How to Report Unsafe Vehicles

Unsafe and unroadworthy vehicles put the lives of other road users in danger. Simply driving with one headlight out or a broken indicator may cause a serious road accident resulting in extensive damage and injury. Plus, if you are driving with an unsafe vehicle and are involved in an accident, you may be liable for the damage caused if it was found that your vehicle’s poor condition contributed to the accident. 

Driving a vehicle is a potentially unsafe activity, with severe and tragic consequences if something does go wrong. Statistics show that there were 1,135 deaths on Australian roads in 2018 and 1,209 deaths on the road in 2019. Many of these deaths were caused by things like unsafe vehicles and unsafe driving. This article is going to focus on how and when to report unsafe vehicles, as well as answer some common questions about how to report unsafe vehicles.

Are vehicle inspections done regularly?

Car roadworthy inspection

In Queensland, vehicles are only required to be inspected for roadworthiness when they are being sold. What this means is that unless a driver is pulled up for a random inspection by police, an unsafe vehicle may fly under the radar for years, continuing to drive on Queensland roads, placing other road users at risk.

Unsafe vehicles can come in many forms; whether a car has bald tyres, poor brakes, faulty indicators, rust, or something else that makes it a hazard. While drivers are encouraged to have regular vehicle inspections and take care of their cars, the fact is that many drivers simply don’t take the time to get regular vehicle servicing.

What is an unroadworthy vehicle?

Rusty unroadworthy car

An unroadworthy vehicle is one which does not comply with vehicle standards. These standards are in place for safety and for the peace of road users. Roadworthiness relates to things like ensuring that tyres have sufficient tread, and that all lights are working. You may be stopped at any time and have your vehicle inspected by police or a transport officer. If you are found to have a defective vehicle you may be issued with a defect notice. 

What is a defect notice?

A defect notice is given to a driver of a vehicle that is not roadworthy and is found to be defective in some way. A defect notice is not a fine, but it is a notice that requires you to take action to repair your vehicle. In some cases, you will be given a defect notice and be allowed to drive your car home or to a repair shop to have the vehicle fixed. In other cases, your vehicle must be stopped and not driven any further - which means that a tow truck or a trailer will be needed to move your vehicle. 

  • Once you have been issued with a defect notice you will be required to repair your vehicle and return it to roadworthy condition. 
  • A defect notice is going to outline what needs to be fixed on your vehicle, and will give you a time frame in which to repair the defects. 
  • You may apply for an extension of time if you are unable to have your vehicle repaired in time, or you may cancel your registration. 

Once you have repaired your vehicle you will need to clear the defect notice. This can be done by having your vehicle inspected at an approved inspection station or by presenting back to the officer or inspector who issued the defect notice.

How to report an unsafe vehicle

If you spot a vehicle on the road that is producing excess smoke, or has lights out or missing, you can report this vehicle. 

  • The regulating body in Queensland for vehicles is Queensland Transport and Main Roads, who handle complaints about unsafe vehicles.
  • If you have spotted an unsafe vehicle you should note the vehicle’s registration number if safe to do so. 
  • Then, you can pass the information on to Queensland Transport who can investigate allegations about vehicles with questionable safety standards.
  • Complaints can be made by phoning 13 23 80, or in writing to Compliments & Complaint, GPO Box 1412, Brisbane Qld 4001. You can find more information about complaining about your vehicle online

Any complaint that you make about a vehicle can be done anonymously. Queensland Transport welcomes complaints and reports about unsafe vehicles; their ability to keep track of every car and vehicle on the road is limited!

Is underglow lighting illegal in Queensland?

LED under car body lighting

When it comes to unsafe vehicles, safety goes beyond the functionality of the car and extends to add-ons such as underbody lighting. In Queensland, it is illegal to have underbody lighting on while you are driving your vehicle, but it is not illegal to have lights fitted. That means you can have underbody lighting on your car and turn the lights on when you are parked. The reason for this is because underbody lighting might distract other drivers.

I have bought a used car and it is not roadworthy - can I return it?

When buying a used car in Queensland you have certain rights depending on whether you buy the car privately or through a dealership. If you buy the car privately, the maxim of caveat emptor applies - or in common terms, buyer beware. What this means is that when buying a car privately you need to do your own checks to ensure that what you are buying is what you get. You cannot return a privately purchased vehicle if it is not roadworthy; the onus of fixing it up will fall to you. 

If you buy a car with a dealer you will get a statutory warranty for the car, provided that you buy a car that has done less than 150,000km and is less than 10 years old. In some cases you will be able to purchase an extended warranty. If a car dealer has sold you an unroadworthy car you have the right to return the vehicle to them and receive a full refund or exchange the vehicle for a similar one that is roadworthy. 

How can I report a dodgy roadworthy certificate?

Sometimes a vehicle will be sold with a roadworthy certificate which has been provided by an unscrupulous mechanic who has passed the vehicle despite unroadworthiness. If this is the case, you can make a complaint about a Queensland safety certificate by:

By reporting the certificate you can notify the Queensland Government of this unsafe practice. 

Stay safe on Queensland roads

Reporting an unsafe vehicle is as simple as noting down the number plate and phoning Queensland Transport. While you are not obliged to report unsafe driving or vehicles, it is worth taking the time to do so. If you can save someone’s life by putting a stop to an unsafe practice, then it’s worth the effort to pick up the phone and call. 

If you know that your own vehicle may need a service, don’t wait for someone to report you — call your mechanic. After all, if you are involved in an accident and it is found that your vehicle’s poor condition caused or contributed to the damage, any insurance you have may be negated and you may be liable for a lot of repairs.

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Last update on:
June 10, 2020
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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