Is driving with headphones legal?

Driving with earphones

TAKE THEM OUT: Don’t drive with earphones

Have you seen people drive while wearing headphones?

Although wearing headphones while driving is not explicitly illegal, the practice is dangerous and could result in prosecution if deemed to be the cause of an accident.

A distraction, including wearing headphones emitting loud music while driving, could come under NSW Road Rule 297(1). This section of the Road Rules is a catch all provision that covers any distraction that causes a driver not to have proper control of a vehicle and, for example, have an accident.

In some circumstances it may also be possible that the sound coming from the headphones causes a significant enough distraction for the driver not to have proper control of a vehicle, that a police officer issues an infringement notice even where there isn’t an accident (for example where there is a near miss situation).

It’s also worth noting that loud music being emitted from vehicles causing an ‘offensive noise’ comes under Sections 16 & 17 of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Noise Control) Regulation 2008. However, this would likely be difficult to prosecute and would not be an issue with headphones.

Drivers should always be alert to what is happening around them. By using headphones, the driver is likely to be less aware of the surrounding traffic conditions. If you wear headphones that dull or block out other sounds, you may not hear sirens or horns, which could get you and other drivers into big trouble. It’s simple, your hearing is an essential tool in your overall driving skills package.

Do you often see people driving with headphones? Do you think this practice should be made illegal?

Do you have Road Assist from The NRMA? Don’t get caught without it.

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Tailgating: What’s the big rush?

TAILGATING: How often do you experience this on the road?

TAILGATING: How often do you experience this on the road?

You’d be an extremely lucky driver if you hadn’t experienced tailgating while driving in New South Wales (or pretty much anywhere, really).

We’ve covered the dangers of tailgating before - this blog explains that in this state alone, there are more than 10,000 rear-end crashes every year.

But why are people tailgating? Are drivers in such a rush that they’re willing to put the lives of others (and themselves) at risk?

Just recently on a drive from Sydney to Wollongong, I thought I’d momentarily entered a Steven King movie when I found a massive truck, high beams flashing wildly, bear down on me in the left-hand lane and almost swallow me and my family.

With the cruise control set on exactly the speed limit (110km/h), I was following a steady stream of Friday night traffic and had nowhere to go.

Why was that truck driver in such a hurry? Was he running behind schedule? Was he desperate to get home from work? Or did he just like to intimidate other drivers in his big rig?

I’ll never know because I didn’t get a chance to chat with him, thankfully. If you are the victim of aggressive tailgating, don’t intimidate the driver. Call the police if you fear you’re in danger, or simply let them pass if you have the chance.

Of course you can switch out ‘truck’ with just about any vehicle and it’s likely to be a familiar story to many who use the road. It’s one that is in no way limited to heavy vehicles.

It’s also not just on highways that tailgating is a problem – it’s just that the speeds involved substantially increase the level of danger.

But we experience forms of this behaviour every day. At the lowest end it’s annoying and dangerous. At the extreme end it can be deadly.

Have you experienced tailgating on the road and how often? Who do you find are the main offenders and why do you think they are in such a hurry?

Do you have Road Assist from The NRMA? Don’t get caught without it.

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Think twice this Australia Day holiday period

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We remind motorists that double demerits apply from 22 January to 26 January 2016 inclusive. Please drive safely and take extra care on the roads. 

On 4 January 2016 the standard penalty for mobile phone offences rose to four demerit points. Since the end of last year, mobile phone offences have been included in double demerit periods. This means those caught talking or texting illegally while driving during this Australia Day public holiday will incur eight demerit points – a huge amount when the threshold on unrestricted licences is 13 points.

The double demerit point scheme now applies for the following types of offences:

  • Speeding
  • Illegal use of mobile phones
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Riding without a helmet

The scheme is designed to encourage safe and responsible driving. Working in conjunction with financial penalties, demerit points provide a strong incentive to drive within the law.

Double demerit periods were introduced in 1997 in NSW. By law, double demerit periods must be advertised and awareness campaigns are co-ordinated with traditional enforcement and increased police numbers. See the RMS Demerits points page for a full rundown of offences and penalties.

Do you think the Double Demerits scheme is an effective way of preventing dangerous driving?

Do you have Road Assist from The NRMA? Don’t get caught without it.

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Tips for driving in hot weather

Dollarphotoclub_82620688The wisest advice when the weather gets very hot is to assume a horizontal position and chill out somewhere cool and sheltered. However, Australians know that driving in hot weather is often necessary. By taking a few precautions, you can stay cool, avoid heat-related breakdowns, or in the worst case scenario, be safe if your car does breakdown.

STAY HYDRATED: Drive with spare water, enough for all your passengers and any pets too.  On a long trip this may be several litres. Avoid caffeinated drinks. They might help keep you awake, but they are also diuretics which can cause your body to lose water.

