Think twice this long weekend

14305396_10154091658296185_9068969909394724053_o

Image courtesy of NSW Police Force Facebook

We remind motorists that double demerits apply from 30 September to 3 October 2016 inclusive. Please drive safely and take extra care on the roads. 

Also, 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 long weekend 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?

How to help your Learner Driver

SDSLearning to drive is one of the biggest things in a young person’s life. Your supervision can get them on the right track to be safe and confident on the road, but before you sit down in the passenger seat make sure you’re prepared.

Before you get on your way

  • Check your insurance policy – does it cover young drivers? Call your provider if unsure.
  • Make use of NRMA Free2Go. Free2go Membership is specifically designed for the needs of 16 to 20 year olds who are learning to drive or have their licence. Membership is free for the first year if you’re 17-20 years old or free for two years if you’re 16 years old.
  • Make use of available resources. The Learner Log Book provides an excellent overview of the right order to introduce new driving skills and experiences to your learner, along with key points that need to be covered.*

The keys2drive program is also great. Funded by the Australian government, it provides the learner and the supervising driver with a free session where both are in the vehicle. Both are able to learn from a  professional driving instructor, such as many of those from NRMA Safer Driving School.

Before you get into the car

  • Plan your trip: Sit down with your learner and discuss the drive you’re about to go on. Map out the trip and establish the learning goals and objectives. Follow a plan to reach them.
  • Supervise in all conditions and situations: Don’t be hesitant to let your learner drive when it’s raining, at night or even in fog. These are realistic situations they will face when they become a provisional driver, so the more they experience driving in these conditions the better.
  • Prepare yourself: Your mood and emotions can affect your teaching style, so never supervise when you’re tired, stressed, in a rush or anxious. It sounds simple but the best way to calm yourself down and prepare for a supervising session is to breathe. Take 10 mins to get yourself into the right headspace and maybe even think about what your fears may be. Discuss these with your learner to come up with a strategy to overcome them.

Before you head off

  • Prepare the learner: Ensure they are seated comfortably with the correct posture. This means ensuring they have a gentle bend in their knees, they are sitting up straight with the head support resting at least eye level, and that their wrists align with the top of the steering wheel, with a slight bend at the elbows. Make sure they are able to see all mirrors and adjust them if needed.

While driving

  • Coach rather than instruct: Get your learner thinking. Rather than telling them everything they should be doing, ask them and let them come up with some of the decisions. The tuition style of NRMA Safer Driving School is focused around independent learning. This can involve the instructor ‘talking forward’. For example, when approaching an intersection with a set of lights, they will ask the learner what the next step will be, ie, “We will be turning right at the next set of lights. What do you need to do to prepare for this?”
  • Give them more independence: As your learner gains more experience let them choose the route, have music on or other people in the car. Otherwise, the day they get their provisional licence will be the first time they experience this and they may not be adequately prepared.
  • Let them drive in all types of environments: Including when it’s raining, in fog and at night. They will experience these conditions once they are a provisional driver.
  • Debrief: Talk about the lesson once completed. Did you meet the learning goals and objectives? Document the outcomes and talk about what you should focus on next.

What about you? Have you ever supervised a Learner? What tips do you have to make it a good lesson?

*Other good reference tools for NSW learners are The Road User Handbook and A Guide to the Driving Test. For ACT learners, the ACT Road Rules Handbook and Supervising a Learner brochure are downloadable from roadready.act.gov.au.

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

- Renew your NRMA Membership
- Join the NRMA
- Find more about Membership options

Five tips to drive safely on country conditions this Easter

Dollarphotoclub_68148671

Easter is a really busy time on our roads, but unfortunately it’s also a period of high risk. That’s why the NRMA has teamed up with local councils surrounding the NSW and ACT border to remind motorists that they “don’t have to be speeding to be driving too fast on country roads.”  

The Easter Country Road Safety campaign was launched early this month after local data analysis by Yass Valley Council found as many as 33 per cent of local accidents involved drivers from other Local Government Areas. The campaign encourages motorists to consider the following:

1. Slow down on country roads, driver to the conditions
2. It takes longer to stop on gravel roads and no time to lose control
3. Expect the unexpected – animals, livestock, machinery and trucks
4. Don’t swerve for an animal – break, flash your lights, hit your horn
5. Remember: country road conditions change rapidly

Research has shown that a high number of country road crashes are ‘off road’, suggesting motorists may be selecting inappropriate speeds while driving on lower standard roads, and that interstate traffic may be unfamiliar with more varied road environments.

“Those unfamiliar with country roads might get a little nervous when they hit gravel roads or are confronted with animals crossing the road,” says NRMA Director, Kate Lundy.

“Likewise, those who are familiar with the roads and conditions may get complacent, and this can be a recipe for disaster when combined with long drives or night time conditions.”

Will you be driving on country roads these Easter Holidays?

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.

- Renew your NRMA Membership
- Join the NRMA
- Find more about Membership options

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?