Waiting for a bus? Are your rights as clear as mud?
Let’s set the scene - it’s a crazy stormy day in Sydney (think back to the Sydney Storm) and you’re waiting for a bus. You’ve lost two umbrellas to the storm thus far and you cannot wait to get home and dry off. As you’re standing in a bus stop on George Street a car drives past, hitting a nearby puddle in the exact sweet spot required to douse you head to toe in dirty water.
It turns out that you may have more than just a right to feel indignant.
The Road Rules NSW 2014 contain a unique regulation that deals with unruly drivers who carelessly splash mud onto unsuspecting bus passengers. There is no corresponding rule in the Australian Road Rules or for that matter in any other state.
According to regulation 291-3 “splashing mud on bus passengers:”
A driver must take due care, by slowing down or stopping the driver’s vehicle if necessary, not to splash mud on:
(a) any person in or on a bus, or
(b) any person entering or leaving any stationary bus, or
(c) any person waiting at any bus stop,
if the bus concerned is being used to provide a public passenger service or the bus stop concerned is a stop relating to buses used for that purpose.
The listed maximum penalty for a breach of the regulation is listed as 20 units, which means splashing a bus passenger may result in a fine of up to $2,200.
UTS:Law Professor Anita Stuhmcke says that in all her years researching, teaching and engaging with the law of torts she has never come across this offence, but describes it as “a sensible piece of legislation…[that is reflective of] goodness, love, civil society, politeness, consideration for others [and] respect for bus stops and clothing.” She says she is now “a devotee of the message sent by this regulatory framework around bus stops, mud and indifferent motorists.”
However, despite its positive intentions the regulation raises more questions than it answers. This is even if you overlook the confusion that stems from trying to determine the difference between a person who is in or on a bus. Although it is unlawful to splash mud on a passenger or pedestrian, there is no mention made of any penalties for a driver splashing someone with water. Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to be standing too close to the curb on a rainy day in Sydney will tell you that this is just as serious, if not more so, than a splash of mud.
That being said when you’re frequently exposed to Sydney drivers being splashed with mud is probably the least of your worries! It is questionable whether a person would go to the effort of filing a complaint in such a situation, perhaps it depends on the size of the mud stain on their favourite outfit, or whether they’re managed to wipe the mud out of their eyes quickly enough to catch the driver’s number plate.
Professor Stuhmcke suggests that perhaps a test case is needed to determine just how effective this law is and says that she will “now always and only arrange to meet colleagues, friends and even strangers on rainy days at bus stops.”
Story by: Rebecca Brediceanu