The Not-So Squeaky-Clean World Of Roadside Windscreen Washers

Allegations of intimidation and harassment in one city has prompted police to stamp out "aggressive" and illegal behaviour.

The squeegee-wielding window washers are a common sight for commuters waiting for traffic lights to change, and often conjure up mixed responses from motorists and governments.

READ MORE: Police Pose As Windscreen Washers To Catch Drivers On Their Phones 

A recent spike in complaints alleging intimidation and harassment across several Perth suburbs has prompted WA Police to stamp out the "aggressive" and illegal behaviour.

In fact, roadside windscreen washing, or paying someone for it, is an offence across all states and territories, except the ACT.

Image: Canberra Drivers Facebook page

"These people are dangerous to themselves and everyone else," CEO of the Australian Pedestrian Council Harold Scruby told 10 daily. 

Where is roadside windscreen washing banned?

Let's start with national legislation.

According to the Australian Road Rules, first approved by the now-called Transport and Infrastructure Council back in 1999, a pedestrian "must not cause a traffic hazard by moving into the path of a driver".

Pedestrians must not stand on or move onto a road to solicit contributions, hitchhike, display an advertisement, sell or offer articles for sale, or wash or clean (or offer to watch or clean) the windscreen of a vehicle.

These are "model laws" that have no legal effect, yet form the basis of road rules across each state and territory -- many of which apply them.

In Queensland, not only is it illegal to clean windscreens, it's illegal for a driver or passenger to pay for, or offer to buy, any service from a person standing on the road.

The same applies in New South Wales and in Perth, where it attracts a $50 fine.

These rules are designed to protect both pedestrians and motorists.

"You don’t have to be bright to realise that having people walking around and in between moving vehicles is unsafe," said Scruby. 

What about the ACT?

Contrary to national legislation, Canberra is the only place in the country that allows windscreen washers.

Current laws, under Section 22 of the Road Transport Regulation 2000 pitch the practice alongside "roadside commerce".

This wasn't always the case. According to the ABC, an earlier Labor government lifted a ban on windscreen washers back in 2004.

Two years later, the ACT coroner reportedly called for a return of the ban after the death of a driver was found to be in part due to distraction caused by having her windscreen cleaned.

But nothing changed, and how the law was lifted remains unclear.

"It's bizarre. Any government that is allowing this isn't advocating its duty of care," Scruby said.

A spokesperson for the Justice and Community Safety Directorate (JACS) told 10 daily many of the people conducting windscreen washing at intersections in the ACT are otherwise unemployed.

"A complete ban of this activity would remove a form of income for those people," the spokesperson said.

Scruby said he believes the ACT is "anti-pedestrian".

According to JACS, road safety has been a "constant consideration" amid plans to extend Canberra's light rail system, with these activities banned at five intersections along the corridor since October 29.

"Additional safety concerns arise for road users from these activities at the specified intersections," JACS said.

"The ACT Government is committed to continuing to review these activities to ensure that road safety remains a constant consideration in determining whether to permit these activities."

Contact the author ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au