The RFS re-issued an Operational Brief in September 2016 (original brief was dated July 2015) that has generated some interesting concern and debate amongst it’s volunteer workforce.
The content of the September 2016 brief is as follows:
In July 2015, an Operational Brief was issued to members regarding the use of U-Turn and cross-over facilities on motorways and highways in NSW RFS vehicles.
A recent court matter, relating to a fatal accident on a motorway north of Sydney and involving a NSW RFS member driving a tanker, has lead to uncertainty about emergency vehicles legally using these facilities.
While urgent clarification is sought on this matter, all Service members are now directed that cross-over points or emergency U-Turn bays on motorways or highways are not to be used. This includes where the facility is marked for the use of emergency service vehicles.
More information about this is below.
The court case related to a fatal accident involving a NSW RFS tanker which occurred in October 2012.
During proceedings, a number of technical points of law have been raised which has lead to some uncertainty about emergency vehicles using U-Turn and cross-over facilities.
The NSW RFS is currently seeking urgent legal advice on this matter to ensure clarity for our members.
While this advice is being sought, to avoid any uncertainty, Service members are directed that crossover points or emergency U-turn bays on motorways or highways are not to be used. This applies to incident responses and normal traffic conditions, and even where a cross-over point is marked for use by emergency services.
NSW RFS vehicles should travel to the next exit ramp or point on the motorway and re-enter the roadway.
The only exceptions to this should be where a road is closed or operating under controlled conditions, such as traffic is being directed by police.
This directive remains in place until further advised and replaces the advice provided to members in an Operational Brief in July 2015.
The NSW RFS is continuing to work with Roads & Maritime Services and other emergency services in seeking guidance and clarity on this matter as a matter of urgency.
Rob Rogers AFSM
Some of the comments made by volunteers include:
I’m reading the book KOKODA at the moment – nothing has changed in 75 years, the people running the show are living in another World.
Do they ‘really’ expect us to drive past the burning vehicle and it’s occupants, proceed down the road for 20km or so , turn round and come back?
What a load of BS!, they are just covering their butts!
My take on this is that should I be responding to a potentially life threatening incident and can (by using such a crossing) shorten the response time to the incident I will do so every time.
In my opinion there are sections of our Act that I believe would allow us to do so. Having taken such a decision I would however, take pains to ensure that I did not endanger any other road users. I would suggest the status quo will be retained once the legal side of it is clarified and common sense will again prevail.
Feel free to add your comments below
Re u turns and emergency cross overs , you can see why the service has issued that ops directive , the horrible incident on the M1 , is a classic example of a crew doing the right thing but being involved in unforeseen circumstances . From personal experience drivers fail to use caution and fail to slow down when their is a set of blue and red flashing lights. Operating on a busy road take into account the 110 km speed limit and it is a hazardous situation .
Then there is the opinion to ignore the directive , and use duty of care as the overriding decision .
What each brigade does or does not do is up to the officer in charge of the. Unit responding , and Caution should be the overriding factor . The deputy commissioner is covering himself and the department . And it would be wise to assume that he has had legal advice and input from the district managers who this greatly pertains to brigades servicing major freeways . There seems no easy solution or one solution fits all in this manner . But if you ignore this directive and things go pear shaped you might not have the legal protection Because you have failed to carry out the directive . And the service might not support your action and leave you liable . Messy , let’s hear your opinion on the matter you might have a great idea to share . Best wishes to all
It’s been a number of years since a fatal accident caused H/O to stop us using these access lanes to attend emergencies. Since the last directive in December 2016, this Brigade has contacted the Minister for RMS to get a ruling with no results. They just ignore you and hope it goes away and as usual our deputy commissioner sits on his hands and does nothing. Meanwhile this Brigade,with responsibility for approximately 50km. of highway has to drive past possibly fatal accidents to the next interchange and drive back. When is the Minister for Emergency Services and Dads Army as he calls us going to grow some balls and come up with a directive and possibly save some lives. Have you made any representations on this?
Yes, we have raised this issue but we might have to ramp it up again.
Volunteers must be appropriately supported with this situation.
Taking into account the new changes (26 September 2019)…
“On higher speed roads (with a speed limit of 90km/h or more), motorists will be required to slow down safely to a speed that is reasonable for the circumstances. Motorists must also provide sufficient space between their vehicle and the stationary tow truck, breakdown assistance or emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights. This will include changing lanes on a multi-lane road if it is safe to do so”
If the response vehicle is to proceed with caution, it seems appropriate to allow the use of cross-overs and U-turn facilities.
From the Australian Emergency Law Blog by Michael Eburn…
The reason police, fire fighters and paramedics can drive contrary to the road rules is not because they are exempt from the law, but because there are specific laws to allow them to do those things, but they must comply with that law – this is fundamental to the issue of the rule of law.