Independent Driving Instructors Guild

The natural migration habits of the Aussie Road Traveller are returning, and with it, the Great Aussie Road Trip, which requires due consideration on the safety of you and your passengers, as well as not being penalised by road-safety fines, in particular, exceeding the weight your vehicle is allowed to carry and/or tow.

Before you buy that heavy trailer or caravan, load your roof-racks to the brim, know the rules on the weight/loads you can carry/tow. Every Australian State may have slightly different rules on your vehicle and trailer/caravan towing capacity.

You will need to know the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) found on the engine label in your engine bay or door pillar, including your towbar's tow weight rating.

As a general rule:

1. If what you are trailing is fitted with brakes, then one and a half times the GVM of the towing vehicle, or,

2. 750kgs Gross Trailer Mass (GTM) or the unladen mass of the towing vehicle, whichever is the lesser.

Note: A vehicle's design / construction may reduce its towing capacity, such as the rear axle load and the vehicle tyre rating.

What to Choose ?

A light duty vehicle, such as a passenger car, may be satisfactory for occasional towing, but if you’re planning to do a lot of heavy or long distance towing it’s probably worth considering something a bit more robust and a bit more power in reserve.

A big 4WD may be a good choice if you plan to do a lot of towing, it could be a poor choice if you will mostly drive around town, as it's increased size makes it difficult to park and brings with it higher fuel consumption and maintenance costs.

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In 2011, the Journal of the Australian College of Road Safety, published information on a joint initiative of the Australian Automobile Association and the Australian Government on improvments to Learning Pathways for Novice Learner Drivers. Known as "Keys2drive". The programme stated it would "accelerate" an evolution or "drive" a revolution in how Australian Learner Drivers are taught.

10 years on, a review of Keys2drive was published by the Centre for Automative Safety Research (CASR) at the University of Adelaide, using elements of the international model "Goals for Driver Education (GDE)" so as to identify a set of best practice principles to frame the review.

The review:

1. Assessed the consistancy of the Keys2drive programme with the principles derived from the GDE;

2. Concluded the Keys2drive program to be predominantly consistent with the GDE derived principles; and

3. Noted increased market demand for interactive learning approaches, improvements to the monitoring and reporting of "novice driver learning" and the "accredited instructor performance standards".

Regional access to supervising drivers and access to roadworthy vehicles in remote regions continues to be the greatest challenges facing the Keys2Drive programme.

The CASR review did not demonstrate that Keys2drive could be considered as revolutary in its approach to Novice Driver Learning, as it did not demonstrate that Keys2drive delivered additional Learning Pathways over those principles set down by the GDE (i.e. address the psychology to and consumption of road safety practices, technology impairment).

The CASR review did demonstrate Keys2drive as being evolutionary over processes that pre-dated it within the novice driver cohort (i.e. increasing socio-economic access to programmes of this nature, developing awareness in higher-order skills to driving at an earlier stage in the Novice Driver Learning Pathway).

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How we address Covid is not just influenced by what we feel and what we may know of the disease, but also by the rules placed around us by governments, our workplace and our leisure spaces. It's a dynamic environment, with constant changes expected to the rules and the willingness of society to follow those rules.

As experienced driving instructors, we are required to follow guidelines set by the auditors of our industry, so as to keep our customers safe while living and learning within the pandemic.

1. Provide and clean and safe learning environment;

2. Check for infection using periodical tests; and

3. Communicating the results to customers with advice on the next steps.

Providing a clean and safe working environment typically means a cleaning and clothing regime carried out each and every time a customer enters our vehicle.

Our vehicles are wiped down with cleaning agents recommended to remove any trace of Covid from all surfaces in the vehicle. Our Instructors wear a mask and are fully vaccinated to reduce the potential for further communication of the virus. Our Instructors will advise the driver of any impact Covid has on your engagement, so that you may plan together the most effective pathway so as not to interrupt the driver's learning experience.

Our Instructors check their health status using RAT tests so that we may inform our drivers of our health status in a timely manner.

Should we discover a positive result in one of our Instructors, you will be informed immediately on when and where you may been possibly exposed to the virus. Today, close contacts are not required to isolate. although we believe this is a personal choice for both the driver and the Instructor.

