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As Schoolies kicks on and summer holidays loom, lawyers are urging motorists to be aware of traffic laws which vary between states and territories.

The enactment of the Australian Road Rules in 1999 aimed at creating uniform roads laws across the country – however each state and territory has since adopted its own stance on road legislation, defeating the intended purpose of the Rules.

Senior Lawyer Peter Uniacke said the differences defeated the intended purpose of the Rules and resulted in motorists often unintentionally breaking the law. 

Mr Uniacke said laws most likely to change across borders, centred around restrictions on learner and probationary drivers, however he encouraged all motorists to take note of the relevant state or territory-specific legislation before crossing a border.

He said locations of note included towns on state borders such as crossings at Albury-Wodonga, Tweed Heads-Coolangatta and Canberra-Queanbeyan.

“All drivers are bound by the traffic laws of each state or territory they are driving in, regardless of whether they have ever read those laws,” Mr Uniacke said.  

One of the few exceptions to this was driving age.

“A 17-year-old NSW licensed driver is legally allowed to drive in Victoria, despite he or she being younger than that state’s required age of 18,” he said.

“If you’ve been licensed to drive in one state, that licence allows you to drive in another Australian state or territory but only subject to restrictions imposed by that licence.

“The devil really is in the detail. In each case, it is essential to look at the relevant state or territory provision to work out what applies and what does not.”

Road law differences: Victoria and NSW

Issue

Victoria

New South Wales

Licence eligibility

18

17

L-platers allowed to tow

No

No

L/P-plate speed limit

Posted speed limit

No more than 90km/h

P-plate passengers

P Plater 1 are allowed 1 passenger between 16 and 22 unless with an experienced driver

Drivers under 25 are permitted 1 passenger under 21 between 11pm and 5am

Auto licence holders driving manual cars

Only manual and unrestricted drivers 

Only P-plate 2 and unrestricted drivers

Learners and mobiles

Cannot use mobiles

Cannot use mobiles

Road law differences: Queensland and NSW

Issue

Queensland

New South Wales

Licence eligibility

17

17

L-platers allowed to tow

Yes

No

L/P-plate speed limit

Posted speed limit

No more than 90km/h

P-plate passengers

P-plate 1 drivers under 25 are permitted 1 passenger under 21 between 11pm and 5am

Drivers under 25 are permitted 1 passenger under 21 between 11pm and 5am.

Auto licence P Platers driving manual cars

No. Unless they are supervised showing L plates

Only P-plate 2 and unrestricted drivers

Learners and mobiles

Cannot use mobiles

Cannot use mobiles

Road law differences: ACT and NSW

Issue

ACT

New South Wales

Licence eligibility

17

17

L-platers allowed to tow

Trailer can’t carry more than 750kg

No

L/P-plate speed limit

Posted speed limit

No more than 90km/h

P-plate passengers

No restrictions

Drivers under 25 are permitted 1 passenger under 21 between 11pm and 5am

Auto licence holders driving manual cars

Unrestricted or automatic licensed P Platers with 12 months experience

Only P-plate 2 and unrestricted drivers

Learners and mobiles

Phone needs to be in holder

Cannot use mobiles