When is it legal to drive through a red traffic light?

How many times have you been stuck in traffic only to hear an ambulance or police car’s sirens behind you? What should you do? How can you help? When is it legal to drive through a red traffic light? You don’t want to break the law.

Did you know that the law in NSW allows you to drive onto the wrong side of the road or drive through a red traffic light to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle? But only if it is safe to do so. Giving way to emergency vehicles should always be done with the utmost care and with the safety of yourself and all other road users as a priority.

Rule 78 of the NSW Road Rules provides:

“(2)    If a driver is in the path of an approaching police or emergency vehicle that is displaying a flashing blue or red light (whether or not it is also displaying other lights) or sounding an alarm, the driver must move out of the path of the vehicle as soon as the driver can do so safely.

(3)    This rule applies to the driver despite any other rule of these Rules.”

It is also your duty to “give way to a police or emergency vehicle that is displaying a flashing blue or red light (whether or not it is also displaying other lights) or sounding an alarm” (Rule 79).

The NSW Road Rules contain the basic rules of the road for motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians, passengers and others

The NSW Road Rules 2014 can be found here

The road rules applicable in NSW are effectively the same as the model rules proposed by the National Transport Commission but has some additional rules, such as Rule 78-1 (introduced in 01 September 2018) that includes:

“(2) A driver must not drive past, at a speed exceeding 40 kilometres per hour, a stationary emergency response vehicle on a road that is displaying a flashing blue or red light.”

Click here to see our previous blogpost on the top 10 misunderstood road rules


This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice.

If you have a traffic fine or have been charged with an offence we can refer you to an expert solicitor that acts in relation to police matters, please contact Craig Pryor at McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email to discuss your needs.

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Double demerits this long weekend

Double demerits this long weekend – from Midnight tonight, Thursday 27 September to midnight, Monday 1 October

The double demerit point scheme applies for the following types of offences:

  • Speeding
  • Illegal use of mobile phones
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Riding without a helmet

Double Demerits this Easter long weekend

A reminder to our clients that double demerits apply for speeding, seatbelt, helmet and mobile phone offences this Easter long weekend from midnight tonight, 28 March to 11:59pm 2 April 2018.

During Operation Merret and throughout the Easter period, you will see more police on the roads, not only targeting motorists for dangerous behaviours, but educating drivers on safe behaviour and encouraging those who are doing the right thing through positive reinforcement.

Please drive safely.

School zones and pupil free days

In New South Wales, more than one million school students travel to and from school each day. The vast majority of students do so safely.
At the time of this article, there are 127 fixed digital speed cameras installed in NSW, of which 57 are in school zones.

School zones were selected according to a number of criteria concerning the risks young pedestrians are exposed to, including a combination of high traffic volumes, the level of pedestrian use and crash history.

When do they operate?

All school zone speed cameras operate 24 hours per day, 7 days a week and detect vehicles exceeding the speed limit. They are also programmed to detect vehicles exceeding the 40km/h school zone speed limit during sign-posted school zone times.

For most locations these times are: 8:00 – 9:30am and 2.30pm – 4:00pm on days notified by the NSW Department of Education.

There are a small number of schools which have different school zone times. They are identified by red/orange school zone signs to show non-standard times.

In addition to the regulatory signs Roads and Maritime has also installed flashing lights (school zone alert systems) at a number of school zone sites, including all fixed speed camera sites that are located in a school zone.

What about pupil free days or private school holidays?

Both Catholic and private/independent schools have enforceable school zones in line with Department of Education school terms, irrespective of their term dates.

Pupil free days or staff development days are notified school days so the school zones continue to apply – there may still be students attending schools on these days.

Further information

For more information about fixed speed camers or school zones, visit the RMS Website