You may have done it to someone. Maybe it was done to you. But did you know that checking the brakes of someone tailgating you can result in a hefty fine and possibly penalty points? Or worse, it could cost you your driver’s license.
- Pressing the brake pedal to warn another road user that you are approaching is a criminal offense
- Some jurisdictions may impose fines, while others may impose more severe penalties
- In some states, you could be imprisoned if your driving is deemed so dangerous
For those who don’t know: During a brake check, a person driving in front of another vehicle applies the brakes to warn the person behind them to back up.
For more news and videos about driving, visit Motoring >>
This is unfortunately a common practice, as tailgating (where a driver drives so close to the vehicle in front that it can become dangerous) is one of the worst habits of city drivers in Australia.
You only have to commute during morning or afternoon rush hour in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth or even Canberra to realize that social distancing is one of the most unobserved traffic rules.
But that doesn’t mean you should hit the brakes to warn the driver behind you to back off. Even if they break the law by driving too close behind you, you can’t take the law into your own hands – because if you do, you could be found to be driving carefully or dangerously.
Look, you are not allowed to obstruct the path of other road users (Australian Road Rules 2014, Reg. 125), nor are you allowed to drive too closely behind another vehicle to stop safely (Australian Road Rules 2014, Reg. 126). However, there is no specific law that requires other road users to brake to prevent them from tailgating.
A Queensland police officer we spoke to suggested that at the very least, someone caught braking for another road user could be charged with careless driving, more specifically driving without due care or attention. Under the state’s Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995, this could in turn result in a hefty court fine ($3,096) or even a six-month prison sentence.
If the offense involves aggravated and therefore dangerous driving, the penalty could be even higher: up to a $30,000 fine or three years in prison if you are sober (more if you are under the influence of alcohol). substance and – rightly – even more so if it leads to injury or death).
These are some clear reasons not to control other road users when braking, but the laws are open to interpretation and vary by jurisdiction.
In Victoria, you could be charged with “negligent operation of a motor vehicle by a full license holder,” which can result in a $397 fine and three violations.
The New South Wales Police would probably charge you with “angry and reckless driving”. Crimes could include behavior that:
- Significantly endangers other road users and community members
- There is an obvious and serious risk of causing physical injury to other road users
- There is an obvious and serious risk that significant property damage will occur
The state can impose a maximum fine of $2,200 for a first offense, a minimum of 12 months of driver’s license suspension, and a prison sentence of up to nine months
In Tasmania, the Road Rules 2019 – Regulation 367, Driving without reasonable caution: (1) A person must not drive without reasonable caution and attention. The fine for this is up to $1,810. There is a second, more lenient law that may apply:
“(2) A person shall not drive without reasonable consideration for other road users,” and failure to comply with these provisions is punishable by a maximum fine of $905. It’s more likely to result in an on-the-spot fine of $195 and three demerit points.
South Australia refers to this behavior as “hoon driving” or “driving with attitude”, and this means that “driving recklessly or at a high speed or in a manner dangerous to the public” can result in six penalty points and will be taken to court – imposed Fine.
These are just some of the interpretations of rulings across the country. The message seems simple. Don’t check other drivers’ brakes – just get out of their way if you can.
Not intended as legal advice. Check with the relevant highway authority in your state or territory.