M5 tolls should not pay for WestConnex

NO EXTENSION: The NSW Government wants to extend tolling on the M5 to pay for WestConnex (Image: RMS)

NO EXTENSION: The NSW Government wants to extend tolling on the M5 to pay for WestConnex (Image: RMS)

Last week the New South Wales Government suggested the toll on the M5 West be extended by a massive 34 years to help fund another motorway – WestConnex.

Read more: Tolls on western Sydney motorists likely to fund roads in inner west and north (SMH)

Charging motorists who use one motorway to build another would be a major breach of faith for those in South West Sydney who may never even use WestConnex – a 33km motorway that will run from Sydney’s west to the airport.

In October of 2013 the NSW Government stated in a media release: “The NSW and Australian Governments are providing $3.3 billion in funding for the $11-$11.5 billion project, with the remainder to be financed by tolls.”

Read more: http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/newsevents/news_ministerial/2013/131031-westconnex-delivery-authority.html

The media release contained no mention that the toll concession for the M5 would need to be extended by 34 years in order to fund WestConnex.

The M5 was originally due to revert to public ownership this year, but an extension was granted that saw the toll concession extended to 2026.

Under the new WestConnex funding proposal, that would again be extended until 2060.

The move would be against the fair user-pays philosophy and NRMA President Kyle Loades said decisions such as this cannot be made without the proper consultation.

“What we don’t want to see is major funding decisions which directly affect the affordability of motoring in this state being made behind closed doors, without any form of community consultation,” he said.

“The NRMA is deeply concerned that the decision to consider extending the concession period on the M5 has been made without due consideration of the long term implications that extending the tolling period would have on motorists.”

Mr Loades said he was concerned the extension would further add to the cost of motoring for many drivers in New South Wales and hit the hip pocket of M5 users who regularly have to suffer car-park like conditions on the road.

“Motorists are already heavily taxed through the fuel excise, registration and tolling and shouldn’t pay a cent more to drive on Sydney motorways – many of which are congested during peak hours.”

Do you agree that a toll should apply only to the road you are using? 

SPEAK OUT: The National Road & Motorists’ Association (NRMA) invites you to red flag the section of road that frustrates you most. Click here to let us know.

How to avoid the 5 most common crashes

Avoiding common crashes

DRIVE TO SURVIVE: In NSW, around 90% of road crashes are caused by just five types of situation.

In NSW, around 90% of road crashes are caused by just five types of situation. NRMA’s corporate driver-training program, DriveSafePro, explains how to reduce that risk.

Keeping the right amount of stopping space between vehicles is the best preventative.

  • There are 9,000 serious rear-end crashes per year in NSW*
  • They account for 33% of all crashes for P-plate drivers and 40% for drivers with more than five years experience.

Reduce the risk:

  • Aim for a three-second following distance from the vehicle in front.
  • Leave more space in poor conditions.
  • Leave at least half a car length from the one in front of you when stopped.

Safety tip: To estimate a three-second gap, count “One – 1000, two – 2000, three – 3000” when you see the vehicle in front pass an object like a tree or telephone pole. If you pass the object before you finish counting, you are too close.

Thinking ahead and being ready with the brakes can avoid this situation.

  • In NSW, there are 6,000 serious crashes per year with vehicles approaching from the sides and an additional 2,000 crashes involving pedestrians.
  • These account for 19% of driver crashes*.

Reduce the risk:

  • Do not place trust in other drivers.
  • Estimate your stopping needs.
  • Prepare to use the brakes, slow down or move away from the hazard.
  • Check for vehicles running the red light before moving off at the lights.

Safety tip:
To set up the brakes, move your foot quickly and gently to the brake and apply light pressure – just enough to take up any free-play but not slow the car.

The width of your seat could be all you need to prevent a fatal head-on from happening to you.

  • There are 7,000 serious head-on crashes per year in NSW, including those from an oncoming vehicle turning across the opposite lane.
  • They account for 17% of crashes for all drivers and 60% of all fatalities.*
  • ANCAP performs 40% offset crash tests as part of its safety rating for new cars.

Reduce the risk:

  • Recognise the risk. Centre lines and median strips don’t stop vehicles crossing to your side of the road.
  • Buffer from oncoming traffic – a small movement can make a big difference.
  • Move left on crests and curves when you can’t see oncoming traffic.
  • Use the left lane where possible.
  • Be aware of vehicles waiting to turn across your path.

Safety Tip: As a guide, position your body in the middle of the lane, rather than your vehicle. This will keep your vehicle to the left of a lane and give you that extra car width from oncoming traffic. Of course, if there are hazards on your left, move away from them. Do what you can, when you can.

Tiredness and distractions are just a couple of the causes here. Alertness is key.

