Schoolies Driving Tips

NRMA Safer Driving‘s Mark Toole has some important advice for young drivers heading off on their schoolies road trip.

Schoolies Driving Tips

WITH FREEDOM COMES RESPONSIBILITY: With Schoolies here, young drivers must drive responsibly.

The end of the school is an exciting time and many young drivers travel long distances to celebrate. The schoolies road trip can be their first long distance drive without supervision and, in some cases, their first driving experience on highways and freeways.

It’s important to start with making sure seat belts are worn. According to the NSW Centre of Road Safety, one person loses their life each week on average in NSW from not wearing a seat belt. Despite all the sophisticated safety features now present in cars, the seat belt is still the only thing stopping occupants being ejected from the car in a crash.

Drivers also need to ask themselves how they are feeling. Excited? Nervous? Stressed? Recognising your emotional state is important for safer driving.

Ensure you get enough rest before every trip and, for longer drives, make sure there is more than one driver ready to take over. Try to stop at least every two hours for 15 minutes and take advantage of rest stops along the way. Remember: Stop, Revive, Survive.

Planning your trip is also helpful for managing personal tiredness and comfort. Spending a little time researching and printing out a detailed map or writing down where the driver reviver sites are located (and opening times) is a good investment.

A long road trip can make driving difficult for new drivers. Noisy friends, higher traffic speed, challenging weather conditions and road works can be difficult if the young driver is not prepared for them. Ask yourself: How long will this trip take? Do I have a contingency plan if it takes longer than I planned? What is the best way to go? And when is the best time to leave?

It’s important, as a driver, to feel confident on all roads you are driving on. Highways require practice so ensure this occurs and you are confident in lane merging, overtaking and speed management.

What to do if you are a passenger

If you are a passenger, be prepared to speak up if you don’t feel safe. As part of NRMA’s Live Learn Drive program we found more than 50 per cent of students didn’t tell a driving friend they didn’t feel safe. Often they are scared of looking uncool in front of their friends, but speaking up can save lives.

Ask yourself how you can help the driver to drive at low risk. Unnecessary noise and distractions make driving that much harder. Be considerate of the driver, share the driving, help navigate, and offer suggestions for departure times, rest and fuel stops.

Finally, do you have roadside assistance? If not, sign up for NRMA’s Free2go before setting off. Free2go Membership entitles you to free roadside assistance, even is it’s not your car or you are a passenger.

Tips for preventing accidental lock ins

NRMA Patrol helping kid locked in car

PRIORITY CALL: Children locked in cars are always a top priority for our patrols: they will drop everything to rescue a child, regardless of whether the caller is an NRMA Member.

In the past 12 months NRMA patrols across NSW and the ACT have rescued almost 2,500 young children accidentally locked in cars, a 16 per cent increase over the last four years.  But what is causing this increase?

“Human error is not always to blame. Over-zealous pets knocking internal door locks and auto lock car technology result in calls to the NRMA,” says Dimitra Vlahomitros, NRMA Senior Policy Adviser, Road Safety.

“More than 40 per cent of survey respondents that have driven with a young child in the last year said they had felt anxious or pressured by another driver waiting for them to put their child in the car or load shopping.

“This additional pressure can often lead to accidental lock-ins with the majority of calls for help coming from car parks. Residential driveways are also notorious locations for lock-ins,” Ms Vlahomitros said.

The NRMA is reminding the community that it is illegal and dangerous to leave children inside a car at any time, however today’s temperatures raise the risk even further.

On a 40-degree day it won’t take long at all for temperatures inside a locked car to reach 80 degrees – that’s cooking temperatures and obviously no place for a child or pet.

Today’s high temperatures across the state could expose children and pets to organ failure within minutes so the message is clear – don’t leave children or pets in the car, regardless of the circumstances.

