Driving is a complex task, putting varying demands on the driver according to different environments. How drivers behave can have a dramatic effect on reactions from other road users.
Special consideration should be taken when you’re sharing the road with heavy vehicles.
Car drivers should keep these tips in mind:
- Be aware of the comparison in size, mass and momentum between your one-tonne car and a 40-tonne heavy transport.
- Recognise that heavy vehicles accelerate slowly. Try to be patient while the truck driver moves through 10 or more gears.
- Don’t tailgate. Apart from breaching the traffic regulations and being dangerous, tailgating is counter-productive to overtaking and your windscreen and paintwork will last longer by avoiding stones that are thrown up by truck wheels.
- Allow sufficient time to overtake. Heavy vehicles travelling close to the speed limit will take considerable time to pass, especially road trains.
- Never overtake a heavy vehicle on a curve or crest. Be patient and wait for a suitable stretch of road. Most highways provide strategic overtaking lanes.
- After overtaking a heavy vehicle, maintain your pre-overtaking speed. It is frustrating for drivers of heavy vehicles when the motorists who overtake them slow down, forcing them to brake and lose momentum.
- Give way to buses when they are pulling out from bus stops on roads zoned at 70 km/h or less. Buses are required to display a sign on the rear of the bus to remind motorists of this rule.
- Allow heavy vehicles plenty of braking space as they need more stopping space than cars. Do not cut in front of them when they are braking, for example, at traffic signals.
- Keep an eye out for indicators. When a heavy vehicle is turning across your path, keep back from the intersection as the truck may require more space to make the turn.
- Be especially alert when encountering vehicles with extra wide loads under police or pilot vehicle escort. Strict regulations apply to the carriage of these loads to ensure motorists are not unduly inconvenienced or placed at risk. Do your part, stay well clear of the vehicles and obey all signage and escort directions.
It’s the driver’s obligation to give way to emergency vehicles sounding a siren, bell or flashing light wherever practicable and to make every reasonable effort to give these vehicles a clear and uninterrupted passage.
You must be alert for emergency vehicles and regularly check your mirrors. When an emergency vehicle approaches, you must:
- slow down and merge left or stay left
- if your unable to merge safely, hold your position attempting to let the vehicle overtake
- not create a dangerous situation by moving suddenly or making an illegal manoeuvre.
At intersections, motorists must stop safely if possible and wait, even on a green light. When clear, the emergency vehicle will move off and motorists can proceed, provided the light is green.
All road users have responsibilities but there are also additional road-sharing obligations depending on whether you drive or cycle. For motorists, this includes knowing the road rules that apply to cyclists and respecting their rights. For cyclists, it means riding predictably and clearly indicating any intention to change direction.
Common accidents involving cars and cyclists are caused by motorists:
- Failing to give way to cyclists when exiting side streets and driveways
- Turning right or left and cutting off a cyclist on the kerb side
- Overtaking too closely to cyclists
When you’re sharing the road with cyclists, you should:
- allow cyclists at least one-metre leeway when overtaking
- be aware that bicycles are not as stable as other vehicles and that they may need to suddenly veer away from rough road edges.
Sharing the road with cyclists
As motorists and cyclists how can we share the roads more safely? This CD TV episode looks at some of the concerns expressed by both cyclists and motorists and offers some advice on how we can all make the roads a safer place.
Animals & stock
Animals are unpredictable and can be a problem for drivers, especially when driving at night, dawn and dusk, around water crossings and in rural areas where there are unfenced cattle.
Night time creates an additional problem because the headlights of an oncoming vehicle can cause an animal to panic and freeze in the middle of the road. So make sure you slow down, particularly along roads with yellow warning signs with a silhouette of an animal.
Roadwork signs are official traffic signs, so if you disobey them you could:
- face a fine and get licence demerit points
- be liable for any damage to roadwork equipment and materials
- be sued for damage or injury incurred
Roadwork signs are also warnings to take extra care, even if there are no road workers on site.
By observing signs and obeying any speed restrictions, you will ensure:
- the safety of the road workers
- you do not lose control of the vehicle due to the rough road surface
- you avoid any unnecessary damage to your vehicle by loose bitumen, stones or gravel.
Unfortunately, as roads become congested and vehicles become a personal survival capsule, drivers often become frustrated and impatient, increasing errors of judgement and the chance of having a crash.
As a driver, you will either be guilty of, or a victim of, driver error and aggression. But how you deal with the situation depends on your frame of mind.
You can reduce stress in your driving environment by:
- allowing plenty of time for travelling
- improving the comfort in your vehicle
Drive defensively and avoid conflicts with other road users by:
- remaining calm and relaxed
- making allowances for errors by other drivers and road users
- using your horn sparingly and only as a warning device
- putting isolated cases of minor delays imposed by others in the overall context of the whole trip.
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