Can it be illegal to drive at the stipulated speed limit?

January 10, 2012

Local residents have fallen victim to incorrect speed limit signs in the area.  Infringement notices have been issued to drivers for disobeying the speed restrictions on a stretch of land on Scoresby Road, northbound to Mountain Highway.  The speed sign on Scoresby Road indicated that the speed limit was 70km/h and despite this, infringement notices were sent out to individuals who were driving a speed less than the stated limit. These drives were identified by a fixed speed camera located in the area.  Enforcement authorities have indicated that the speed limit was, and currently is, 60km/h despite the 70 km/h speed limit sign.  Vic Roads have refused to take any responsibility for the mistaken sign because they claim that they did not install it.  The 70km/h speed limit sign has now been changed to a 60km/h sign.  A report released on A Current Affair, a program on Channel 9, has indicated that grounds for appeal may exist and these will be explored in more detail below.

Speed Limits

Section 21(1) of the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic) (“the Rules”) states that the ‘speed limit applying to a driver for a length of road to which a speed limit sign applies is the number of kilometres per hour indicated by the number on the sign’.  The sign in question indicated that the speed limit was 70km/h and should therefore be seen as the appropriate speed limit, as per rule 21(1).  Section 21(3) of the Rules states that a ‘speed limit sign on a road applies to the length of road beginning at the sign’.  It seems logical to assume that this would apply to the 70km/h speed limit sign in question.  Section 25(1) of the Rules states that ‘if a speed limit sign does not apply to a length of road and the length of road is not in a speed limited area or shared zone, the speed limit applying to a driver for the length of the road is the default speed’.  The default speed for a built up area is 50km and 100km for any other length of road.  Section 25 of the Rules, which indicates the default speed limits, would not apply because the length of road was a ‘speed limited area’ i.e. it had signage which indicated 70km/h to drivers, but was considered to be 60km/h by enforcement authorities.

Avenues of Appeal

Section 16 of the Infringements Act 2006 (Vic) (“The Act”) states that a person may elect to have a matter heard in Court.  The Court holds the discretionary power to take into account all factors and conclude as to whether the infringement notice is valid or not.  Section 18(2) of the Act states that an infringement notice may be withdrawn if the enforcement agency determines that the ‘matter should be abandoned’.  The sign indicated that the speed limit was 70km/h despite it being zoned as a 60km/h limit, and this ‘mistake’ by the authorities could possibly lead to the abandonment of the notice.

Section 22(1) of the Act states that a person served with an infringement notice or a person acting on that person’s behalf may apply to the relevant enforcement agency for review of the decision to serve the infringement notice if the person believes the decision was contrary to law (section 22(a)(i) of the Act).  Section 25 of the Act allows for a review of an infringement notice by an enforcement agency.  Upon this review, the enforcement agency may decide to confirm the decision to serve an infringement notice (section 24(1)(a) of the Act) or withdraw the infringement notice (section 24(1)(c) of the Act).  Arguably, the decision to issue such infringement notices could be seen as contrary to law and withdrawn because the sign indicated that the speed limit was 70km/h. Standard and electronic speed limit signs are enforceable as per section 20 of the Rules and should be followed, indicating that the speed limit was, at the time of the issuing of the infringement notices, in fact 70km/h.

If you have been served with any such infringement notice, you are welcome to contact Hutchinson Legal for further information.

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