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Driving in Australia

Should Defensive Driving Courses be Mandatory?

With traffic congestion an ever-present challenge, and the road toll increasing more than 7% in 2023, the debate surrounding defensive driving courses has gained momentum. While some argue that such courses infringe upon personal freedom, others contend that they are essential for creating a safer road environment. Let’s take a look at some of the potential benefits for making defensive driving courses mandatory for all motorists.

The Need for Defensive Driving Skills

Road accidents continue to be a leading cause of fatalities and injuries globally. Many of these incidents are preventable, often stemming from human error, recklessness, or a lack of awareness. Defensive driving courses equip drivers with the necessary skills to anticipate and respond to potential hazards, reducing the likelihood of accidents and promoting responsible driving behavior.

Increased Traffic Complexity

As urban areas expand and traffic congestion worsens, the complexity of driving conditions has escalated. Motorists are faced with a myriad of challenges, including distracted driving, road rage, and the integration of new tech. Defensive driving courses provide individuals with the tools to navigate these complexities safely, promoting a heightened sense of situational awareness on the road.

Insurance Benefits

Advocates for mandatory defensive driving courses often highlight the potential insurance benefits associated with completing such programs. Insurance providers frequently offer discounts to drivers who have undergone defensive driving training, recognising the reduced risk these individuals pose on the road. Mandatory courses could, therefore, serve as a financial incentive for motorists, encouraging them to enhance their driving skills for personal and societal benefits.

Legal Implications and Accountability

Opponents argue that mandating defensive driving courses infringes on personal freedom and individual rights. However, it can be argued that driving is a privilege, not a right, and as such, individuals should be held accountable for their actions on the road. Mandatory courses can serve as a reasonable measure to ensure that all drivers are adequately trained and aware of their responsibilities, contributing to a collective commitment to road safety.

Traffic Infringements

Studies have shown that individuals who undergo defensive driving courses are less likely to engage in risky behaviours and commit traffic infringements. Mandatory courses can act as a deterrent, reducing the incidence of speeding, reckless driving, and other hazardous activities on the road. This, in turn, contributes to overall traffic safety and the wellbeing of all road users.

While the debate on mandating defensive driving courses continues, the potential benefits of such a measure are undeniable. For starters, it would equip drivers with the skills to navigate increasingly complex road conditions, promote safer road behaviour, and reduce the likelihood of accidents. As society continues to evolve, prioritising road safety through education and accountability becomes paramount for building a safer, more responsible driving culture.

How to Keep Your Car Cool Without Air Conditioning

While all of today’s cars feature air conditioning, spare a thought for those still running older cars, where the climate control either isn’t up to scratch, or in some instances, practically non-existent.

Nonetheless, if you find yourself in this position, there are several things you can do to maintain a comfortable driving environment. Here’s a quick look at various options.

  1. Parking in the Shade:
    One of the simplest ways to keep your car cool is by parking in shaded areas, such as under trees, buildings, or parking garages. If shade is unavailable, try to position your car so that the front – where the engine and dashboard are – faces away from the sun. This helps reduce direct exposure to sunlight, preventing excessive heat buildup inside the vehicle.
  2. Use Reflective Sunshades:
    Invest in reflective sunshades for your windscreen and windows. These shades act as a barrier, reflecting sunlight away from the interior and preventing it from turning into heat. Make sure to use them consistently, even if you’re just stepping away for a short period.
  3. Ventilation:
    Before entering your car, open the windows and doors to allow hot air to escape. Once you get inside, roll down one window and fan the door a few times to let the hot air out. Then, roll up the windows and use the ventilation system to circulate fresh air. When driving at slower speeds, consider keeping the windows partially open to maintain a steady airflow.
  4. Tinted Windows:
    Install window tinting to reduce the amount of sunlight entering your car. Tinted windows not only enhance privacy, but they also block a significant portion of the sun’s heat. Check local regulations regarding window tinting to ensure compliance with legal limits.

  5. Use a Dash Fan:
    Fans designed for cars can be placed on the dashboard. Some of them are solar-powered, harnessing energy from the sun, helping to circulate air inside the car and keeping it cooler. While not as powerful as an air conditioner, they can make a noticeable difference in temperature.
  6. Cooling Seat Covers:
    Consider using cooling seat covers made from breathable materials. These covers often incorporate cooling gel or fans, providing a more comfortable seating experience. This can be particularly beneficial during hot summer days.
  7. Regular Maintenance:
    Ensure that your car’s cooling system is in good working condition. Regularly check coolant levels, inspect the radiator, and clean any debris from the grille. A well-maintained cooling system is essential for preventing your engine from overheating and indirectly helps to maintain a cooler cabin.
  8. Hydration:
    Keep yourself cool by staying hydrated. Bring a water bottle and a small damp cloth. The latter can provide quick relief when you are stuck in traffic.

What to Do if Your Car Overheats

Car overheating is a common issue that can occur unexpectedly, often leaving drivers in a state of panic. Understanding the causes and knowing how to respond to an overheating engine is crucial for preventing serious damage.

Today we’re going to explore the steps to take if your car starts overheating.

Immediate Response

When it comes to an overheating engine, quick and careful action is of the utmost importance.

  1. Pull Over Safely: As soon as you notice your car’s temperature gauge climbing into the red zone, or if you observe steam rising from the engine, you must pull over to a safe location. Use your hazard lights to alert other drivers of the situation.
  2. Turn Off the Engine: Once safely parked, turn off the engine immediately. This step is crucial to halt the production of additional heat and allow the engine to cool down.

