Whincup reigns as Sydney deluge floods concrete canyon

SAFETY FIRST:  On lap 18 race directors deployed the safety car to slow the race as the cars were aquaplaning down the straight at just 60km/h. By lap 19 the race was suspended due to the treacherous conditions with all cars called into pit lane.

SAFETY FIRST: On lap 18 race directors deployed the safety car to slow the race as the cars were aquaplaning down the straight at just 60km/h.

 

Torrential rain marred the second race of today’s NRMA Sydney 500 with the race ending under a safety car.

The dark clouds descended on Olympic Park and the thunder rumbled across the mountains just minutes before the start. 

darkness-fallsThe heavens opened on lap 13 and it was a mad rush to get in to the pits to change to wet weather tyres. Water flooded the track within three laps with some drivers calling for the race to be red flagged. 

On lap 18 race directors deployed the safety car to slow the race as the cars were aquaplaning down the straight at just 60km/h. By lap 19 the race was suspended due to the treacherous conditions with all cars called into pit lane.

The cars returned to the track behind the safety car on lap 21 and Jamie Whincup led the cars across the finish line for the second time in the day with the last lap called at lap 23 of 37. 

“That was probably the worst conditions I have ever been in,” Craig Lowndes told Channel 7.

Whincup claimed the V8 Supercars Championship crown two weeks ago at Phillip Island but that didn’t mean the competition was not fierce earlier today. The battle for second place raged with all three contenders suffering setbacks during the day.

Craig Lowndes came to grief in qualifying and was in doubt to even start race one after a heavy hit at turn six which triggered a safety car and the end of the session with one minute left on the clock. The early finish to qualifying saw Shane Van Gisbergen start way down the pack in 19th. Mark Winterbottom started the race on the third row before coming to grief in the race. 

whincuoWhincup joined Davison on the front row for the first race and despite having the championship sewn up,  Whincup did not slow on the tough street circuit. The champion elect went on to take victory in race one. Davison was forced to retire due to a power steering issue which saw him out of the entire round.

Lowndes’ crash saw him start down the order and ended up 13th overall. Shane Van Gisbergen was a casualty of the early finishing qualifying and finished sixth while Winterbottom crashed early in the race and ended up finishing 23rd. 

After race one Mark Winterbottom led Lowndes by 80 points and Lowndes and van Gisbergen were separated by just 21 points.

All points were allocated for the second race with the race being declared “run”. The wash up saw Winterbottom in second place in the championship points with van Gisbergen in third and Lowndes in fourth going into tomorrow’s race.

Did you watch the race? What was your favourite moment?

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?

Casualties plummet on upgraded Princes Highway

The NRMA's latest review of the Princes Highway, covering almost 430 kilometres from Dapto to the Victorian border, tells "a tale of two roads".

The NRMA’s latest review of the Princes Highway, covering almost 430 kilometres from Dapto to the Victorian border, tells “a tale of two roads”.

Injury crashes have plummeted by as much as 90 per cent as a result of upgrades to the Princes Highway to the north of Jervis Bay, according to the National Roads & Motorists’ Association’s latest review of the Princes Highway.

The NRMA review compared the most recent five year data provided by the NSW Centre for Road Safety with the previous five years data. It assessed 428 km of the Highway from Dapto to the NSW/Victorian border. It tells a tale of two roads, with almost 300 km of the Highway south of Jervis Bay Road classed as high risk, compared with just over 30 km in the northern section.

It also reveals the huge benefits from investing in safer roads, with injury crashes plummeting by as much as 90 per cent as a result of recent Highway upgrades.

The review found that re-routing and upgrading the Highway to a dual lane divided carriageway between Oak Flats and Kiama slashed injury crashes by 48 over the five year period to 2012.

In contrast, there are 16 sections of the Highway to the south of Jervis Bay Road that continue to be rated a high risk for motorists. Together these 16 sections resulted in 523 injury crashes and 22 fatal crashes in the same period.

Key findings of the audit include:

  • From 2008-2012 there were 1,014 casualty crashes resulting in 45 deaths and 1,401 injuries (2003-2007 there were 1,015 casualty crashes, 64 deaths; 1,441 injuries);
  • Three-quarters (75%) of all injury crashes occurred on undivided sections of the Highway, rising to almost 90 per cent (89%) in rural sections
  • Upgrades to the Highway mean that nearly one-fifth (18%) of the Highway is now rated by the Australian Roads Assessment Program (AusRAP) as low or medium-low risk, almost double the amount from the previous five years (9%)
  • The proportion of the Highway that is now classed as high risk has increased to 77% (64% 2003-2007) reflecting an increase in traffic and risk on those sections that have still not been upgraded
  • The cost of injury crashes on the Princes Highway through lost productivity and the provision of emergency, health and welfare services has fallen to $483 million (2003-07: $610 million).

