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Did you know? 10 unexpected laws when driving in Australia

7 minute read

Motor vehicle accident

As you hit the road, whether for a holiday road trip, commuting or everyday errands, most of us will do our best to follow the rules of the road. We know we need to strap on our seatbelts, stop at red lights, avoid speeding, and stay off mobile phones.

But there's more to road rules than the obvious. In fact, there's a long list of obscure laws many Australians aren't sure of – and often, they differ from state to state.

So, what should you do to stay safe on the roads and avoid breaking the law? Here are 10 unexpected laws when driving in Australia:

Click on the orange icons to discover more about unexpected road rules you need to know about to stay safe and avoid breaking the law

Inside the car
Outside the car

1. Is it illegal driving barefoot?

No – it is not illegal driving barefoot in Australia and there are no rules specifying what types of footwear you can’t wear. That being said, there are laws requiring you to have proper control of your vehicle for your safety and the safety of those around you. This means that you could be held responsible for an accident if the police think your footwear choice (or lack thereof) contributed to it.

2. Is it illegal to drive with the interior light on?

No – there is currently no legislation making it illegal to drive with the interior light on. Keep in mind though that illuminating the interior of your car makes it harder to see outside, so while it’s not illegal, you would be safer by pulling over before turning on the light.

3. Can I throw apple cores and banana peels out of the car window?

No. Whilst they might be biodegradable, it’s still littering, and you can be fined. In Queensland, the crime of "dropping injurious matter on a road" can cost you $575 and two demerit points.

4. Is honking your horn illegal?

Officially you're only supposed to use your horn if you are warning other road users (or animals) of your approach or the position of your vehicle. This means honking your horn is not illegal, however tooting goodbye to your family as you drive off after dinner or beeping at the driver who just cut you off is actually illegal. The fines for using your horn incorrectly vary across Australia but could cost you up to $3,200! (In the Australian Capital Territory the maximum fine is 20 penalty units and a penalty unit is currently $160).

5. Is it illegal to eat while driving?

There is no law across our states or territories specifically making it illegal to eat while driving. So, while you can eat or drink on your way to your destination, you still need to ensure you maintain proper control of your vehicle and keep your eyes on the road to avoid a fine for dangerous or careless driving.

6. Is it illegal leaving keys in the car?

You’ve most likely seen someone quickly ducking out of their car to get a coffee or pick up their takeaway dinner and leaving the car running. While it's convenient and may only be for a minute, it can cost you a lot more than the price of your coffee; in New South Wales you can be fined for multiple offences including:

  • leaving your engine on;

  • not removing your keys (with the vehicle unattended); and

  • not securing your vehicle before leaving it unattended.

7. Can I use my phone to pay in a drive-through?

We all know the danger of using a mobile phone while driving, but what if you want to pay for your food at the drive-through window with your phone? The laws around mobile phones are strict and still apply to drivers who are stationary at a drive-through. Depending on which state you’re in, you could be fined over $1,000 and lose a number of demerit points – that’s one costly meal! To avoid a fine you must have your engine switched off and your handbrake on before using your mobile phone.

8. Is it illegal driving with a dog on my lap?

It’s illegal and dangerous to drive with pets in your lap; animals should be seated or restrained in an appropriate area of the vehicle. The RSPCA can also issue fines under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. If an animal, for instance a dog, is injured in a car because it was unrestrained, owners could face up to one year jail time or fines of up to $35,340.

9. Do I have to give way to horses?

It's actually illegal not to give way to a hard-to-control horse, or a horse that refuses to move. If a rider raises a hand and points to their horse, you must stop at the side of the road, turn off your engine and wait until the horse is far enough away that you're in no danger of startling it. So don't horse around!

10. Is it illegal speeding up when being overtaken?

This is a frustratingly common practice that occurs on our roads when a person decides to accelerate as another driver attempts to overtake them. When being overtaken, you have a responsibility to maintain a steady speed and course, slowing down if necessary to allow the overtaking vehicle into the lane. Drivers engaging in this behaviour in New South Wales can incur a $349 fine and three demerit points while in Victoria (with a penalty of 10 penalty units), this will cost you $1,849.20.

Shine Lawyers - we're here to help

If you or a loved one have been injured while out on the roads, you may be entitled to compensation.

Our team of motor vehicle accident lawyers are experts in all aspects of car accident injury claims; whether physical or psychological. We can help you to understand your rights and access your full entitlements on a no win, no fee basis.

You may also be eligible to access benefits through your superannuation; our advice will be tailored to your situation to help you secure the best outcome possible.

To get started, use our free claim checker below or speak to one of our experts over the phone.

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