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Driving Vehicles With Low Tyre Pressure (NSW)

Written by Mark Maloney

Mark Maloney holds a Bachelor of Laws, an Associate Degree in Policing as well as a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. He is currently studying a Master of Laws while working as a solicitor. Mark is admitted to the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court of Australia in 2019. He has appeared in Supreme, County, District and Magistrates’ Courts. During his legal studies, Mark was awarded the Central West Law Society Prize for his studies in Professional Legal Conduct and inducted in the Dean’s List of Academic Excellence in Law for 2017 and 2018 academic years.

It is not uncommon for the owners of 4×4 vehicles to deflate the vehicle’s tyres before they reach sand dunes or other off-road terrains. This practice can, and sometimes does, raise the attention of NSW Police who will often deem such practices to be unsafe. Deflating your vehicle’s tyres and subsequently driving on public roads with low tyre pressure can lead to infringement notices and/or defect notices being issued.

Defective vehicles and the Road Transport Act

Under Section 76(1) of the Road Transport Act 2013, a police officer may inspect a registrable vehicle (whether or not it is on a road) for the purpose of deciding its identity, condition or its status. A police officer may, under this provision issue a warning or defect notice, impose conditions on the use of the vehicle or prohibit the use of the vehicle on discovering a defect.

Section 80(1) of the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017 (NSW) states:

“(1) A vehicle defect notice issued under the Act may be stated to be—

a major defect notice if, in the reasonable opinion of the person issuing the notice, the further use of the registrable vehicle in road transport after the time specified in the notice would constitute an imminent and serious safety risk, or

(b)  a minor defect notice if, in the reasonable opinion of the person issuing the notice, deficiencies in the registrable vehicle, if allowed to continue after the time specified in the notice, may—

(i)  constitute a safety risk, or

(ii)  hinder the ability of a person to identify the vehicle by reference to its number-plates.”

A safety risk is defined in the Regulations to mean a danger to a person, to property or to the environment.

The Roads and Maritime Services’ vehicle standards

Roads and Maritime Services has developed Vehicle Standard Information Sheets (VSIs) to assist vehicle owners and operators to be aware of the latest vehicle standards information in NSW.

VSI 09 indicates that tyre inflation air pressure is to be in accordance with the vehicle’s tyre placard. This VSI specifies the limits to the changes that are permitted to your tyres. Although it is common practice for 4×4 vehicles to decrease air pressure in their tyres before reaching the sand or other terrains, operating a vehicle under these conditions on a bitumen road, constitutes a safety risk.

In particular, driving on tyres with significantly reduced pressure can cause internal structural damage to the tyre, poor vehicle handling and control and even tyre failure – which could lead to an accident, injury or death.

Should any accident occur as a result of a vehicle being driven with significantly low tyre pressure on a road or road-related area, the driver may be exposed to tortious and criminal liabilities.

If run flat tyres are fitted to your vehicles, then generally the tyre will have a stronger sidewall structure, allowing the vehicle to travel at increased speeds for longer periods – in which case, the owners will need to refer to the manufacturer’s specifications of these tyres.

Summary

Police will often form the view that driving with low tyre pressure is a safety risk. This may lead to the issue of issue defect notices with conditions imposed that police deem to be fair and reasonable under the relevant legislation.

Accordingly, it’s advisable that all 4×4 owners avoid deflating tyre pressure prior to reaching off-road areas or inflating tyre pressure again prior to driving on bitumen roads.

If you require legal advice or representation in a traffic matter or in any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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