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?

Tailgating: What’s the big rush?

TAILGATING: How often do you experience this on the road?

TAILGATING: How often do you experience this on the road?

You’d be an extremely lucky driver if you hadn’t experienced tailgating while driving in New South Wales (or pretty much anywhere, really).

We’ve covered the dangers of tailgating before – this blog from last month explains that in this state alone, there are more than 10,000 rear-end crashes every year.

But why are people tailgating? Are drivers in such a rush that they’re willing to put the lives of others (and themselves) at risk?

Just recently on a drive from Sydney to Wollongong, I thought I’d momentarily entered a Steven King movie when I found a massive truck, high beams flashing wildly, bear down on me in the left-hand lane and almost swallow me and my family.

With the cruise control set on exactly the speed limit (110km/h), I was following a steady stream of Friday night traffic and had nowhere to go.

Why was that truck driver in such a hurry? Was he running behind schedule? Was he desperate to get home from work? Or did he just like to intimidate other drivers in his big rig?

I’ll never know because I didn’t get a chance to chat with him, thankfully. If you are the victim of aggressive tailgating, don’t intimidate the driver. Call the police if you fear you’re in danger, or simply let them pass if you have the chance.

Of course you can switch out ‘truck’ with just about any vehicle and it’s likely to be a familiar story to many who use the road. It’s one that is in no way limited to heavy vehicles.

It’s also not just on highways that tailgating is a problem – it’s just that the speeds involved substantially increase the level of danger.

But we experience forms of this behaviour every day. At the lowest end it’s annoying and dangerous. At the extreme end it can be deadly.

Have you experienced tailgating on the road and how often? Who do you find are the main offenders and why do you think they are in such a hurry?

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.