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A Wee Rant About Road Works

I’ll slow down… if there really are road works ahead.

Yes, yes, I know that roads need to be repaired regularly so they stay safe to drive on.  I also know that we need to keep the guys and girls working on the roads safe and that we shouldn’t just roar through road works at our usual speed.  However, there are times when seeing those “road works ahead” signs up ahead really makes me see red.

I particularly see red when I’m on my pushbike and the road works people have decided the bike lane is the best place to put out their warning signs, forcing me to either nip into the main stream of the traffic or onto the footpath.  However, there are times that even when I’m behind the wheel of a car that those road works signs arouse my ire.

Not that I’m complaining about the road works themselves.  I don’t mind slowing down when something’s actually going on or there really is something I need to take care with – lots of busy people, a single lane or stacks of loose gravel.  If there’s one of those traffic controllers with a stop/go sign on a pole, I’ll give them a friendly smile and wave, or even say hello if I’m close enough – after all, traffic controlling work is one of the most mind-bogglingly boring jobs out there, although it’s probably better than it was 25 years ago, seeing as one could now probably listen to a podcast or audiobook on the smartphone through one ear.  And I’d much rather see a real human employed for traffic control duty than one of those temporary traffic lights that keeps going at night and will hold up a huge line of cars for no reason whatsoever thanks to its internal programming.

The problem happens when the road works warning signs are the only type of road works out there.

You know how this scenario goes.  You’re travelling along and you see one of those temporary warning signs on the road up ahead of you, so you slow down. However, as you get closer to where the signs are, what do you see?  Do you see bulldozers and bitumen mixers?  Do you see sweaty guys in high-viz with power tools jackhammering the road surface open?  Is there a massive hole in the road or similar amusements?

Nope.  The only thing that you can see is maybe a single road cone marking where the road works have been… and beside that sits a tiny little patch of loose gravel over where they’ve repaired a pothole. Alternatively, all you can see is a few spraypainted marks where they’re going to repair something.  Or possibly, there’s a half-done kerb on the side of the road that they’re going to finish off when it’s stopped raining or when the weekend is over.  Or the road works are taking place on a side road that intersects with the road you’re driving on (but don’t affect the road you’re driving on, except indirectly).

You have to ask yourself sometimes: are the warning signs the first things that they put up before beginning a job and the last things they take away?  Honestly, I’m convinced that the road signs go up as soon as they’ve decided to fix something on the road and stay there until they’ve finished the paperwork to sign the job off after it’s done.

And then they wonder why people don’t like to slow down when they see those signs.  Haven’t they all heard the fable of the boy who cried wolf?  You’d think that they’re trying to condition us to ignore the road signs. I know for one that my reaction upon seeing those road signs is “What road works where?” I’m probably not the only one who gets into the very bad habit of not quite slowing down to the temporary speed limit when seeing these signs.

Dear road workers, us drivers appreciate all your hard work, we really do, and we don’t want to put you in danger.  However, you guys need to do your bit.  Let’s do a deal: you put the warning signs up when you’re actually working on the road, not three weeks beforehand, take them down when you’re finished and maybe even lay them facedown during the weekend if the road isn’t actually hazardous.  It can’t take you that long to put them up and take them down. In return, we’ll pay much more attention to the signs and really will slow down to 80, 50 or 30 as the case may be, and we’ll probably be nicer to you when we drive past.

Particularly annoying road works signs I have seen over the years (with specific locations removed) include:

  • The ones on a large chunk of main road that could only be fixed on a sunny day… and the road signs went out in the rainy season when sunny days were few and far between. They stayed there for at least three weeks with no sign of action on the roads before the work began.  I’m not sure when they came down, because by that stage, I’d found an alternate route on a minor road.
  • The traffic control light that stopped a major highway for ten minutes (I was counting) just so they could set up a line of road cones. Honestly, after having waited that long, I was expecting to see something major going on!  Couldn’t they have maybe set them out in small batches rather than letting a long line of traffic build up?
  • Not quite so annoying this time: the sign warning that road marking was going on ahead. We’d kind of guessed, as the tank of yellow paint had sprung a leak and there was a thin trail of yellow in the middle of the lane near some very new, very white centre lines.

