehicle.

This bill was brought into effect after a spate of rock throwing incidents around the state.

One of these incidents severely injured a 22-year-old woman from Nowra, after a rock thrown from an overpass hit her car.

The perpetrator was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

Under the new laws, throwing rocks or any other object at a vehicle can leave you liable for up to five years’ imprisonment if you are found guilty.

To be found guilty of this offence, the prosecution has to prove that you knowingly and deliberately threw or dropped an object on or towards a vessel or a vehicle that was on a road or waterway at the time.

The vehicle or vessel doesn’t have to have been moving at the time, but there does have to have been a person in the vehicle at the time.

In a recent example of this, earlier this month, a garden sprinkler was thrown through the window of a moving car in Wagga Wagga in southern NSW, causing the teenage driver to crash.

Currently police have not found out who threw the sprinkler or where it came from.

Not stopping at a yellow light

If you’ve passed your driving test, you will know that it is illegal not to stop at a red traffic light and many intersections have cameras mounted on the traffic lights to catch people who run a red light.

Did you know it is also technically an offence to run a yellow light if it can be proven that you had time to stop safely?

Under the NSW Road Rules, anyone who doesn’t stop at a yellow light, as long as they had time to do so safely, can be found guilty of an offence.

The penalty for running a yellow light is the same as for running a red light – a fine of $415 and three demerit points off your licence.

The same penalties apply for running a yellow filter arrow.

Using your car horn without good reason

If you’re tempted to toot your horn when you see a friend on the road, you might want to reconsider.

Illegal use of a warning device is an offence in NSW and can leave you with a fine or even lose you demerit points.

Also under the NSW Road Rules, a driver must not use their horn unless it is necessary to warn a person, another vehicle or an animal of their position in the road, or unless it is part of a vehicle anti theft system or alcohol interlock device.

Resting your elbow on the window ledge

Having a limb protruding from a vehicle is a traffic offence in NSW and one that can leave you with a fine and the loss of three demerit points.

Next time you are tempted to wave out the window at someone, it could end up costing you more than you realise.

Leaving your car window open more than 5cm while unattended

A driver in Queensland was recently fined $44.00 for leaving his window open while he and his son went to the shops on a hot day.

In NSW, you can be fined for leaving your vehicle unlocked or the windows open while your car is unattended.

If you have been charged with a traffic offence, however obscure, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice from an experienced, specialist traffic lawyer.

Professional legal advice can help you avoid a fine or a loss of demerit points, or help you get charges against you withdrawn.

Defending against a give way offence

It is important to be aware that the onus rests on the prosecution to prove any failure to give way allegation beyond a reasonable doubt.

That being so, those who believe that were on the right side of the law can apply for a review or, if this is refused, elect (choose) to take the matter to court and put the prosecution to proof; in other words, make them prove the allegations.

Arguments put forth in court when defending such allegations include:

  • The offence did not occur as alleged, or at all,
  • Someone else was driving the car when the violation occurred (misidentification),
  • The penalty notice is invalid, due to an error in or insufficiency of material particulars, and/or
  • An emergency justified the violation or the conduct occurred as a result of being threatened with imminent serious harm.

It is important to carefully consider whether to elect to take a penalty notice to court, as it can result in a harsher penalty than that which comes with the penalty notice.

That said, a court also has discretion to deal with the matter by way of a non-conviction order such as a section 10 dismissal in the event you wish to plead guilty or are found guilty and seek leniency.

Getting a non-conviction order means there is no fine or demerit points.

Going to court over a traffic offence?

If you are you going to court to contest a traffic offence, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime on 9261 8881 to arrange a free first conference during which one of our experienced traffic lawyers will assess the case, advise you of your options and the best way forward, and fight for the optimal outcome.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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