Understanding the Causes

Car overheating can result from various issues, ranging from low coolant levels, to a malfunctioning thermostat, or even a faulty radiator. Understanding these potential causes can help you make informed decisions when addressing the problem.

  1. Wait for the Engine to Cool: Opening the bonnet too quickly can be dangerous, as hot steam may escape, potentially causing burns. Wait patiently for the engine to cool down before attempting to open the bonnet.
  2. Check Coolant Levels: After the engine has cooled, cautiously open the bonnet and check the coolant levels. The coolant reservoir, usually translucent, will have markings indicating the minimum and maximum levels. If the level is low, adding coolant may help address the issue. Again, it is very important that you only do this when the car has cooled down, otherwise it is very dangerous.

Common Problems

  1. Inspect for Leaks: Look for any signs of coolant leaks around the engine or beneath the vehicle. If a leak is detected, it may need immediate attention to prevent further overheating.
  2. Examine the Radiator Cap: As mentioned earlier, you may need to add coolant if you are running low. Carefully check the radiator cap. If it’s cool to the touch, you can open it and inspect the coolant level. Add coolant if necessary. Be cautious, as opening a hot radiator cap can release pressurised steam.
  3. Check for Obstructions: Examine the radiator and cooling system for any obstructions, such as leaves or debris, which may hinder proper airflow. Clearing these obstructions can aid the cooling process.


  1. Start the Engine with Caution: If you’ve addressed any identified issues, start the engine with caution and monitor the temperature gauge. If the temperature begins to rise again, turn off the engine and seek professional assistance.
  2. Seek Professional Help: If you’re unable to identify or resolve the problem, or if the overheating persists, it’s crucial to seek professional assistance. Calling for roadside assistance or having the vehicle towed to a mechanic is a prudent course of action.

Car overheating is a major concern that demands prompt attention and careful handling. If you ignore the issue, you could significantly damage the car, or worse, greatly endanger yourself or other road users.

By following the above steps and understanding the potential causes of an overheating engine, drivers can prevent a bad situation turning even worse. Regular maintenance and awareness of your vehicle’s condition can further reduce the likelihood of encountering such issues on the road.

Tips To Cope With Congested Traffic

We’ve all been there, locked in grid traffic.  And it’s always a bit tempting to slip past slower traffic, cutting back in front to get a little closer to the next set of lights before anyone else does.  Yes, you’re with me! 

These sorts of tedious, testing journeys may occur every day when you’re coming back from work or going to work.  Traffic jams can occur after an accident has taken place or when people are heading away for the holidays all at once.  It might be the popular school run, or it could be that everyone is dispersing all at once from the stadium car park after a big win for the Green and Golds.  These phases of our journeys can be made to feel a little bit easier when you have planned well in advance and if you can keep an open mind that it won’t last forever.  Being a little more flexible and giving yourself more time to get to your destination means that you can breathe a little easier and relax behind the wheel. 

When the roads are busy, take your time and be aware of what’s happening around you.  Try and give other road users the respect they deserve, too.  There are others trying just as hard as you are to do the right thing and get to work on time.  Yes, and they may not be as confident behind the wheel as you, so cut them some slack and don’t cut them off!  If you keep a decent gap between your car and the car in front of you, you can look ahead and see what the traffic is doing, slowing gradually to maintain a nice steady flow with fewer sharp stop and start scenarios.  It also helps to negate the all too common nose to tail accidents.

The same goes for merging lanes.  Problems show up when some drivers stop in the merging lane to wait for a gap.  Then there are those who would rather speed up and get ahead of another car in the line.  Both of these styles aren’t cool, and both styles cause the traffic flow to come to a halt.  Giving each other some space and time keeps the flow moving steadily, which is really what we all want anyway.

When you’re travelling home from a lazy day at the beach, or towing your caravan, or when maybe you just want to revel in the moment and soak up the scenery by travelling along at 70–80 km/h, well, that’s cool, but do keep in mind that there are other road users that have to make an appointment or who need to get to the start of a school rehearsal.  Not everyone can travel this slow below what the open road limit allows, so use those mirrors and be aware of who needs to get past you.  Show them respect because you are holding them up, and they are getting more and more frustrated at being dictated by you choosing to travel at a slower pace on a perfectly good piece of road with a much faster speed limit.  Pull over and let them pass as often as you can, and don’t be the cause of a crash. Especially don’t be that driver who drives slowly along the windy bits or the parts with double yellow lines, then speeds up to the limit as soon as a passing lane or a clear straight comes along.

We all need to be prepared to react to someone’s mistake, poor judgement, or poor decision, whether the roads are busy or not.  Keeping ourselves fresh and aware on the road while being courteous and respectful of others helps our journeys to be safe and enjoyable. 

Ideas to help you stay calm:

  • Play the right sort of music through your sound system – nothing too aggro. You don’t have to listen to soothing spa music, but anything that gets you on edge should be avoided.
  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing, in through the nose and out through the mouth, trying to breathe with all of your torso.
  • Remind yourself that all the other drivers are probably in the same boat as you and you all want to get home or to work. Maybe smile at some of the other drivers near you.
  • Put on a really enjoyable podcast or audiobook. With a really good one, you might not want the journey to end!
  • If the traffic is absolutely gridlocked and doesn’t look like it’s moving soon (e.g. if the road closes after a major accident), switch off your engine if applicable and move around while you’re waiting. Or get out your phone or laptop and do what you can for work. Just be aware of when the traffic starts moving again!