NRMA Policy Team

About NRMA Policy Team

The Government Relations and Public Policy Team carries out most of NRMA’s advocacy work to improve issues affecting motorists, such as safer roads, safer drivers, safer vehicles, transport economics and sustainable transport. The team also supports the NRMA Board in lobbying governments and organisations on behalf of our Members.

Learning to drive at 50

Not everyone gets their learner’s permit when they turn 16. We speak to two new drivers who put it off for nearly three decades.

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L PLATED: Armed and ready to go, James Powditch (pictured) has enlisted the help of  NRMA Safer Driving School to obtain his license.

When you drive past a car wearing L-plates you typically expect to see a teenager behind the wheel. But from time to time there will be a mature age learner – someone who has, after years of being a non-driver, decided to head to their local RMS office and take their learner’s test.

Michele Cranston, 52, a food editor and cookbook author, and James Powditch, 49, an artist, are mature age learner drivers who have enlisted the NRMA’s Safer Driving School to supplement supervised driving with friends and family.

People are curious and often ask both James and Michele why now, after more than 30 years, have they decided to become motorists?

“I grew up with my brothers and dad spending the weekend fixing their cars,” Michele says. “I was under the false impression that driving a car went hand in hand with fixing it all weekend.

“I moved to London early in my career and didn’t need a car, then moved to Sydney’s inner west and didn’t need a car, and then I had a child plus a job that involves travel, now I need a car and I need to know how to drive it!

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A WHOLE NEW WORLD:  “I’m looking forward to exploring the Hunter Valley and driving the Great Ocean Rd.”

“I decided it was time to stop filling taxi coffers and sit on my own four wheels! I am looking forward to exploring great restaurants in distant suburbs and visiting specialty suppliers and food producers who up until now have been voices at the end of the phone. Plans are also being made for driving trips to far flung places; I’m looking forward to exploring the Hunter Valley and driving the Great Ocean Road.”

James, on the other hand, says his partner Diane gave him a gentle push towards their local RMS at Marrickville two and a half years ago.

“Diane has wanted me to drive for a really long time. I passed the Driver Knowledge Test, I was on my way, no turning back. In 2013, I was given an NRMA driving lesson for Father’s Day. It’s still unused, all intentions to learn stalled until recently,” recalls James.

“How have I lived without a licence until now? Living in the inner city made it easy, my friends had licences as did past girlfriends, it didn’t cross my mind that I should hold my own golden plastic rectangle. Impending births of two children weren’t even enough of an incentive, for the first arrival my mother drove us to the hospital and the second Diane drove herself.

“I can see a few changes in my life once I get my licence – the who’s driving question which hasn’t been part of my social life to date may be raised regularly.

“The upside: my son will be able to play soccer again as his games are often in distant locales across Sydney and most importantly, I will be able to take jobs that I have had to decline previously because I couldn’t get a lift or move my equipment.”

Both James and Michele will take 10 driving lessons with NRMA Safer Driving School, aiming for one each week and an additional 60 to 80 hours of drive-time with supervising family and friends. As both are over 25 years of age, they are exempt from completing the Learner Driver Log Book and the mandatory 120 hours of supervised driving

Did you take up driving at a later stage in life? What were the main challenges you faced as a Learner driver?

Crash risk and the colour of your car

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The notion that there is a relationship between car colour and crash risk may initially sound ridiculous, equivalent to the belief that red cars go faster.

Nor is it likely that many people in the market for a new car would have ‘colour’ amongst airbags and electronic stability programs on their list of desired safety features.

Yet when light conditions are taken into consideration, there is a clear statistical relationship between a vehicle’s colour and its crash risk, as detailed in a report by Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) in 2007. Compared to white, colours such as black, blue, grey and others ranking lower on the visibility index were associated with higher crash risk in daylight hours.

MUARC’s research remains the most up to date research on this topic. It suggests crash severity is linked to vehicle colour, with “low visibility colours having higher risks of more severe crashes.”

