Can you help fix Sydney’s growing gridlock problem?

Traffic congestion

PREMIER’S OFFICE: “We need to think more innovatively about how our existing metropolitan-wide infrastructure could work more efficiently. “

While you’re sitting in traffic on your way home from work today, maybe use the time to think up a plan on how to reduce the gridlock that grips Sydney for much of the day.

That’s what the NSW Government is calling for with the launch of the Premier’s Innovation Initiative - effectively crowdsourcing ideas from the community and public sectors.

While the government may not (yet) be taking suggestions from the general public, interest and community groups will be invited to offer ideas of beating congestion hot spots around the city that are turning our roads into carparks at some times of the day.

The Government wants to broaden the pool from where ideas come as it battles this increasing problem.

If you have a particular road or route that makes your blood boil day after day and you think you might just have a solution, why not jump on to our interactive advocacy platform Speak Out and let us know what it is or #RedFlag it in our Seeing Red on Roads map.

Chinese cops dish out bizarre punishment for high beam offenders

Police in a Chinese city are reportedly making drivers who use their lights incorrectly stare into them for five minutes (source: SMH)

Police in a Chinese city are reportedly making drivers who use their lights incorrectly stare into them for five minutes (source: SMH)

The misuse of headlights – and fog lights – have featured fairly regularly in the campaign suggestions we’ve received through our interactive advocacy platform Speak Out, but nobody has yet suggested the bizarre method of punishment reportedly dished out by one city’s traffic police in China.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that police in Shenzhen, a major city in the country’s south, are making those who abuse the use of their headlights sit in front of a police van and stare in its lights for five minutes.

The police department posted the above picture to China’s version of Twitter – Weibo – on their official account, which has more than 650,000 followers.

“From now on, traffic police will make those found carelessly using bright lights to look at them for five minutes,” the message attached to the image said, according to a translation by the SMH.

This method doesn’t sound particularly healthy for one’s eyes so it’s not likely something that will be adopted in Australia any time soon.

A number of Speak Out suggestions have called on drivers to stop using fog lights while on the road.

“It seems to me now every car fitted with these lights is using them every night. They are not good for oncoming drivers, causing (temporary) blinding,” one user wrote.

“Please have a bit more consideration for your fellow road users and switch them off.”

Another member suggested a campaign to educate drivers how to turn their fog lights off.

“I would like to see a campaign educating drivers of late model vehicles on how and when to turn off fog lights,” they wrote.

Living in rural NSW I see more and more vehicles travelling with fog lights on when it’s not appropriate.

“As they are mounted low on the car they shine straight into the eyes of oncoming drivers.”

In NSW you are only permitted to use fog lights ‘if driving in fog, mist or other atmospheric condition that restricts visibility’.

It is also an offence to use your high beams when you are less than 200m from a car in front, or less than 200m from an oncoming vehicle.

Both of these attract a $104 fine and loss of two points.

What do you think would make a more suitable punishment for drivers who use high beams and fog lights when they shouldn’t?

To leave a note or not to leave a note?

DECENT PROPOSAL: Sorry note written by Ben Affleck in 2012, image from Daily Mail UK.

DECENT PROPOSAL: Sorry note written by Ben Affleck in 2012, image from Daily Mail UK.

Recently, I witnessed a truck knock the drivers’ side mirror off a parked car. I always wondered how this happened but had never witnessed it before. It was quite dramatic – the mirror flying across the road and glass everywhere.

I’m a fan of the honesty policy and would have been fuming if this had happened to me, so when I realised this truck wasn’t going to stop and leave a note, I took matters into my own hands.

When stopped at the lights, I managed to take down the truck’s registration. Later, when off the road, I contacted a local pub 100 metres from the scene of the accident and asked them to leave a note on the car. They did, I had a call from the police later that afternoon and phone calls from the owner of the vehicle thanking me for taking the time.

I have been told a few times over the last week how nice it was to do this and the owner of the car has been incredibly grateful, which makes me wonder how many people wouldn’t leave a note when hitting a parked car and how many would ignore it if they witnessed an incident.