Should we contact you that we have received a positive test result from our testing, know that we will also contact members of our instructors' household, their childrens' school and their employers', and advise that you should do the same.

Living with Covid is similar to living with the flu. Get plenty or rest, eat well, and drink lots of fluids. Take the treatments you would normally take for a cold or flu if needed to manage the symptoms and keep taking any regular medications.

Reach out to family and friends by phone or videocall. It is important you look after your mental health, as well as your physical health, while isolating. Do not forget to advise your doctor if your condition deteriorates.

If you need mental health support, the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080, Beyond Blue, and the Managing COVID-19 hub on healthdirect are good sources of information.

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Covid, and more importantly, the reaction to Health Authority advice and its use in the Government Advice model, has had a significant impact on how we live our lives. Apart from the main health effects caused by catching the disease, it has also had a significant effect in isolating our society and restricting social contact.

The main reason for the Isolation measures has been to:

1. Slow the impact of the virus on the hospital population (flatten the curve);

2. Restrict communication of the virus until its' contagiousness can be measured and controlled; and

3. Prevent communication of the virus in settings where the population are vulnerable due to immune deficiencies.

One of the significant trends in isolating has been in the increased use of social technology in the home such as marketplace shopping portals, on-line conferencing services and instant broadcast/messaging services.

One of the significant impacts from isolation has been the impacts on small business entities that depend on walk-in customer traffic and personal customer engagement.

The Driver Instructor industry has not been immune to this impact, requiring significant health intervention processes to allow for its services to be delivered.

The main component of the driver instructor service, the transfer of tactical / environmental skills, cannot be readily faciliated on-line at an afforable price.

During this time of isolation, we advise our instructors to make sure their household is up to date with their vaccinations. Appointments can be made using the Vaccine Clinic Finder.

Instructors should check they have the general medications at home to manage cold and flu symptoms and the supply of their regular medication. Ensure you have pain relief, rapid antigen tests (RAT), a thermometer.

Instructors should also ensure they have a supply of personal protective equipment, including masks, hand sanitisers, disinfectant / antibacterial wipes and gloves.

Of a general nature, plan for how you’ll get food and essentials while in isolation.

Become familiar with ordering online where possible, and chat with your friends or family to see if someone could leave food at your door and check in with family, friends or neighbours and community members to see if they need support or supplies in case someone tests positive.

If you test positive, you must isolate at home for at least seven days from the day you had your test. We expect these rules to change over time so please refer to your state or territory for continued advice.

Finally, have the numbers of service providers handy, like the National Coronavirus Helpline, so you can be connected to community pathway supports when you need them.

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Inexperienced drivers have unique characteristics. Their real world experiences, dynamic spatial awareness, ability to engage in multiple environmental inputs (e.g. dash instrumentation, street/traffic signage, emergency audio), the effects of momentum and the understanding in cost/effects in managing their safety bubble, create a number of dimensions to their learning pathways.

The instruction required to encourage discipline often creates conflict between the instructor and the instructed, requiring personal skills in managing the relationships behind the wheel.

There is a range to the experience of inexperienced drivers.

At one end, the on-line pre-driving age generation with access to simulations, do not readily comprehend the effects of mistakes on the road due to the lack of physical consquences experienced by simulations, that regimentally normalise the violent effect of a mistake.

The other end of the dimension, elderly drivers, whom have developed habitual driving patterns, or have experienced the physical effects of mistakes, sometimes becoming overly cautious in their approach to driving.

A plan for experiencing real-world driving conditions must be shaped to the experiences of the individual.

Young drivers, with little real-world experience but extensive accesss to simulations, will often require behavioural instruction. Do the elderly, whom sometimes show a tendency in neglecting their basic disciplines in road/traffic management, require similar behavioural instruction.

How do you plan for skill development and embed behavioural modification into the learning material. Is the instruction primarily about gaining confidence and discipline. Are the learning pathways similar.

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There are numerous studies and media reports outlinng the impact mobile phones are having on the driving public. These reports often relate to studies on the increase in risks of crashes, caused by driver distraction, of which mobile phones are one component (i.e.drinking, eating, talking to others, listening to music are others).

