For a sharp learning curve, safety’s everything The Age By Rachel Wells December 15, 2004
A grey area in the road rules that cover a driver’s duty to give way to pedestrians at left-hand turns has been blamed for some people failing their driver’s licence tests.
VicRoads has admitted the law on giving way is sometimes ”debatable”.
In one case last month, VicRoads allowed a licence applicant to resit her test free after she disputed a testing officer’s decision to fail her because she had not given way to someone at the corner, waiting for the car to pass.
In that case, the driver, Rosheen Kaul, and her instructor, Alex Vouvaris, challenged the testing officer’s ruling that Ms Kaul had failed to give way. The dispute was referred to VicRoads’ senior learning and development consultant, Ian Brown, who confirmed that the law did not state that a driver must give way to a pedestrian in all situations.
The Victorian rules state that drivers turning left must give way to ”any pedestrian at or near the intersection who is crossing the road the driver is entering”.
But the law is less clear about what to do when a pedestrian is standing at an intersection but is not in the act of crossing the road. The rules state that the driver must ”remain stationary until it is safe to proceed; or slow down and, if necessary, stop to avoid a collision”.
Ms Kaul, 21, a psychology student, was driving north along Lygon Street when her testing officer told her to turn left into Lytton Street towards VicRoads’ registration and licensing centre.
A woman was at the corner, waiting to cross the road. ”I looked straight ahead and I saw a pedestrian, so I began to slow down and the pedestrian looked at me and she stopped,” Ms Kaul said.
”So I continued slowly approaching with my indicator on, and then again I looked at her to make sure that she was not going to cross the road, and she actually looked at me and smiled, so obviously, body language-wise, that meant go.”
The testing officer failed her on the spot. Mr Vouvaris, who was in the car, immediately disputed the decision.
VicRoads said the road rule was clear, but acknowledged it could also be open to interpretation. ”At times, the perception about whether a pedestrian is standing still or about to cross the road at a give-way sign may be debatable, leading to some differences of opinion,” a spokeswoman said.
”In such cases, a learner driver who may have failed their test as a result of this important aspect of safe driving has the opportunity to raise their concerns with the manager at the local office.
Local managers are empowered to offer the learner driver a retest free of charge, or alternatively, uphold the decision by the licence testing officer or the appeal by the learner driver. Each case is dealt with on its merit.”
Mr Vouvaris, an instructor for 10 years, said he had seen many clients fail their tests due to an officer’s contestable interpretation of this rule.
”Over the years, I have had many applicants fail for not stopping, and also been told to wave pedestrians through,” he said. ”This has caused financial distress to my applicants because of retest fees”.
VicRoads allowed Ms Kaul to sit her test a second time.
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