And so, I did a little research. Back in 2011, NRMA Insurance conducted a survey of 450 NSW drivers and found that a note was left in less than 9 per cent of accidents. 9 per cent!

I’ve previously come back to my parked car and found a window smashed (benefits of living close to several pubs!), family members have come back to their cars with much worse damage including one hit and run that left the car undriveable and when asking around the office, it seems it’s a pretty common offence. In no cases was a note left.

I think it’s time to bring a bit of decency back to our roads.

Would you leave a note if you hit a parked car? And would you leave a note if you witnessed an incident? Share your stories in the comments below!

Mobile speed cameras: How fast are you (meant to be) going?

Should mobile speed camera warnings indicate the speed being checked?

On my way to work each morning I encounter at least four different speed limits. If I’m running behind schedule and school zones are in effect, I can add a fifth to that list.

There’s nothing wrong with this – each is on a different type of road that has a limit in line with the area and conditions and they are well sign posted.

Another common site on my morning and afternoon commute is the RMS mobile speed camera vehicle. Parked on the side of the road with warning signs leading up to it, the cameras on board monitor vehicle speed according to the posted limits in the area.

To be honest it sometimes seems like a futile exercise during peak hour as the congestion means his radar would struggle to register any car hitting double digits.

The signs the mobile speed camera operators place before their enforcement zone give drivers warning of what’s ahead, but what they don’t provide is the speed limit in the area.

Warnings for fixed speed cameras on the other hand are clear what speed is being checked and alert drivers if they are placed in an area that has variable limits – such as a school zone.

One popular suggestion on Speak Out by Kevin Woodman is that mobile speed cameras also alert drivers of the speed limit they are checking.

Check out other campaign suggestions or make your own on our Speak Out platform.

“The problem is that if you are unfamiliar with the piece of road then you often have no idea what the speed limit is that is being policed,” Mr Woodman wrote.

“The camera cars should state on their signs what the limit is in the zone they are policing.”

Many of the Speak Out community agreed with Mr Woodman, with more than 100 clicking on the thumbs up to support the campaign suggestion, and just six on the thumbs down.

Mr Woodman found that while on a long drive recently, he at times found it difficult to determine what the posted speed limit was.

“I travelled over 1000km last weekend on unfamiliar roads and found it very difficult at times (even with 36 years driving experience) to assess what the posted speed was likely to be in certain areas as signage was almost non-existent,” he wrote.

“The old method of looking for houses and streetlights to determine if it is a 60km/h zone seems not to apply anymore.”

Do you think it would be helpful if mobile speed camera warnings included the speed limit being enforced in the area?

New NSW P-plater laws from today

LAW CHANGE: Changes to high performance vehicle restrictions – effective 1st August 2014.

From today, New South Wales has joined South Australia, Queensland and Victoria in adopting laws for P-platers that don’t put a blanket ban on all turbocharged vehicles.

NSW Minister for Roads, Duncan Gay’s plans to “redefine high performance vehicles to reflect the reality of today’s cars” have come into effect.

The new rules for NSW will make cars with power-to-weight ratios of 130kW or less per tonne acceptable for P-platers, while those with more power per tonne will remain outlawed.

Gay said this will enable P-platers to drive a broader range of cars that will “help make life easier for families and young drivers”, and that “super charged no longer just means super speed”.

“The previous blanket ban on P-platers driving supercharged or turbocharged vehicles was put in place when the features on these cars were only used to enhance speed and acceleration,” Gay said.

“These days, for many vehicles in this category it is about fuel efficiency not speed and acceleration, so it was appropriate we revisit the ban in light of the fact many of these vehicles are low performance with modern, effective safety features,” Gay said.

“For families with a car which may have been previously off limits to young drivers, these reforms mean P-platers no longer need to carry an exemption when driving the family vehicle.”

P-plate drivers or their families or employers can find out whether a vehicle is okay on the Centre for Road Safety website or see the Roads and Maritime website for Help and FAQs.

Do you think this is a good law? What other law changes would you like to see for P-Platers?