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Be Coming Home After Christmas

It’s just five days until Christmas 2017 at the time of writing. It’s a time where we relax, maybe have a break from work, and we go driving just that little bit more. However we’re also told that this is a dangerous time of year to be on the roads and perhaps there’s some validity in that. Here’s some things you can do to help make our roads just that little bit safer.

Indicate.
This is constantly seen as the number one irritant to drivers in just about every survey about what annoys drivers. But why then are so many cars seen to have “broken indicators” or, as some cynically put it, “have run out of indicator fluid”? Cars are designed and engineered so the basics of driving are a fingertip away, and indicator stalks, be they on the left or right hand side of the steering column, are such.
Indicators are not optionable extras, nor are they difficult to use. If you’re changing lanes, indicate. If you’re merging, indicate. If you’re in a roundabout, indicate. And this doesn’t mean just a cursory flicker or two. Current laws state that “sufficient indication must be given”. Far too many drivers think one/two/three is enough. You should be indicating before leaving your lane and finishing indicating once the whole of your vehicle is the new lane. “NSW Roundabout indication rules” and “Top 10 misunderstood road rules
Roundabouts require you to to indicate as well, especially with three lane roundabouts. Let’s say the roundabout is a Y shape and you’re going left; it’s simple, you indicate left. If you’re going right, you indicate right to go in and then indicate left when exiting. That’s the law.

Headlights.
If you’re out and about and cars are coming toward you with headlights on, there’s a fair bet there’s a good reason why. Most cars today are built with either an auto headlight on function or with LED DRLs fitted. DRL stands for Daytime Running Lights and are in no way intended to be a replacement for headlights. When your car starts and these come on, it also doesn’t mean the lights at the back come on either. When you activate your headlights, then your taillights will come on, and it’s a great idea to do so if you have a dark metallic or silver car and the weather is rainy or clouded over. It REALLY does make your car so much more visible and so much more safer.

Passing the vehicle ahead.
Planning for a lane change isn’t hard. As a driver you should be looking ahead more than to the rear, and too often vehicles are seen almost touching the rear of the car ahead before they suddenly swoop left or right, and again generally without indicating. A well prepared driver should be able to judge the of the traffic and be able to switch lanes smoothly. One simple yet safety improving reason is: what happens if the vehicle you’re getting close to suddenly brakes hard? Bang, you’re in their rear.

Looking ahead also helps with vehicle behaviour; if one car only swerves, well, maybe it’s a tired driver, but if a succession of cars suddenly do it’s a possible indicator there’s something untoward on the road, like a pothole or something that’s fallen off a vehicle. Keep an eye out and be in no doubt.

Red lights/amber lights/green lights.
Cynics would say there’s a lot of colour blind people on our roads, thinking amber means speed up and jump the red. MOST intersections are researched and have their traffic light timing adjusted for traffic flow, with the change from green to amber to red set and a predetermined interval. There’s a set distance that is allowed for along with time in order for drivers to utilise the amber light for its intended use: to slow down and stop safely.

Distractions.
It seems unbelievable that having earphones in whilst driving is still not illegal as it isolates you from an important part of driving; the aural connection to what’s happening outside the car. Sure we can up the volume of the audio system but by having earphones in you’re actually locking out more of the ambient sound.
Kids are always a “good” distraction and we’re certainly not about to tell you how to deal with your children but it’s worth reminding you.
Also, bugs, cigarettes, drinks, and the like need to be considered. And please! if you have bluetooth in your vehicle for calls and audio streaming, use that rather than using your hands.

Car Maintenance.
Tyre pressures and tread depth, windscreen wiper fluid and radiator fluid levels, oil levels, all of these are easily checked before taking your car out. Tyre pressures are marked on the sidewall or on a sticker mounted somewhere inside your vehicle. Tread depth is easily identified visually and a bald tyre is simply no good on a wet road. If the tread looks more worn on one side than the other then a visit to your local tyre shop is recommended. Windscreen wiper fluid is specially formulated so good old Windex as a replacement is not recommended. Oils too are specific to certain types of car (petrol v diesel generally) but an older engine may also need a different oil compared to the new Mustang your Lotto winnings have bought you.

How does the dash look? Is it dusty? Does the touchscreen have fingerprints all over it? Give these a clean before heading out as these can sometimes catch the eye at the wrong moment.

Don’t. Drive. Tired.
It’s far too easy to misjudge your own endurance levels when it comes to long distance driving. Sure, we can sit inside our car for an hour plus in peak hour traffic but we don’t cover the same distance as Sydney to Canberra, Perth to Geraldton, Melbourne to Albury. Sometimes long drives are taken on Boxing day or New Year’s Day, and the body hasn’t recovered from a belly full, be it alcohol or a good roast. Studies show that Microsleeps are a major contributor to crashes, so keep fluid levels, like a sports drink or water, available.

BA.
That’s Bad Attitude. And it sucks. Road rage incidents are full of bad attitude and generally because someone can’t be bothered following the road rules because they don’t they the law applies to them. Tailgating, lane hogging, pulling in front of someone and suddenly braking, and so on are fine examples of BA. If you have BA, stay away.

Speeding.
Finally, the big one. Speeding in and of itself is not dangerous, otherwsie our roads would be populated by ghosts. It’s when combined with tiredness, alcohol, inattention, a bad attitude, mistiming the traffic lights, worn tyres, that excess velocity over distance causes the heartbreak it does.

Use your mirrors, look at the traffic ahead, look for the one or two vehicles that seem to be travelling a whole lot quicker than they should be and do your safest change of lane to get out of the way. Because unless you think WW2 was a fantastic comedy, you don’t want to be that person to answer a knock on the door and see two sombre looking members of the constabulary about to tell you a loved one has died at the hands (wheels?) of someone else driving badly.

Please, do have a safe Christmas for 2017, a wonderful New Year’s as we move to 2018 so we can all be coming home after Christmas.

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