By Andrew Rasch
Published: Tuesday, October 17, 2023
It’s peak hour, and you’re next to a wide, raised median strip, ready to turn right at the intersection ahead.
The problem: the 10 cars ahead of you, blocking access to the right-turn lane. The right-turn arrow goes green, then orange, then red – too late.
A car mounts the median strip, passes all the cars in front of you, and stops in the right-turn lane where you’d like to be. As you watch, your mouth agape, you wonder, are they innovating or breaking the law?
Is it legal to drive on a median strip?
It’s common to see motorists drive on the median strip at some intersections to get into the right-turn lane during busy periods. One example is the Greenhill Road and Fullarton Road intersection at Eastwood. When traffic queues in the adjacent through lane, drivers can’t access the right-turn lane until some of the traffic has moved. This means they may miss the right-turn arrow and will have to wait until the next traffic light phase. Sometimes you’ll see vehicles avoid having to wait by mounting the median strip and pushing in front. At certain times of the year, you can even see well-worn tyre tracks on the divide.
At some intersections, the right-turn lanes have been increased in length to discourage drivers from doing this, but whether this can be done depends on there being enough space and no major impediments such as gas or water pipelines, or other services.
The cost for driving on a median strip.
Whether you think driving on a median strip is rude, irresponsible or creative, the fact is it’s against the law. The Australian Road Rules say you must drive to the left of a median strip unless you’re entering or leaving a median strip parking area, or you’re required to drive to the right of the median strip by a keep right sign.
In other words, if you’re stuck behind traffic and can’t access the right-turn lane, wait until the traffic ahead starts to clear. Sure, it’s frustrating, but the alternative could be worse.
If you’re caught driving on the median strip, prepare for a financial hit. You’ll be fined $375, plus a $99 Victims of Crime levy, and you’ll receive three demerit points.
Can I drive on painted islands?
On some roads, there’s no built-up median strip but a painted island. Again, as a rule, you can’t drive on these – they’re painted for a reason – but there are a few exceptions.
The rules say don’t drive over a painted island, but if it’s surrounded by one continuous line then you can drive on, or over it, for up to 50m if you need to:
- Safely overtake a bicycle rider at the required distance
- Enter or leave the road
- Enter a turning lane that begins immediately after the island
- Park in an angle park on the opposite side of the road.
However, you must give way to any vehicle that is in, or entering, the turning lane from the marked lane or line of traffic immediately to the left.
Taking the above into account, you can’t do a U-turn across a painted island, just as you can’t do one across a single or double continuous line.
What are the other risks?
The legal and financial implications are one issue but what about things like damage to your vehicle? Driving across a median strip can damage the undercarriage of your vehicle and your tyres, wheels and suspension won’t appreciate it much either. Plus, by the time you reach the right-turn lane, the arrow may no longer be green anyway, so you’re not saving any time. You’ll have broken the law, risked a fine and potentially damaged your vehicle, all for nothing.
How is RAA helping?
If you know of an intersection where this happens regularly, let us know. We can investigate to see if it’s possible to extend the right-turn lanes or whether other options are available, such as changing the right-turn arrow from being at the start of the green phase to towards the end of it.