People often find themselves being brought before a Court for charges of driving an unregistered vehicle and/or driving without a licence in circumstances where they didn’t realise that they were breaching the law.
The law in New South Wales defines a “motor vehicle” as any vehicle which is built to be propelled by a motor that forms part of the vehicle.
That description includes a large range of commercially available and home-made vehicles which many people do not realise require a licence to operate on a road; or they are prohibited from being used on a road because they cannot be registered.
This description is wide enough to cover vehicles where the motor is either petrol powered or electric. It is also wide enough to cover vehicles that did not initially have a motor but have later had one added.
Subject to a limited number of exceptions, for a motor vehicle to be used on a road or related area it must be registered. Certain motor vehicles do not meet appropriate safety standards and, therefore, will not be registered. Therefore, those motor vehicles cannot be used on a road.
Again, subject to limited exceptions, a person must hold a valid driver’s licence to use a motor vehicle on a road or related area. If a person is disqualified from holding a licence or does not have a current valid licence then they must not use any type of motor vehicle on a road or related area.
What types of motor vehicles are exempted from registration?
One of the exceptions is for a limited class of what are known as power assisted pedal cycles. However, to fall within this exception, the pedal cycle must have an electric motor and not an internal combustion engine. The maximum power output of motors attached to the cycle must not exceed 200 watts. A similar, commercially designed powered cycle known as a Pedalac can also fall within this exception.
Some of the other vehicles which fall within the exceptions include:
- Vehicles used for lawn mowing, so long as they do not weigh more than 250 kg;
- Motorised wheelchairs, so long as they are solely used for carrying a person with a disability and are not able to travel more than 10 km/h;
- Farming vehicles that are being driven directly across roads in the course of agricultural activities; and
- Golf buggies and greenkeeping vehicles being driven across roads that intersect golf courses.
Certain motor vehicles that cannot be used on roads or related areas.
What is clear from the legislation is that the following are just some of the examples of motor vehicles that do not fall within the exceptions and, therefore, cannot be used on a road or related area:
- Any form of pushbike powered by a petrol engine;
- Motorised scooters;
- Motorised skateboards; and
- Other commercially available transport devices such as a Segway.
The definition of a motor vehicle is very wide and people need to consider whether any motorised device they intend to use for transport in public areas is able to be used without being registered. People who do not have a valid driver’s licence also need to consider whether using any such vehicle will leave them open to charges, such as driving while disqualified or driving while unlicensed.