Let there be light… for fog’s sake


Do some drivers need to remind themselves when and when not to use their lights?

There is no two ways about it. Vehicles need headlights. Cars, motorcycles, buses, trucks, whatever your preferred mode of transportation, it’s safe to say at some point you’ll need to use them to see where you’re going on roads.

Close your eyes (not while you’re driving of course) and imagine trying to drive at night with no headlights on. Of course there are overhead street lamps illuminating the road ahead, but your headlights act as one of a vehicle’s primary safety measures. Without them there would be trails of destruction everywhere. Knotted and twisted metal would be strewn across highways and bi-ways, and there would as much broken glass as there would be broken bones.

The importance of vehicle headlights may be stating the obvious; however it is a constant bone of contention amongst drivers. A major complaint we often hear from road users is drivers whose cars have only one headlight working. As a result they use their high beam to compensate, dazzling others and proving themselves a considerable hazard. A relatively minor fix can, in the long run, prevent a relatively major expense should that one light be the cause of an accident.

Diligence and etiquette of other drivers is another factor which is just as important. Where and when to use your lights, is just as essential as the mechanical integrity of a vehicle. A second issue which is continually under the spotlight (pun intended) is the improper use of fog lights.

According to the Roads and Maritime Service, ‘Front and rear fog lights must only be used in fog or rain, or when conditions such as smoke and dust limit your vision’, and improper use can result in a fine of $104 for anyone caught breaking the law.

This comment from one NRMA Member through our SpeakOut platform sums up what many other drivers have experienced. If you agree or have any other suggestions now is the time to speak out and let us know what changes you want.

It is safe to say that it is not uncommon for some drivers to use their fog lights even when they don’t need to.

So what is the answer to solving these minor problems which can cause some major headaches? Increased vigilance and fines from our transport police, or increased signage to remind drivers and promote further awareness?

RMS safety rules for lights and horns

NRMA buying advice – fog lights

Tell us what campaign you want to see here

NRMA in the 60s – vintage tech, seatbelts, and Holden panos

NRMA is celebrating 90 Years of Roadside Assistance in October. Here’s the fifth in a series of blogs about our story. 

Holden - roadside job - 60s JOB FOR A HOLDEN: In 1965 the patrolmen were issued with the most popular car of the day, the Holden panel van.

JOB FOR A HOLDEN: In 1965 the patrolmen were issued with the most popular car of the day, the Holden panel van.

By the end of 1959 road service calls were totaling up to 10,000 per week. This number of calls required quick and efficient service, so it was planned that the total fleet of J Vans would be replaced by the more modern Morris Minor 1000 van. This new fleet would be fitted with the latest equipment, stored in such a way that it increased patrols’ efficiency.

Again, the number of calls overloaded the available radio network. By the end of 1961, a third radio channel was added to cope with the road service requirements. Inward lines to the call centre were increased by 20 per cent to keep up with the jump in demand and arrangements were made to upgrade the radios to more efficient transistor sets.

By 1966 the in car transceivers were capable of channel switching, allowing for greater accessibility and flexibility in peak periods. By this time, the NRMA also had a fourth radio channel added. The upgrades in communication technology had a positive effect on waiting times: 83 per cent of metropolitan jobs were serviced within 30 minutes.

Transistor Radio

DO YOU COPY: The iconic transistor radio receiver revolutionised communication in the 60s, leading to billions of sales worldwide.

With over half a million road service calls being taken annually, NRMA was again obliged to modernise its fleet. In 1965 the patrolmen were issued with the most popular car of the day, the legendary Holden panel van. The larger, heavier vehicle  was more comfortable for the patrolmen, as well as offering more efficient storage.

During the 1960s the first ‘patrol class’ was held. The course introduced the scope, limits and logistics of practical road service; patrols were taught how to relate to a distressed Member, radio operation and techniques, control room procedure and the sequence used for fault finding.

Funnily enough, the NRMA was initially against the bid for compulsory seat belts. It took the position that its Members could be trusted to drive at safe speeds. However the association did advocate the voluntary addition of seatbelts in cars. It even set an example by installing seatbelts in the entire patrol fleet.

60s uniform

DAPPER: NRMA Technician – K McLachlan – models a snazzy white coat, shirt and tie combo.

In 1967 a long standing practice was updated. The uniform of the patrolmen now included shorts in the summer. Whilst this casual addition was included in the uniform, the strict presentation of the patrols was still paramount. Shorts were only allowed to be worn as long as a tie and long sock were worn with them. Whilst on the job, patrols were still required to wear a dustcoat over the uniform to ensure they kept clean.


“I took a call from a lady who said she had a hole in her turn slowly. I could not wait to get to this call and find out what part of a vehicle was a ‘turn slowly’.

The lady and a friend were looking intently under the bonnet when I arrived; I hurried over to have a closer look. She certainly did have a hole, and it certainly was in her turn slowly, or radiator cap, to those of us more knowledgeable motor buffs.” Open Road

What do the 60s mean to you? Do you remember the first time you called NRMA?