Right, that’s my rant over.  Now it’s your turn.  What’s your worst experience with road works and pointless signs?  Have a good old grizzle in the comments and let us sympathise with you.

Your Teenage Daughter* Is Learning To Drive… The Conversation You Need To Have

keep-calm-and-learn-to-drive-properlySo you’ve got your licence – you go, girl!  It’s not that long (from Mum and Dad’s point of view) that you were just heading off to school for the first time, so it definitely won’t be long until you will be on your P-plates and really getting some independence.

During this learner licence phase, we’re going to get the basics in place so you become a competent driver who can hold her head up high and won’t give berks an excuse to sneer about women drivers.  OK, there will always be some berks who do this, but if you know what you’re doing and you actually are driving well, you can ignore them (and don’t respond – the rule about not feeding the trolls applies to real life as well as on social media).

For a start, I don’t care if your friends are learning to drive in a vehicle with automatic transmission, blind spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, cameras and all the rest of it.  You won’t be.  If you learn to drive on a vehicle that has all the driver aids out there, you won’t learn how to do it for yourself and cope when you buy your first car… which will probably be some second-hand thing from the 1990s or early 2000s that isn’t quite as likely to have any of these things.  Yes, this means you will be doing heaps of gear changes up and down the street and the boys from school may see you when you get it wrong… and you will get it wrong occasionally.  If they laugh at you, they’re not the sort of guy you want to impress, so just brush them off.  Doing it the hard way now will mean that you don’t look or act like a dumb bimbo later.

Before you get behind the wheel, you will hand your cellphone over and remove those high heels.  Trainers are fine, but you can’t drive properly in heels. If your outfit requires heels, then change when you get to your destination and don’t wear them when you’re driving.  Ditch the flip-flops as well, as they can flip and flop into nasty places, like under the brake pedal so you can’t apply it properly.

Adjust the mirror before you start driving.  You should be able to see the road behind you; it’s not for checking your lip gloss.

As well as learning all the basics about driving a car, you are also going to learn a few maintenance basics.

Hooray - there are some decent and realistic images out there!

It’s a nasty fact, but there are a few mechanics and similar types who try to rip off women on the grounds that they don’t know anything about mechanics.  The more you know about your car and the more you can do yourself, the less likely you are to be ripped off.  You will also learn how to change a tyre.  If you do get a puncture on a lonely road (or anywhere, really), you want to be the one holding the big heavy metal wheel jack even (or especially) if some guy comes along and offers to help.  He may be genuinely trying to help a damsel in distress or he may see you as a vulnerable target. If you have a flat tyre and a guy pulls up and offers to do it for you, smile nicely and tell him “I got it – thanks for the offer.” And keep hold of that jack and your phone just in case he’s a creep.

When the time comes for you to get your P-plates, don’t take it for granted that you’ll be just able to use the family car Shakira-style (whenever and wherever – although you probably think this song is horribly old-fashioned and so yesterday).  With privilege comes responsibility, so if you do get the use of our car, you’ll be helping us out either with money for fuel or running errands.  We will also be particularly tough on you keeping to the conditions of your licence.

As you learn to drive and start loving it, you may start thinking about what you’d like as a car of your own. Never let anybody tell you that girls don’t drive big bush-bashing 4x4s and vans, or that little hatchbacks are girlie cars.  Although cars have names like Megane, Mercedes, Clio and Octavia , they don’t have gender and you can drive what you want to. In any colour you want.  In spite of what some people tell you, there is no such thing as a woman’s car or a man’s car.  It’s not like bikes, where seat style and frame style make things awkward for skirts or knackers.  Cars are built for all humans.

Now grab those keys and let’s get driving!


* The majority of the advice in this article applies to guys as well (although the bits about lip gloss and high heels may not be applicable).  It’s just that my daughter did just get her learner’s licence last week.  Tailor it to your situation as applicable.