Previous studies

A study in Epidemiology from 2002 found white and yellow cars had a slightly lower risk of being passively involved in a crash. This was followed by a study published in BMJ (British Medical Journal) in 2003 concluding that silver cars were 50% less likely than white cars to be involved in a crash resulting in serious injury. The association between silver and reduced risk continued even when confounding factors were adjusted.

Both these studies, according to MUARC, were inconclusive. These two studies, as well as prior ones, left the role of colour in influencing crash risk as being uncertain, prompting MUARC to undertake a more in-depth study.

The MUARC study

NRMA vehicle specialist Jack Haley said the MUARC study remains arguably the most comprehensive to probe the link between vehicle colour and crash risk.

“Previous international studies have examined vehicle visibility and colour but have not fully taken into account other factors that may have an impact on crash risk, such as driver demographics,” Mr Haley said.

Using crash data from Victoria and Western Australia, MUARC used the colour classifications black, blue, brown cream, fawn, gold, green, grey, maroon, white mauve, orange, pink, purple, red, silver and yellow, with all variables considered under the nearest category. Also included in the study were conditions such as light at the time of the crash, vehicle type, crash severity and state. Commercial vehicles and taxis were excluded.

Results

The result compared white vehicles with all other coloured vehicles. MUARC’s research showed there were a number of colours related to high risk, including:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Grey
  • Green
  • Red
  • Silver

None of the colours tested were statistically safer than white, though some had equal relative crash risk.

The association between colour and crash risk was highest during daylight hours, the risk associated with the above colours during this period up by 10%. The link was reduced during darker driving hours due to colour being less distinguishable and headlights further reducing colour’s effects. Results also showed that environmental factors had an impact on the relationship between colour and crash risk.

Of the study, Dr Soames Job of the RTA’s NSW Centre for Road Safety said the results were useful but other factors were more influential on crash risk and for drivers to be aware of this.

“Driving a darker coloured car can increase your crash risk,” Dr Job said, “but that is nowhere near as influential a factor as your driving behaviour. By driving within the speed limit, not driving after drinking and avoiding driving when tired, you increase your safety on the road.”

Is colour something you’ve taken into consideration when buying a car? Are there any colours you have difficulty seeing in certain conditions?

BLOG first published in 2007 – updated  23/6/15

Reviewing the facts about side mirrors

REFLECTION: While most modern vehicles now come standard with convex side mirrors, according to the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) side mirrors can be also be flat.

REFLECTION: While most modern vehicles now come standard with convex side mirrors, according to the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) side mirrors can be also be flat.

In recent weeks, NRMA’s magazine Open Road has received hundreds of emails about convex side mirrors, with some readers questioning whether they pose a safety risk because they make it difficult for a driver to judge the distance of traffic approaching from the rear.

The benefit of a convex side mirror is that the shape acts like a wide-angle lens, reducing a driver’s blind spot and thereby lessening the risk of a collision while changing lanes.

“There is a strong argument that the first priority in rear-view mirror design is to enable the driver to sight a vehicle to the rear, rather than judge its distance accurately,” says a spokesperson from the NSW Government’s Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

“Drivers also need to be aware that while a rear-view mirror assists in overall road awareness, a look over the shoulder is still essential to ensure safe manoeuvring.”

While most modern vehicles now come standard with convex side mirrors, according to the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) side mirrors can be also be flat. In fact, a convex mirror can be replaced legally with a flat mirror, provided the mirror conforms to design rules and its reflective surface is made of shatter-proof material or safety glass.

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The reflective surface of a driver’s side mirror must be at least 120mm x 200mm. Australian Design Rule 14/02 requires a driver’s side rear-view mirror to provide a field of view (as shown in the diagram below) of the road to the side and rear of the vehicle.

The ADRs specify that the driver’s side can have either a flat reflective surface or a convex reflective surface with a radius of curvature that is at least 1200mm.

The Road Users’ Handbook states that “before you change lanes, give your signal in plenty of time, check your mirrors and look over your shoulder for other vehicles”. The head check is necessary to ensure it is safe to change lanes – drivers should not depend on their mirrors alone.

What is your opinion on convex mirrors? Do you like or dislike?

