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Lane filtering and the interpretation of “safe to do so”

16 Jun , 2016,
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The Queensland motorcycle lane filtering road rules contain only a minimal amount of positive description of when lane filtering is not permitted but include a general offense of filtering when it is “not safe to do so”.


What does this term mean?


After holding concerns right from the initial release of the rules and now starting to receive contact from riders about the definition, the MRAQ has been in contact with the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Transport (QTMR) to attempt to define the meaning of this term.


Firstly it must be realised that the term is very generic because to attempt to define all situations that could be classed as unsafe would end up with legislation that required a truck to move and hence a more abridged wording is used. Unfortunately this has its problems because any abridged or shortened description will always be open to enormous amounts of personal interpretation.


The general rule for interpretation of any abridged wording is that it should be read as what any reasonable person understands is meant by the term or wording. This is how a judge would consider it if the question of clarification was asked.


The answer that was offered from the QTMR when we sort definition was exactly that, “what a reasonable person understands as safe”.


There is of cause some easily identifiable situation that are not safe which in particular would include if there was a chance of injury to either the rider or another person or property, however the devil in the wording comes from personal interpretation which is always what any law enforcement officer is working on.


The MRAQ has recently been contacted about infringement notices issued in areas of road works that appear to have been issued solely on the basis that it was a road work zone. There is no inclusion in the road rules to automatically include road work zones as a place where it is unsafe to filter and every different place or situation should be considered on its own merit.


The situation that has been presented was in a zone that had a two lane section that although it has an added side a barrier still maintains the minimum required lane width and a maximum speed of 80klm/hr and no other extraordinary obstructions. This zone could not, by any reasonable interpretation, be classed as unsafe to filter in however it appears that infringements are being issued on the simplistic basis that it is a road work zone. The rider claims that he was filtering between the two lines of semi stationary traffic and at a speed below 30klm/hr but was issued with an infringement for unsafe filtering with no other explanation than it was a road work zone.


After our consultation with the QTMR the MRAQ cannot find reason for the issuance of an infringement in this situation.


Courses of action for the individual


If a person is issued with an infringement that they believe to be unjustified they have the right to seek to have it overturned.


This would typically been done in the first instance by contacting the Officer in Charge of the police station at which the issuing office works and explain the situation that caused the notice to be issued and ask that it be rescinded. This contact should be in writing, be sent well before any fine is due to be paid and explain why you believe the notice is incorrect. The Officer in Charge is duty bound to respond.


If the response from contact with the Officer in Charge is not acceptable you are entitled to have the matter heard before a court but this decision along with the return of the infringement notice so requesting must be done in a timely manner before any fine is due. You would then have the matter tested for legitimacy before a magistrate at which time it is incumbent on the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that an offence was committed. It is not incumbent on the defendant to prove innocence although it is always good to have an arguement to counter the prosecutions.


Kind Regards

MRAQ President & Media Officer

Chris Mearns