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.

Seeing Red on Roads? Get pinning and let us know

SEEING RED: Let us know which road, roundabout or intersection you find most aggravating.

SEEING RED: Let us know which road, roundabout or intersection you find most aggravating.

Is there one road you hate to drive on more than any other? Where gridlocked traffic, dangerous  roundabouts or a constant state of disrepair turn the journey into a recurring nightmare.

The NRMA’s fourth annual Seeing Red on Roads campaign gives motorists the opportunity to point out exactly where that road is and highlight the issues that need to be fixed.

Jump onto our interactive map and pinpoint the road, roundabout or intersection that gets you seeing red on a regular basis.

Members are already utilising Speak Out, our interactive advocacy platform that gives individuals and organisations the opportunity to suggest a campaign they’d like the NRMA to get behind.

Many of those suggestions highlight individual roads that require work to help make them a pleasant experience to drive on.

Other suggestions point to a larger issue, but stem from experiences in a driver’s regular commute.

One Speak Out Member suggested extending clearways beyond the usual hours to suit weekend and later evening congestion.

“The busiest roads in Sydney regions should have clearway hours extended to improve traffic flow,” one user wrote.

“I understand many local businesses will complain that this would cost them business, but how can the inconvenience to so many be ignored for the sake of a few?”

If you agree with this suggestion and are regularly caught up in bumper-to-bumper traffic at the same spot, pinpoint in on the interactive map and select the reasons that section of road annoys you.

Another Speak Out user suggested congestion on the Wakehurst Parkway could be eased by the construction of an overpass.

“This intersection causes so many peak hour delays. An overpass on either road would reduce travel times,” they wrote on Speak Out.

“Traffic is backed up every day in all directions and an overpass would solve all these problems.”

By dropping a pin on the Seeing Red on Roads map of the area you feel is the worst road in New South Wales, the NRMA can help in the fight to better roads across the state.

A recent funding boost in the federal budget saw $5.5 billion earmarked for road projects across the state, but NRMA President Kyle Loades said there was still a lot to be done to ensure those projects become a reality and Seeing Red on Roads was one way of keeping the government accountable.

“Following the Seeing Red on Roads campaigns over the past few years, we have seen some real progress from the NSW and Australian governments to upgrade some of the most dangerous sections of road in the State,” Mr Loades said.

“We also know that some of the most congested and dangerous areas on our roads are in suburban streets, intersections and roundabouts.”

It’s equally important to get an understanding of the rural and suburban roads that many of our Members drive on every day, so wherever you are in the state, get pinning and let us know about the road that makes you see red.

What road gets you most annoyed?





SPEAK OUT: Large objects in school zones a safety hazard

SCHOOL ZONE SAFETY: NRMA to champion Pittwater Council's initiative to ban large objects in school zones

SCHOOL ZONE SAFETY: NRMA to champion Pittwater Council’s initiative to ban large objects in school zones

A call from Pittwater Council to ban large objects being parked in school zones has received broad support on our interactive advocacy hub Speak Out and will become the second grassroots campaign the NRMA has championed since the site was launched last month.

Pittwater Council were concerned that trucks, caravans and motorhomes, together with objects like mobile billboards and boat trailers, were making it difficult for drivers to see clearly and made it dangerous for children and their parents to cross the road safely.

After the council submitted their suggestion through Speak Out, we surveyed almost 740 drivers on the issue and found that almost three-quarters believed that these objects were a safety hazard that impaired the driver’s vision.

READ MORE: Pittwater Council’s Speak Out submission.

Trucks parking in school zones was the major concern of drivers with 50% of respondents saying they cause reduced visibility, while caravans and motorhomes (21%), boat trailers (12%) and mobile billboards (11%) were also a concern.

Speak Out enables individuals and community groups to organise and mobilise around issues they want the NRMA to fight on their behalf. Others can then vote on whether they support the campaign or disagree with it.

Almost 84% of those who read Pittwater Council’s suggestion supported the campaign.