Convex mirrors on cars

Double the high and still getting off

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Alarming drug driving statistics released last week by the NSW Police highlights the need to crack down hard on people caught driving high.

According to NSW Police, since January 1, random drug-testing operations have seen 29,500 drivers tested and 1,160 return positive results for drugs in their system, compared to 729 drivers out of 34,280 in 2013.

More than one-in-10 (11%) NSW road fatalities involved a motorist or motorcyclist who had illicit drugs in their system. Forty per cent of drug driving offences and fatal crashes involved a driver under the age of 30.

Analysis undertaken by NRMA earlier this year, showed that almost one-in-three drivers (488) convicted of a first offence for drug driving in NSW from 2010 to 2012 walked free after receiving a Section 10, were convicted without penalty, or had no conviction recorded.

NRMA President Kyle Loades said the number of people caught driving with drugs in their system had doubled and it was clear that some drivers were not getting the message that this type of anti-social behaviour was not on.

“The vast majority of drivers appreciate how stupid and dangerous this behaviour is, now magistrates need to do their job and get these offenders off our roads,” Mr Loades said.

“NRMA welcomes the announcement of the package of measures to combat drug driving,” Mr Loades said.

“The party season is just around the corner and it is critical that these measures are implemented as soon as possible.

“NRMA will work with the NSW Government to develop and communicate this important message.”

“NSW Police is doing a great job but it cannot do this alone, all arms of the NSW Government need to work together if we are to tackle this growing threat.”

“No one wants to share the road with a drug driver,” Mr Loades said.

Does drug driving on our roads concern you? How should the police crack down on this behavior?

$1.28 helps NSW take out petrol State of Origin: NRMA/RACQ

STATE v STATE: The NRMA and RACQ have conducted the state versus state analysis for the first time to highlight the discrepancies in petrol prices across states.

STATE v STATE: The NRMA and RACQ have conducted the state versus state analysis for the first time to highlight the discrepancies in petrol prices across states.

The inaugural state versus state petrol analysis for 2014 conducted by the National Roads & Motorists’ Association and RACQ has revealed that NSW had the cheapest petrol price for the year, with a low of 127.9 cents per litre for regular unleaded fuel recorded in Sydney.

In true State of Origin fashion, the contest was extremely tight, with Queensland’s cheapest price for the year recorded at 128.9 cents per litre in Brisbane.

The average price in NSW for regular unleaded fuel for the period from 1 January 2014 to 16 November 2014 was 147.7 cents per litre. By contrast, QLD’s average was 151.6 cents per litre. Alarmingly, Queensland’s highest average price of 165.5 cents per litre broke the record, exceeding the previous record in 2008.

The NRMA and RACQ have conducted the state versus state analysis for the first time to highlight the discrepancies in petrol prices across states. As families prepare to travel for the summer holidays, it is hoped the data will add insight into petrol price movements and give information to motorists before filling up.

The state versus state analysis found:

  • The cheapest centre in QLD for average prices was the Sunshine Coast 149.3 cents per litre
  • The cheapest centre in NSW was Sydney: 148.1 cents per litre
  • The most expensive centre in QLD was Weipa: 178.8 cents per litre
  • The most expensive in NSW was Tumut:  164.2 cents per litre

NRMA President Kyle Loades said the NRMA/RACQ analysis would hopefully shed some light on petrol prices in the two states.

“This is the first time our two clubs have conducted this sort of research and it is about helping to give our Members in both states more information about their local petrol prices,” Mr Loades said.

“NSW had to wait nine years to reclaim the State of Origin, however with more independents south of the border we are not surprised that NSW petrol prices are slightly lower. Regardless of which state you live in, the presence of independents means more competition and lower prices.”

RACQ spokesperson Renee Smith said fluctuating petrol prices in both states meant it was more important than ever for motorists to shop around.

“Support those service stations keeping their prices down, and if you live in Sydney or Brisbane where what you pay is impacted by the petrol price cycle, purchase at the bottom of the cycle when fuel is cheapest,” Ms Smith said.

“While NSW may’ve taken out the battle at the bowser this year, we hope strong competition in parts of QLD such as the Sunshine Coast gets us over the line in 2015.”