With this in mind, The NRMA encourages parents to follow these tips may reduce an accidental lock-in:

  • Find an alternative to car keys being used as a ‘distraction toy’ for a young child.
  • Try and place keys in a clothes pocket.
  • Focus on where you put your keys, particularly when taking a phone call, loading the boot or placing a child in a car seat.
  • Leave the driver door ajar or window down when packing the boot or moving away from the car.
  • Don’t rush because another driver is waiting for the parking space.

The NRMA call centre receives an average of 12 anxious calls every day from Members and non- members.

“We are the primary responder to these situations, taking almost half of all calls for help for kids or pets accidentally locked in cars,” Ms Vlahomitros said.

“NRMA Members and non-members alike, think of us first when they find themselves in this stressful situation. The other half call friends or family to bring a spare key, carry their own spare key or call 00.”

Have you ever accidentally locked your keys in your car? What caused you to do it?

Useful links:

What should you do if you see a child locked in a hot car?
NRMA Advocacy Hub

11 tips for safe towing

Four wheel drive towing caravan
Towing a caravan, trailer, boat or horse float can be daunting experience for first timers and experienced drivers alike. Keep these tips in mind next time you plan on hitting the road with something in tow.

  1.  Ensure your vehicle and towbar have the right towing capacity and consider using a weight distribution hitch if your trailer causes rear-end sag and lifts the front of your car.
  2. Ensure the vehicle and trailer are roadworthy (and registered!)
  3. Don’t forget the tyres – trailer tyres are just as important as the towing vehicle and may look better than they really are.
  4. Ensure wheel bearings, suspension, brakes and lights are all in working order.
  5. Make sure you know the height of your load – getting stuck in a tunnel is not fun.
  6. Practice driving with your trailer before hitting the road – get used to the way the trailer moves before you need to battle traffic or tricky roads.
  7. Practice reversing your trailer – particularly if you are towing a boat for the first time and don’t want to be embarrassed at the local boat ramp!
  8. It can take a 4WD and caravan over 25-metres stop from 60km/h, let alone 110km/h. Remember to leave at least 60 metres between your combination and heavy vehicles or other vehicles towing trailers, unless you’re overtaking.
  9. Avoid sudden lane changes. Allow longer distances for braking, overtaking and joining traffic.
  10. Allow time for more rest stops – not only is towing more tiring, but rest stops will allow you to regularly check couplings, doors, hatches and that your load is secure.
  11. Make sure your caravan or trailer is covered next time you hit the road. NRMA Road Assist Premium Care covers up to 3.5 tonnes including trailers and caravans and Premium Plus covers anything up to 10 tonnes including up to $3,000 in breakdown benefits.

Do you have any other tips?

- Read up on the full towing rules.
- Find out more about caravan towing
- Looking for a new towing vehicle? Check out some of our latest reviews

Finding your optimal driving position

UP STRAIGHT: Your backside should be placed towards the back of the seat for support of your lower spine.

UP STRAIGHT: Your backside should be placed towards the back of the seat for support of your lower spine.

Ensuring your car is set up correctly for every journey not only provides you with optimal comfort, it will also help to ensure your journey is a safe one.

Here NRMA Safer Driving take you through a few simple tips from your feet to your head to help you ensure you are set up in your car correctly.


  • Your right heel should be placed on the floor between the accelerator and the brake. Your foot should able to swivel between the accelerator and brake without lifting off the floor.
  • Your left heel should rest on the footrest provided in most vehicles on the left side wall of the foot well. It should be placed here at all times for an automatic vehicle and when not in use for the clutch in a manual vehicle.

Legs and back

  • There should be a slight bend in your knees which not only aids in comfort but  also acts as a brace in case of a crash and allows for better absorption of road bumps while driving. Straight legs do not provide the required dexterity required to operate the foot controls correctly.
  • Your backside should be placed towards the back of the seat for support of your lower spine and posture.
  • Move the car seat forward or back to ensure you are not too far away from the foot controls and the steering wheel. You can also move the car seat up and down in most modern vehicles.