  • There are around 13,500 serious off-path crashes each year in NSW (6500 on straight roads, 6000 on curves)
  • Off-path straight crashes account for 9% of P-plate driver crashes and 6% for drivers with more than five years experience.**
  • Off-path curved crashes account for 8% of P-plate driver crashes and 6% for drivers with more than five years experience.**

Reduce the risk:

  • Manage driver fatigue.
  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Avoid distractions such as using a mobile phone, changing music, and eating and drinking. Pull over – it only takes a minute.
  • Avoid driving in the blind spot of other vehicles. Many drivers don’t look over their shoulders or use their indicators before changing lanes.
  • Avoid dawn or dusk in country areas when wildlife is most active.
  • Keeping a three-second gap helps estimate vision – you should always be able to see at least twice as far ahead as the car in front.

Safety tip: Pre-book a hotel on long trips so you won’t be tempted to drive further than you should.

Do you keep left unless overtaking?

ROAD RULES: Do you keep left unless overtaking when you're supposed to?

ROAD RULES: Do you keep left unless overtaking when you’re supposed to?

Of the many suggestions NRMA has received through its new interactive advocacy platform Speak Out, one that has received much traction with our Members is the frustration around the ‘Keep Left Unless Overtaking’ rule on some roads.

On roads of two or more lanes where the speed limit is greater than 80km/h, motorists must not drive in the right-hand lane unless they are overtaking, turning right, avoiding an obstacle, driving in congested traffic or are otherwise instructed by road signs.

If you’ve driven on any highway or freeway in New South Wales you’ll know this rule isn’t always followed.

While the law is already in place, one Speak Out community member suggested there be greater policing of the law in order to speed up traffic on our roads and keep cars moving at the speed limit.

The Member was concerned that drivers in their area – a section of Mona Vale Road in Sydney’s north – were ignoring the rule.

In New South Wales, drivers can be fined $69 for not adhering to this rule. There is currently no loss of points for this offence.

What do you think can be done to encourage drivers to obey this rule?

Is it an issue for you when driving on multi-lane roads in your area or while travelling long distances?

Driving on Auto-Pilot


MIND BLANK: ‘Complacency driving’ and it contributes to more unintentional deaths on our roads than anything else

How often have you driven to your destination and not even remembered the journey you just took?

This is called ‘complacency driving’ and it contributes to more unintentional deaths on our roads than anything else, especially when you combine it with rushing, frustration or fatigue.

How do people get so complacent that they will do something they know contributes to making a mind-not-on-task error, such as texting while driving?

Doing something over and over again, such as driving the same route to work each day, can lead to this tendency to drive on autopilot. We get overconfident that nothing will happen, but in fact we all need to recognise and accept that driving is always potentially risky. Even a good driver with many years of experience can be involved in a crash.

Developing low-risk driving habits for fighting complacency is more than just reducing
associated common driving errors, it’s about developing a deep respect for complacency and what it can detrimentally do to our decision making.

Safe habits are needed even when there is no hint of imminent danger. A good swimmer may be less inclined to wear a lifejacket just as a ‘good’ driver might be less inclined to keep a safe following distance or ‘set up their brakes’ for random and unique hazards on each journey, because the last time they went driving they didn’t need to.

Working on your daily driving-related habits can help with complacency driving as it keeps your mind active on the task at hand. Actions such as looking in your mirrors regularly, ‘setting up’ your brakes and ensuring you maintain the three-second gap from the car in front all help keep your mind active whilst driving.

Do you make an effort to try and keep your mind active and present while driving?

Are we too busy to respect a funeral procession these days?

Funeral courtesy: It is actually against the law to cut off a funeral procession.

Funeral courtesy: It is actually against the law to cut off a funeral procession.

A few weeks ago my partner’s grandfather sadly passed on.  He was typical of many migrants who arrive in Australia with nothing – work hard, save a few bucks and raise a family.

Peter was a little bit different.  He left his wife and two very young daughters back in Lebanon to carve a new life in Australia.  He worked hard, bought a home, sent most of what he earned back to his family until they could afford to come to Australia.  It would be eight years before they were reunited as a family.

A staunch Catholic, Peter would religiously play Lotto, choosing his numbers carefully from the bible (he never won). So it was in a Catholic Church in Hurstville where a hundred or so family and close friends joined to say their goodbyes and wish him eternal rest.

Peter was an impressive man and he had an equally impressive array of shiny black funeral cars organised to ferry the close family to Rookwood Cemetery about a 30 minute drive away in midday traffic.

I chose to drive my own car – headlights ablaze closely following a line of black cars – five in total.  Fellow mourners followed behind also with headlights on and clearly visible.

Now I’ve driven in Sydney traffic all my life but what I experienced on that short emotional journey left me in complete disbelief at the lack of respect, common courtesy and human decency.

I lost count of the number of drivers chopping in and out of the procession and tailgating. I thought perhaps people didn’t know or had forgotten about the convention of respecting a line of cars with their lights on the middle of the day following a hearse.

Then a “P” Plater attempted a merge in front of one of the black limousines following the hearse and clipped the front bumper.

It was then I realised that for some, rushing to meet their mates at the local hangout was more important than respecting a grieving family and a man who would have given him a good ‘clip over the earhole’.

Reg Chamberlain is Head of Public Affairs at NRMA M&S.

Has this ever happened to you?  What frustrated you about impatient and discourteous drivers? Let us know by commenting below.