NRMA local Director Alan Evans said the Princes Highway Audit painted a clear contrast of the broad benefits achieved when Government invested in the road network.

“Sections of the Princes Highway that have been upgraded have seen a dramatic fall in fatalities and injuries and reduced congestion – as well as delivering economic benefits to local businesses,” Mr Evans said.

“The fact that injury crashes fell by almost 90 per cent along certain upgraded sections highlights the enormous benefits that can be achieved when we invest in fixing dangerous roads.

“By contrast, sections of the Highway – particularly south of Jervis Bay – that haven’t been upgraded continue to claim innocent lives at an alarming rate.”

The NRMA review identifies a possible staged approach to the Albion Park Bypass that would help to keep people moving in the short term before the full bypass is constructed.

It also suggests ways to improve the approach to the North Kiama exit ramp, which would reduce confusion for motorists and reduce the risk of rear-end collisions and traffic congestion.

The audit also revealed that while traffic volumes south of Jervis Bay may not justify the complete upgrade to dual lane divided carriageway, two-by-one lane upgrades divided by crash barriers and greater use of wire rope crash barriers would considerably reduce crash rates and save lives.

“This report provides the Government with clear measures to build on the good work undertaken in recent years to make the Princes Highway safer, less congested and a better asset for local communities and businesses along the South Coast,” Mr Evans said.

“The Pacific Highway has taken too long to upgrade and as a result too many lives have been lost – we don’t want to repeat these mistakes with the Princes Highway.”

Do you agree that the upgraded sections of the Princes Highway are safer to drive on?

New changes to road rules

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Emergency and incident response vehicles are now allowed to travel in breakdown lanes, in one of two major road rule changes in recent months.

Motorists will see NRMA roadside patrols, police, fire, rescue, ambulance vehicles, and tow trucks using the breakdown lane or road shoulders on fast moving roads to access breakdowns under the recent Road Rule Amendment 307-2.

In the second road rule change which was brought in recently, drivers no longer need to report a minor collision to police, even for insurance purposes.

If a vehicle needs to be towed and no one is injured, drivers can now simply exchange details, organise their own tow and leave the area. You should only call the police if another driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or if they fail to stop and exchange details.

If an injury develops after the fact, a collision can be reported at a later time to the Police Assistance Line on 131 444.

NRMA local Director Michael Tynan says an informed motoring public is a safer motoring public.

“Being aware of changing rules and road use can alleviate confusion if motorists find themselves in breakdown or minor collision situations,” Mr Tynan says.

“NRMA roadside patrols, incident responders and tow trucks can now use breakdown lanes to reduce response time to stranded motorists.”

Should disability parking offenders face demerit points?

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MAKE THE POINT: Figures from the Office of State Revenue show about 16,000 fines are issued for disabled zone parking breaches each year. About 800,000 people around Australia have a disability parking permit.

In 2012, the NRMA argued for the introduction of demerit point penalties for people who illegally park in spaces reserved for disabled permit holders.

That’s why we were pleased to read in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph that NSW Roads Minister ­Duncan Gay has asked his ­department to look at adding the offence to the state’s ­demerit points list.

Although all types of misuse should be addressed, we believe it is important to tackle the highest level of misuse – knowingly using someone else’s permit without the presence of the permit holder. While we understand that detecting this offence is a difficult process, NRMA continues to believe that the current penalty for repeat offenders does not act as a sufficient deterrent.

NRMA believes that for non-permit holders, harsher penalties should apply for second or subsequent offences such as a substantial increase of the monetary fine and loss of demerit points. An education campaign promoting the heavy penalties, in conjunction with enforcement activities is also needed to ensure that people comply.

The availability of disability parking spaces should also be addressed. As the population ages, the demand for these disabled parking spaces will grow. The NSW Government must make sure that there are parking spaces to meet this demand.

So, the NRMA will be in touch with the Government to see how we can implement this policy as quickly as possible.

Do you agree that those who rort the disability parking scheme should face demerit points?