Steering wheel

  • Most modern vehicles have numerous adjustments for the steering wheel which is paramount for safe deployment of the airbags. Steering wheels commonly can be adjusted up down and also in and out in telescopic manner.
  • The steering wheel should be lowered as much as possible without blocking your view of instrument information such as speedometer. Ideally it should sit facing towards your chest (not face) with approximately an A4 page distance between your and the middle of steering wheel. Any closer than A4 page length could result in an increased risk of injury in the event of an airbag deployment in a crash.
  • After making the adjustments mentioned above, place both wrists on top of the steering wheel.  Your arms should be completely straight. This allows you to have a slight bend in your arms when returning your hands to the normal holding of the steering wheel position.  This again helps aid with the correct amount of dexterity for steering and use of auxiliary controls.

 Seat Belt

  • Seat-belt_22.07Low, Flat, Firm: There should be no twists or knots in the belt. Seat belts are designed to be fitted across the strong points of the skeleton. Low, flat and firm across the hips and shoulder.
  • The seat belt height can be adjusted in most vehicles via a mechanism which slides up and down the inside right pillar of the car. A rule of thumb is for the seat belt adjuster to sit approximately even with your right ear.

Head Rest

  • Designed to support your head in a sudden impact, and reduce neck injury and whip lash.
  • The middle of the headrest should sit around the rounded position of your skull where it meets your spinal column.

Now that you are all set up correctly, you can ensure you have a safe and comfortable drive, every drive.

Do you check your optimal position regularly? Was this something you were taught when learning to drive?

Check out NRMA Safer Driving for more advice and to book a lesson.

GPS, Compasses, Cows: How to find your location when broken down


MOO: There have been instances where the name of a farmhouse or breed of cow in a paddock has helped our staff to locate a breakdown.

No one ever plans to breakdown, especially in an unfamiliar area when away from home. When this happens the first instinct is to look for help, more often than not from the NRMA.

On receiving your call, the call centre representative will ask: “What is your location? Are you in a safe place?”. If you don’t recognise your surroundings, this can be hard to answer. Fortunately, there are a few different ways you can help us find you, so we can get you back on the road again in no time.

NRMA Smartphone App

The NRMA Smartphone App is free to download and is available for Apple, Android and Windows devices. When you first download the app, enter your membership number and postcode details. These will then be stored for future use. When you need to request Roadside assistance, simply log on to the app and follow the steps. You don’t need to call and wait in the queue. The location of the callout will be sent using your smartphone’s GPS so we will find you.

GPS Units and Mobile Phones

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are available through Satellite Navigation Units and many smartphone mapping applications, including Google Maps. Most of the time, your GPS device or smartphone will provide the street or road name where you are broken down within a 1km radius in Metropolitan Areas or a 5km radius in rural locations.

Coordinates from a GPS unit or Compass App (under ‘Utilities’ on an iPhone or you can download on other smartphones) can also be used if you are unfamiliar with your location. Our call centre staff can also guide you through the process of retrieving this information from your phone or GPS unit.

Local Area Knowledge

If you don’t have a smartphone or GPS, any details about a location can help us find you, especially in rural areas. Information such as the direction you are travelling or approximate distance from the last town can be helpful.

There have been many instances where local information such as the name of a farmhouse or breed of cow in a paddock has helped our staff to locate a breakdown. Our call centre staff will try to obtain as much information through questioning and often conference a call with a local contractor to help us work out where you are so we can get to you quicker.

Emergency Phones 

You may have seen various emergency bays with phones in your travels along freeways and highways and wondered what they do. Each emergency phone has a three digit serial number which provides its exact location and direct calls to 13 11 11 so we can arrange Roadside Assistance. In the event of an emergency or accident, our staff can transfer a call to an emergency service or insurance provider.

If you happen to break down in an area you are unfamiliar with, don’t panic. Just contact the NRMA, follow the tips above and be sure to find a safe spot to wait. Then a friendly NRMA Patrol will attend as soon as possible. In the meantime, safe driving!

Have you ever broken down in an unfamiliar location? What did you do?

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