CRA Motoring News & Driving Safety – Australia
By Olga de Moeller
When was the last time you let someone merge on the freeway in peak-hour traffic?
Or gave a fellow motorist the “West Aussie wave”?
That time-honoured tradition on many country stretches that is in near-extinction in Perth is hoping to make a comeback with the Road Safety Commission’s new Kindness Travels campaign, promoted by media outlets and personalities, including Seven West Media’s Basil Zempilas, Rick Ardon and Susannah Carr, to encourage unity and respect on the roads.
We’re not talking about rules, but driver etiquette, those little acts of courtesy that make for a better commute.
Like not speeding up when someone is trying to overtake you.
Or, sticking to the left even though in WA you don’t have to on multi-lane roads — unless there’s a “keep left unless overtaking sign”, or the speed limit is 90km/h or more.
Best West Driving School instructor Lou Thompson knows all the ins and outs and says a lot of driver etiquette derives from road rules, some little-known and often overlooked, which accounts for a lot of poor behaviour behind the wheel.
“Consideration of others generally should apply to all situations, particularly consideration on the roads given we’re all sharing the same space.” she said.
“I call it reading the road.
“You need to look 10m around your immediate vicinity as you’re driving, then you want to scan about 50m ahead as you reach an intersection and 100m ahead as you approach traffic lights, even if you have right of way — because you can’t assume anything.
“Like the campaign says, always acknowledge the other driver with a nod and a wave, either if you make a mistake or appreciate their courtesy.”
Ms Thompson’s top bugbears include:
Indicators need to be used appropriately and in a timely manner. The law says you have to let other drivers know what you’re doing on the road.
It’s also good etiquette because mindful drivers are safer all round.
“A classic example for me is roundabouts — if you’re turning left or right at a roundabout you must indicate at least three flashes before commencing your manoeuvre,” Ms Thompson said.
By law, drivers are required to signal when exiting a roundabout where practicable.
“So the driver at the entrance beside you knows what you’re doing,” Ms Thompson said.
“Same goes for merging. Look around you, indicate with three flashes, don’t just swerve out and cut the other driver off.
“Remember, the lead car goes first when two lanes merge into one.”
Some drivers, in particular, like to tease or menace learners by getting up too close.
That’s bad etiquette.
Seemingly few people are aware that as a general guide, you should easily be able to see the rear tyres of the vehicle in front of you when you stop at an intersection or pause in traffic.
“For me — and this is etiquette — I always like to maintain a station wagon’s distance with the car in front,” Ms Thompson said.
“This is a buffer if the driver behind you fails to stop and hits your car because it gives you time to react and brake so you don’t rear-end the car in front.
“It also gives you space to clear a path for an oncoming emergency vehicle or manoeuvre your way out from behind a stalled vehicle.”
Yes, you have to park between the lines, but etiquette dictates you should be pretty much central in the bay, not skewed to one side.
Worse still are drivers who leave their cars on an angle in a forward park.
“Sometimes you have to adjust your park to the left or right of the bay, as space allows, to accommodate a car that hasn’t parked centrally in their bay, but otherwise there’s no excuse,” Ms Thompson said.
Only for use in badly lit areas, such as dark streets and country roads, and not foggy conditions. The law says high beam is not allowed if you’re driving less than 200m behind a vehicle or an oncoming vehicle is less than 200m away.
“However, it’s good etiquette to dip your high beam as soon as you see another car, regardless of the distance, which can be sometimes be difficult to gauge as you’re travelling, so you don’t blind the other driver,” Ms Thompson said.
“If they can’t see you, they can’t avoid you.”