Sydney CBD speed limit to be reduced to 40km/h soon

SIGN OF THE TIMES: Over the next fortnight there will be VMS road signs for motorists and a widespread advertising campaign including newspaper and radio ads to make sure anyone who missed the announcement in May is ready for the change.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: Over the next fortnight there will be VMS road signs for motorists and a widespread advertising campaign including newspaper and radio ads to make sure anyone who missed the announcement in May is ready for the change.

Last week, NSW Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay announced that a 40km/h speed limit will be introduced in a large part of the Sydney CBD  at the end of September.

“The CBD’s 40km/h speed limit zone will be rolled out from Saturday 27 September as we work to further improve pedestrian safety,” Minister Gay said.

“Considering a vehicle that hits a pedestrian at 50km/h is twice as likely to cause a fatality as the same vehicle travelling at 40km/h, this speed limit change will deliver significant safety benefits.

“The new 40km/h limit zone will operate in the area bound by Castlereagh Street to the east, Kent Street to the west and Hay Street to the south. It will also link in with the current 40km/h speed limit in The Rocks to the north of the CBD. The area will include a 40km/h speed limit on and adjacent to George Street.

“It’s not only motorist behaviour that needs to change – if you’re walking around, cross at the lights, obey traffic signals, look both ways before stepping onto the road and don’t get distracted by your phone,” Minister Gay said.

NRMA broadly supports the 40km/h speed limit. The average traffic speed in the CBD is around 20-30km/h so it won’t have any noticeable impact on traffic flow. We would urge people to be aware of the speed limit particularly where they might have come off the Harbour Bridge or Anzac Bridge at 70 or 60km/h and suddenly enter the CBD. Its important to know that the limit will be 40km/h, not 50km/h.

What do you think of this news?


Directing our traffic lights

Traffic light - resized

Traffic lights, they’re the gatekeepers of our roads – but can they be improved?

Traffic lights, they’re the gatekeepers of our roads. They’re like a central nervous system for the vast interconnecting network of our streets, safely guiding us from point A to point B. They constantly send messages to drivers and pedestrians, telling us when to stop and when it’s safe to go.

Clearly serving a huge purpose, they keep us safe and help to keep us on our way in as efficient a manner as possible, so why do we get so frustrated with them? Everyone has experienced the lip-bitingly infuriating problem of hitting consecutive red lights. We’ve even seen traffic lights stop the flow of traffic for ‘invisible’ pedestrians, nowhere to be seen but still managing to hold you up just that little bit longer whilst a green man facilitates their safe passage.

There is, however, no denying that traffic lights are necessary to prevent all kinds of pandemonium from being unleashed on our roads. The question is, is there anything that can be done to improve these bastions of our roads? One suggestion that has been made to us, via our SpeakOut suggestion platform, is the removal of red arrows.

According to the RMS, a red arrow indicates ‘You must not turn right but you can go straight ahead or turn left if the way is clear’. This, however, is not a practice which is employed in countries such as the US or the UK, so do why do we need it in Australia? In short, it is due to safety as well as it being a practice which has always been in place.

In the past we have called for improvements to traffic lights. One of our suggestions in NRMA’s 2011 Decongestion Strategy was to improve traffic sensors and signal phasing so that traffic lights can detect the length of queues. This would help prioritise traffic signals and get cars through as efficiently as possible. Our system has been in place for so long that it may be impractical to take away red arrows, but we can make the system we have more intuitive and efficient.

Should our current practices be amended to fall in line with other nations? Is there anything else other countries do that we can adopt?

Show your support or suggest a campaign with NRMA

Get involved and see more campaign suggestions

RMS road rules on traffic lights

Is this crazy street sign in the CBD round the bend?

Is this confusing street sign about to buckle under its own weight?

Is this confusing street sign about to buckle under its own weight?

Back in January we showed you a street sign with 11 different instructions bundled together in one confusing mass in Bathurst Street. It seemed that deciphering just where and when you could legitimately park there was a task of Herculean proportions.      

Not only is it street signs befuddling drivers, some parking meters are causing just as much head scratching throughout the CBD. Back in February we posted this shot of a parking meter which was as clear as mud, leaving many users perplexed as to what precisely was permitted.      

Only a short stroll from the original offender another sign, just as baffling in its execution as its Bathurst St counterpart, has been spotted. En-route to our Wynyard office in York Street, an NRMA staffer grabbed this snapshot of the culprit, so top heavy it appears to be buckling under the pressure of its own directions.

Not only does the sign display the same confusion as its CBD partners, but on closer inspection, the uppermost directions have bent so much they are all but obscured. We don’t believe we’re alone in thinking that this example of street signage is not only baffling but potentially raises some OH & S issues (just how far will this eyesore bend backwards).

There are of course straight forward options on offer for Sydney motorists to find parking. From city operated car parks, parking meters and parking permits to the free 15-minute parking (currently being trialled) in main street retail areas, there are simple ways to find parking in Sydney.

Is there a simpler way of relaying parking instructions to Sydney drivers? We think there is and we’re looking for your help.

Stay tuned as we’ll soon be launching a competition looking to redesign complex Sydney street signs. So start your creative juices flowing and help us breakdown the barriers of confusion.

In the meantime head over to our SpeakOut platform and tell us what road and motoring issues are driving you mad.