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Traffic Law in the ACT

Most traffic regulations in the Australian Capital Territory, like those in other states and territories, are modelled after the Australian Road Rules. The Road Rules are updated from time to time by the National Transport Commission.

Those updates are routinely adopted in the ACT. Because driving rules are reasonably uniform across Australia, drivers have a basic understanding of how to obey traffic laws no matter where they are driving.

Australian Road Rules

Road rules regulate most aspects of driving behaviour, including:

  • Defining when drivers are permitted to make left or right turns
  • Defining how and when drivers can make hook turns and U-turns
  • Regulating the use of direction signals
  • Requiring obedience to speed limits
  • Requiring obedience to stop signs and traffic lights
  • Defining when a driver must give way
  • Regulating driving behaviour in roundabouts and level crossings
  • Regulating overtaking and other deviations from a traffic lane
  • Prohibiting stopping or parking in certain places
  • Requiring the use of headlights at certain times
  • Requiring obedience to directions given by the police
  • Prohibiting excessive smoke from tires and other “hoon” behaviour
  • Regulating mobile phone use

Sometimes, as in the case of “hoon” driving and mobile phone use, states and territories have gone farther than the Australian Road Rules. Also, it is up to each state and territory to adopt its fines for violations of traffic regulations. Demerit points for most traffic offences, however, tend to be uniform across Australia.

Traffic Laws in the ACT

Several laws in the ACT govern driving behaviour and create offences or punishments. The most important laws are described below.

Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1977

This law, which was extensively overhauled in 2010, governs various offences relating to drinking driving and drug driving in the ACT. Several articles are explaining that law is linked below.

Road Transport (Safety and Management) Act 1999

This law generally addresses more serious traffic offences than ordinary violations of the Road Rules. Offences created by the Act include:

  • Racing
  • Reckless or dangerous driving
  • Negligent driving
  • Unsafe loads

The law addresses “hoon” behaviour by prohibiting burnouts and other driving that is considered antisocial. It also imposes obligations on drivers involved in traffic accidents.

Articles explaining some of the common offences created by Road Transport (Safety and Management) Act are linked below.


Road Transport (Safety and Management) Regulation 2000

This law incorporates the Australian Road Rules into the law of the ACT and specifies exceptions to those rules. It also creates additional road rules that apply to the ACT. Some of those include:

  • Prohibiting unnecessary engine noise
  • Prohibiting riding in certain kinds of trailers
  • Regulating towing
  • Regulating the use of spotlights and searchlights
  • Creating parking regulations

The law also regulates the speed detection devices that the police are authorized to use and authorizes the immobilization of vehicles that are used to commit serious traffic offences.

We discuss speeding and some other Road Rules violations in the articles linked below. We also discuss immobilization in our articles on hoon driving.

Road Transport (General) Act 1999

This law defines how driving regulations are made and enforced in the ACT. It also deals with:

  • Infringement notices
  • Police authority to enforce traffic rules
  • Licence suspensions and disqualifications

Road Transport (Offences) Regulation 2005

This law specifies fines and demerit points for traffic law violations in the ACT. It also creates rules that govern infringement notices.

Road Transport (Driver Licencing) Regulation 2000

The law creates rules for the issuance of various kinds of driver licences in the ACT and imposes certain obligations on license holders. It also regulates Ignition Interlock Devices that drink driving offenders are sometimes required to use as a condition of driving.

What You Need to Know

If you have been arrested for a traffic crime or issued an infraction notice, you should consider getting legal advice. You can only get that from a lawyer. In many cases, a lawyer can help you avoid or minimize the consequences of a traffic offence, including fines and demerit points or (for more serious offences) incarceration. A lawyer can help you understand the defences you may be able to raise and the actions you can take to persuade a court to grant leniency in your case.

The articles linked below are not intended as a replacement for legal advice. They are meant to give you useful information about common driving offences in the ACT. Understanding the laws and the potential consequences of violating those laws may help you decide whether you should consult a lawyer about the specific offence you have been accused of committing.

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