Distraction is measured on the tasks of driving including:
1. Physical tasks - where the hands leave the wheel;
2. Visual tasks - where the eyes are diverted from the road; or
3. Cognitive tasks - where a driver has difficulty processing two or more pieces of information at the same time.

Driving is a complex activity performed in an environment that is constantly evolving. It comprises the simultaneous performance of multiple primary tasks (e.g. tactile movements to steering / acceleration / braking), spatial learning from interpreting visual layers/queues (e.g far/near traffic flow / signage), and cognitive processing (e.g. fatigue affected input from eyes, hands and feet).

Driving also comprises multiple seconday substasks (e.g. indicating, checking mirrors, changing gears, monitoring speed/fuel/temperature instrumentation). Do these distractions ultimately impair driver judgement.

Is Impairment to judgement different to impairment to physical/visual and cognitive tasking. Is Judgement dependent on the completion of all tasks before a judgement can be made.

Do mobile phones impair tasks and delay judgement to any greater affect than other devices in the car (e.g. radio, passengers). Is it the type of disrupting device, or the frequency at which the device disrupts, or both. How large is the impact of the mobile phone, compared to other devices that disrupt.

What is the Key Learning Area.

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There is a big difference between observing reckless vehicular behaviour and reacting to it with rage.

Our observations are often made with the "me" filter, where we translate the incident into a judgement about how that person is acting in relation to "me". Difficult drivers are common, no matter where your location. Reacting to them seems natural and necessary, and it is this natural behavioural pattern that needs to be trained. We often do not think about what we wish to accomplish, or explore other methods for releasing the underlying emotion these actions cause (e.g. anger, frustration, rage).

Your filter is not the same as theirs. Could it be as simple as acknowledging our ability to think quickly and feel gratitude that we are, and they are, still safe. You can't teach another driver to drive better by simply reacting to their behaviour.

In turn, reacting to their behaviour can lead to an increase in the agressiveness of your driving behaviour, including tailgating. speeding and erractic lane changing, which is more punishable under law compared to what you had observed.

Road rage escalates rage and is driven by a need to prove who is right. A basic question should be asked at this point, what do you need to prove and why prove it to someone we dont ultimately care about.

Exhibiting courteous and safe driving behaviours is less likely to aggrevate other drivers that may have reached their limits in stress, temper, impatience, making them less considerate.

A simple set of principles will often lead you to a better driving experience,
drive in a predicatble manner,
dont block intersections,
allow others to overtake/merge into traffic,
drive to road conditions,
if travelling no faster than the traffic bedise you, merge into the leftmost lane.

Driving involves a high degree of trust, people who do not know each other routinely engage in decisions at the cusp of life or death.

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There are six driving conditions that confront drivers every time a vehicle is operated, comprising:
1) Light,
2) Weather,
3) Traffic,
4) Road,
5) Vehicle and
6) Driver.

Slowing down is one of many actions we undertake within the six driving conditions, including: go to posted flow (slow down / speed up), control drag into corners (front / rear braking), change tactile sense (under / oversteer), change level of cognition (alertness / frame of mind), and use of safe zones (use of mirrors / setting the mind's eye 50m out front of vehicle).

Factor in changes to your behaviour for each condition.

Condition 1) Vehicle visibility on the road, do not overdrive your lights and avoid looking directly into oncoming lights;

Condition 2) Traction, visibility and vehicle tactile response vary over time;

Condition 3) Approach intersections warily as they offer the greatest threat, don't trust signals, they only indicate right of way, enter when it is safe;

Condition 4) The road's Camber & Pitch will always guide the vechicle left and as the surface gains traction a vehicle will readily drift further left, or in an accident, will most often spin to the right;

Condition 5) Braking, wheel alignment, shock absorbers, suspension and tyres are the most critical elements in determining the length of time a vehicle maintains maximum grip on the road; and

Condition 6) Capability, experience and confidence in your judgement are critical factors that influence the driving experience.

Your ability to complete appropriate maneouvres while maintaining a clear frame of mind will be critical to your driving development and longevity. So what should the key message be for road safety.

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