PROTECT YOURSELF: Wear and bring extra sunscreen, and a hat in case you have to spend time outside the car.

CLEAN WINDSCREEN:  In summer, there is a longer time period that the sun stays on the horizon making it more difficult for you to see east in the morning and west in the evening. A clean windscreen or a clean visor is essential, as any dirt and scratches diffract bright light, obscuring your vision.

EMERGENCY KIT: Be sure that you have a well-stocked emergency kit in the car. A kit should include water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables (only necessary if you have an older vehicle), a torch with extra batteries, road warning triangles and/or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools, and a first aid kit.

PLAN AHEAD: Make sure that your mobile phone is fully-charged (or bring a charger you can plug into the vehicle) and that you have some cash in your wallet for emergencies.

MONITOR YOUR FUEL GUAGE: Don’t let your fuel tank go to empty before filling up. This is fairly obvious but assumes greater importance when the weather is extremely hot.

SERVICE: If going on a long trip or if you haven’t had your car serviced in the last six months, you can prevent an uncomfortable breakdown by getting it looked over by a professional so you can be confident it’s in good shape. The service will check these essential maintenance items we’ve outlined below.

BATTERY CHECK: Hot temperatures put additional strain on your battery.  Most batteries are maintenance-free these days, but if your battery has caps check the level and top up as necessary. If you have a maintenance free wet cell,  gel cell or absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery, look them over to be sure that they haven’t cracked or leaked. For all types of battery, clean any corrosion from the terminals, secure all connections and assure that the battery is firmly mounted and safe from vibration. Battery testing, as well as delivery and installation by a qualified technician, is free for NRMA Members.

COOLANT SYSTEM:  The coolant in your radiator should be replaced on a periodic basis – check your owner’s manual for details. In between, check the level of fluid in your cooling system by looking for the plastic overflow tank under your hood. The easiest way is to check the plastic reserve tank that’s connected to the cooling system. On the side of the reservoir will be a low and high mark and the coolant level should be between the two marks. It’s always good practice to check the coolant level on the radiator via the radiator cap, with one important proviso – this should always be done when the engine is cold. Removing the cap when the engine is hot can cause coolant to spray out under pressure, seriously scalding you. If the level is low you can add coolant, again checking the owner’s handbook for the correct recommendation.

ENGINE OIL AND OTHER FLUID LEVELS: Hot weather driving puts heavy demand on all of your engine’s components, not just your cooling system. Check your engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid to make sure that they’re all at the recommended levels.

AIR CON: If your car air conditioning isn’t working as well as it has in the past, take it to a certified technician and have it serviced. Have them replace the cabin air filter, if it hasn’t been done within the past six months.

TYRES: Make sure that your tyres are properly inflated before you head out for a drive. Under-inflated tyres flex more, which causes heat buildup. If conditions are already hot, under-inflated tires are even more likely to fail. Don’t forget the spare, if your car has one, and check you have the jack and tools to change a wheel. Check the tyres’ tread depth while you’re at it, and if they are close to the wear limiters, consider replacing.

Did we miss any other tips? How do you prepare for driving in hot weather?

Other Useful Links:

  1. Getting your car ready for winter
  2. Drivers take note: roads are extra slippery after hot weather:
  3. Outback driving
  4. Before you leave home
  5. What should you do if you see a child locked in a hot car?
  6. What should you do if you see a pet locked inside a hot car?

The dangers of tailgating

Untitled-1Most drivers have been in a situation where they feel they are being followed too closely by another vehicle. The obvious risk is that the tailgating driver won’t have enough time to brake if needed, but that’s increased by the intimidation and distraction caused to the driver in front.

Broadly speaking, tailgating means driving without sufficient distance between vehicles to avoid a crash. Reaction time to an emergency ranges from 1.5 to 3 or more seconds, which means even the best of us are guilty of tailgating at some time.

Tailgating is a key factor to the most common serious crashes on our roads. More than 10,000 rear-end crashes are reported in NSW each year, with a greater number going unreported, as no one is injured. According to the RMS, rear-end crashes make up a staggering 40% of all reported crashes for experienced drivers.

The penalty for tailgating is a $425 fine and 3 demerit points. If you are being tailgated by an aggressive driver, do not allow them to indirectly control your speed or observation through intimidation. Get out of their way by pulling over or turning left. Avoid slowing or flashing your brake lights, as this may escalate the situation to road rage. You can report the driver to police or the business to which the vehicle belongs.

A 2-3 second gap (4-6 seconds in the wet) from the vehicle in front will ensure you have enough time to react and stop in most emergencies. This can be a challenge at first and you may feel like it’s costing you time, but watch a few tailgating drivers and you’ll see their progress is no better than your own.

Has a tailgater ever caused you to lose your cool?

Do you have Road Assist from The NRMA? Don’t get caught without it.

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