Unfortunately, caravanners and motorhome drivers get targeted for driving too slowly on our roads especially on single lane highways where it can be difficult to overtake a long vehicle. Often these claims are accompanied or justified by the claim that it is illegal to drive too slowly on the road.
What is not too well understood is that there is absolutely no requirement upon anyone to drive at the speed limit and expecting someone to do so is not only unreasonable, it is simple ignorance of the law.
The speed limit is just that; a limit. You can drive at whatever speed you feel safe at up to that limit and not above. The speed limit is the maximum speed the road authorities have deemed to be safe for that section of road. This may not be a shared view of most motorists but it is the law and we must obey it or risk being finned.
It is not illegal to drive too slowly however you can be booked for unreasonably obstructing drivers or pedestrians.
The road rules vary from state to state but for the most part they are consistent. In Victoria the rules states:
- Unreasonably obstructing drivers or pedestrians
(1) A driver must not unreasonably obstruct the path of another driver or a pedestrian.
Penalty: 2 penalty units.
Note Driver includes a person in control of a vehicle—see the definition of drive in the dictionary.
(2) For this rule, a driver does not unreasonably obstruct the path of another driver or a pedestrian only because—
(a) the driver is stopped in traffic; or
(b) the driver is driving more slowly than other vehicles (unless the driver is driving abnormally slowly in the circumstances).
Example of a driver driving abnormally slowly
A driver driving at a speed of 20 kilometres per hour on a length of road to which a speed-limit of 80 kilometres per hour applies when there is no reason for the driver to drive at that speed on the length of road.
So in order to be considered an obstruction, you would have to be driving at a greatly reduced speed to that of the posted speed limit with NO REASON to do so. This is the critical point of the rule. People vary rarely do anything without a reason. There is probably almost always going to be a reason why someone would be driving so slowly. Whether it’s a good reason or not doesn’t really matter as that is not qualified in the rule. You would have to be completely ignorant of what you are doing and of your surroundings to be causing an obstruction without a reason.
If you think about it, it makes complete sense. If it were illegal to drive below the posted speed limit, heavy haulage trucks, farmers and other heavy or oversized equipment could not conduct their normal business. Further, towing a heavy caravan into a stiff head wind and slowing down accordingly is not illegal. It is the responsible thing to do.
Now owners of caravans and motorhomes should be mindful of building up a long line of traffic behind them and, where safe to do so, pull over and let passing traffic go by. After all, no one ever got booked for being courteous.