You might feel like the authorities throw the book at you for any and every offence they catch you for on our roads, but you need to be aware that those fines and demerit-point punishments can, and will, be far more severe if you make the same kind of mistakes in a 40km/h-posted, active school zone, at least if you’re in NSW.
Alone amongst Australia’s confusingly differentiated state and territory traffic laws, NSW ups the ante financially - by around 30 per cent - for breaking the law near a school. And throws in some extra demerit points as well, including some just for parking in the wrong place while the zones are operating.
Elsewhere in the country, the fact that you’ll be paying heavily already if you’re caught doing 60km/h in a 40 zone is seen as punishment enough.
Remarkably, even the Victorian Police confirmed to CarsGuide that they “do not have ‘extra’ fines or demerits within school zones”.
Get caught speeding, or talking on your mobile phone while driving near a school in NSW, however, and they won’t throw the book at you, they’ll tip a whole library on your head, or your licence.
The maximum penalty for speeding in a school zone in NSW, for example, is a whopping $3740, plus seven demerit points.
Just about anything adjacent of legal you do in a school zone is going to cost you, and cost you a lot more than it would on any other road, so you really need to know all the things you can booked, and heavily demerited for, in a school zone.
Here is our helpful, if slightly alarming, guide to the listed offences in NSW, which have their own heading and several pages on the RMS site here.
Obviously, running a red light in a school zone will bring a hefty penalty; at $549 and four points, but what might surprise you is that the punishment in NSW is just as harsh for “not stopping at stop line at yellow light”.
So if you even run the amber, you’ll get the full whack of $549 and four points. It will also cost the same if you fail to “leave intersection safely after yellow arrow”, which sounds alarmingly vague.
Not giving way to a pedestrian in a school zone while turning left is slightly less at $439 and four points.
Surprisingly, failing to stop for one of those lovely volunteers who hold the Stop signs at intersections near schools will only set you back $439 and four points. If the sign holder is standing at an actual zebra crossing with their sign, however, it jumps back up to $549 and four points.
Approaching a pedestrian crossing too quickly to stop safely is also $549 and four points, as is any other pedestrian-crossing infraction.
Yes, there are some very special rules for parking in school zones, which can see you being hit for $183 and two points for parking in a no-parking zone, stopping on a path or nature strip or even parking on a painted island. If you disobey a No Stopping sign in a school zone, double park or park in a School Bus zone, or stop on or near a children’s crossing, your punishment will jump to $439, and two points.
It’s the same punishment for driving on paths, nature strips or traffic islands anywhere near a school.
Get caught doing 10km/h or less over the 40 limit in NSW and it’s $192 and two points. The same speed would be $116 and one point anywhere else.
Obviously it’s a bad, and expensive, idea to speed anywhere, but there’s nowhere stupider to take that risk than a school zone, which is why it’s hard to imagine anyone would ever get pulled over for the maximum fine of $3740 and seven points, which applies to people caught doing 45km/h or more over the 40km/h limit (that’s $2384 and six points anywhere else).
Even the $1461 fine and six points for doing 30km/h over would, you’d hope, not be handed out very often.
What’s important to note, however, is that doing 60km/h, or the normal speed limit, in a 40km/h school zone at the wrong time of day - i.e. 20km/h or more over the limit - will cost $692 and a hefty five points (that’s $462 and three points anywhere else).
Even 11km/h over the limit, or 51km/h, however, is going to cost a whopping $576 and four points (or $269 and three points outside a school zone).
In NSW, using your phone in a school zone will cost you $439 and four points (it’s $330 and the same points outside a school zone).
If you’re caught driving a vehicle with a TV or video display unit image in the car within your line of sight, in a school zone, you’ll also pay $439 and four points.
If you perform an incorrect U-turn, making one without a view of approaching traffic, for example, you’ll face $330 and three points.
In NSW, there are no less than nine different ways you can get a U-turn in a school zone wrong, so it’s probably better just to never ever make one.
If you drive a vehicle through a school zone with a person, or an animal, in your lap you’ll be fined $549 and four points.
Not “reversing safely” in a school zone is $257 and three points. Again, probably better not to reverse at all.
Meanwhile, in South Australia
Things are a little different in our southern state, with school areas posted as 25km/h zones, although you only have to obey that limit “when children are present”, which sounds slightly open to the interpretation of your arresting officer.
It’s also a lot vaguer than just having school zones that run from 8:00am-9:30am and 2.30pm-4:00pm as is common in other states.
There’s not much need for extra penalties, of course, when being caught doing even 50km/h in a 25km/h zone is going to be a big fine.
Failing to stop at a children’s crossing in South Australia, however, is $419 and three points.
Days are longer in the ACT
Uniquely in the ACT, school zones are operational all day, from 8:00am to 4:00pm, which means you never need to worry about what time it is, you just do 40km/h if it’s day time.
On the other hand, it means the authorities are making you crawl past schools at 40, even when they know the kids are locked up inside. Unique.
This article originally appeared on CarsGuide.