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Easier to deal with a high-speed autobahn than Sydney drivers

Date: December 7 2006

I have just returned from being reunited with my daughter in Berlin. I chose to drive while there. The left-hand driving position is not too difficult for someone with 40 years' driving experience; for those about to drive overseas, a tip to remember is keep the steering wheel in the middle of the road - otherwise turns become a worry.

On my return some three weeks later, I drove on Southern Cross Drive in Sydney. It was scarier than 210kmh on the autobahn. Mostly Sydneysiders drive like idiots. You tailgate, gesticulate, rant and rave to get one car length ahead, run red lights, and never acknowledge or say sorry if you are in the wrong. You generally use one form of defence - attack.

I conducted an experiment involving the observation of probably more than 1000 cars. My experiment was drive to the north at the absolute speed limit, set that limit into my cruise control and watch what happened.

Sydneysiders, your failure rate to observe the most basic of rules - the speed limit - was 99.9 per cent. A single (green P-plated) car followed me; all others passed, speeding. Some chose to incorporate finger gestures while doing that.

There have been cries of concern about the deaths of young people on the roads, but I fear the solution is too late because of years of rule-breaking.

Your children in their early years were strapped in the rear seat and watched you drive - every minute, not just when the police were looking, or when the speed camera was on you.

They have learnt that driving at the speed limit is for losers, that your temper is OK, that the other guy is an idiot, that "I" am important and "I" own the space around me, that the roundabout rule is to run it, and that "I" can multi-task - drive and text? No worries.

To unlearn those behaviours and pass a test - a one-off drive with a nice person - may be easier than to eradicate the behaviour. Start with the next generation, for goodness sake. Let's not continue on this road toward more suffering.

Michael Ringland, Woollahra. [SMH LETTERS 07 DECEMBER 2006]


Been swerved at, tailgated, cut-off, abused, menaced? We've all experienced the frustration of trying to report incidents to police, trying to convince them to take it seriously. Here's what you need to know to get the best results: Bike_Tips: Reporting to Police (2 pages, pdf, 12kb) for reporting drivers to police.

Download and print an Incident Report. It clearly itemises all the details you will need when following up on an incident when reporting to the police. Having one handy will help take the uncertainty out of a difficult situation. Incident Flyers .pdf (updated 13 Feb 06)

The NSW Road Transport (Safety & Traffic Management) Act 1999 came into force in December 1999. It incorporates the Australian Road Rules plus NSW specific provisions.

The full legislation (available from the RTA on > traffic > road rules or on 1800 060 607 as the Road Users Handbook is too large for most mortals to ever read.

Fortunately for cyclists, Fiona Campbell has distilled from it the rules most relevant to cyclists: The Bike Saint's Favourite Road Rules


COAST TO COAST 100 Actively promote reporting dangerous driving particularly on the single lane roads of Northern NSW.

There are various avenues for reporting dangerous driving, none with any particularly effective results. The best advice of police in Newtown to cyclists intimidated by motorists is to, "get off the roads, take the licence number, report the incidence to police." As already explained by the Police Cycle Officers attached to the Newtown Command, the cyclist harassed by a motorist is fairly low in the list of priorities.

Obviously there is a need for a centralised authority to handle such complaints in a reasonable and transparent manner to the satisfaction of all road users. The New Zealand Roadwatch program is just such a model.

-- FionaCampbell -
-- PaulBoundy - 16 Jul 2006
-- GilbertGrace - 26 Jun 2006

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