NRMA President Kyle Loades said there was overwhelming support for the Pittwater Council initiative on Speak Out and that the NRMA would take up the fight on behalf of the community.

“Large objects parked in school zones are a safety risk because it makes it harder for drivers to see children as they walk along footpaths or cross the street,” he said.

“If the large vehicles or objects are parked at the entrance points of the school zone they can also impair the view of the school zone sign – this could result in drivers not realising they are entering a school zone and creating a further safety risk for children.

“The NRMA survey shows drivers are concerned about this issue and when we put Pittwater Council’s initiative on our grassroots hub, Speak Out, it generated broad public support.”

Pittwater Mayor Jacqui Townsend welcomed NRMA’s support for their initiative and called for safety measures to be rolled out across the country.

“Safety in schools zones needs to be top of mind for communities across Australia. We are very pleased our initiative to ban the parking of large vehicles has the support of the NRMA and motorists nation-wide,” she said.

“Ultimately, we want to see national legislation that bans the parking of oversize vehicles in schools zones during school zone times which operate from 8am to 9.30am in the morning and 2.30pm and 4pm in the afternoon on school days.”

Have your say: Do you think large objects such as trucks, caravans, motorhomes and advertising trailers should be banned in school zones?

Half the Excise Duty is needed to fix up local roads

POT LUCK: The problem in regional NSW is even worse than Sydney with almost $3 billion needed.

POT LUCK: The problem in regional NSW is even worse than Sydney with almost $3 billion needed.

We renew calls for the Australian Government to return half of the fuel excise to fix roads. A $3.87 billion funding backlog is needed to bring NSW council roads up to a ‘satisfactory condition’.

The definition of ‘satisfactory condition’ is council’s estimated cost to bring the road to an acceptable standard. It does not include any planned enhancements to existing roads. It’s for the basics including fixing pot holes, repainting faded lines and gutters.

The NRMA report, Funding Local Roads used figures submitted by 152 NSW local councils to the NSW Government as part of their annual reporting obligations that summarised the money needed to fix local roads.

In metropolitan Sydney, councils have stated that $911 million was needed for road works while regional NSW councils needed $2.96 billion in funding.

Sydney metropolitan councils requiring the most money to bring their local roads up to a satisfactory condition were:

  • Liverpool – $149.6 million;
  • Ku-Ring-Gai – $110.3 million;
  • Sutherland – $67.9 million;
  • Hawkesbury – $62.6 million; and
  • Blacktown – $60.4 million.

NRMA President Wendy Machin said some local councils would take years to clear their backlog of roadworks at current funding levels.

“Some councils have no choice but to let bad roads get worse – the money is simply not there for them to fix roads within their boundaries,” Ms Machin said.

“It’s not the local councils who are to blame as the money they’re requesting isn’t for glitz and glamour – it’s for the basics including fixing pot holes, repainting faded lines and gutters.

“The problem in regional NSW is even worse than Sydney with almost $3 billion needed. Heavy rain can deteriorate local roads and this is why many regional councils are simply allowing previously sealed roads to turn to dirt.

“Fixing local roads also benefits the community as the cost of crashes to the NSW economy amounts to $2 billion each year.”

Funding Local Roads explores options to help clear the $4 billion needed to bring local council roads up to a satisfactory condition. These include a greater return to councils from the Australian Government’s fuel excise tax, increasing the NSW Government’s Local Infrastructure Backlog Fund and lower interest lending to councils.

Currently, $15 billion is collected by the Australian Government for all road users, from the fuel excise levy at a rate of 38.143 cents per litre for unleaded and diesel fuel purchases. Only 10 cents out of 38.143 cents collected from Australian motorists is returned to the road network.

Ms Machin said annual Australian Government investment in the NSW road network has varied between $3.6 billion and $6.2 billion over the past six years but more was needed.

“We are calling on the Australian Government to return at least half of the fuel excise tax collected into road funding and for a pre-determined allocation to go directly to local councils to help ease the $4 billion black hole that NSW councils are facing,” Ms Machin said.

What do you think? Do your local roads need investment?

Speak out!