How to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip

Once you have your licence, you have the keys to freedom and it’s time to head off on your first road trip. Exciting times. You’ve packed your bags but what about your car?
What should you check to prepare for your trip?
 
1. Tyre pressures
The most common problem that you are likely to have when you head out on a road trip is a flat tyre. A couple of days before you go, check the tyre pressures with a reliable gauge and fill to the pressure recommended in the owner’s manual or tyre placard on the vehicle. If you find that one tyre is lower than the others, have it inspected for a leak before setting off. Don’t forget to check the spare tyre too. There is nothing worse than changing a tyre by the side of the freeway only to find that there is no air in the tyre you just fitted!
 
2. Tools and Jack
Make sure that you know where the tools and the jack for the car are. If you have never changed a wheel, it is probably a good idea to have a go at jacking the vehicle up and removing a wheel before you head off. By doing this you can test and confirm that all the tools you will need are with the car and in working order.
 
3. Fluid Levels
Depending on how old your car is, you should check the fluid levels. Use the owner’s manual to identify where the following fluids can be checked:
Engine oil
Transmission oil
Coolant
Brake/clutch fluid
Power steering oil
Windscreen washer water
If you find any fluids are low, top up the fluid and have a mechanic check for leaks.
 
4. Lights
Often on a road trip some of your driving may be at night. On the freeway or on country roads there are no street lights. You will need rely on the quality of your headlights. Make sure that your headlights are working on both high and low beam and also check that the lights aim where you want them. While you are at it, check all the other lights on the vehicle, they will help you to be seen!
 
5. Carry Water and Food
It is good practice to carry some water and food with you out on the road. The amounts will vary depending on how remote you are heading. 10L of water and some food is good to have with you. The water can be used for hydration if you are stranded or can be used to top up overheating cooling systems to get you a bit further down the road.
 
6. Fuel
Lastly, make sure that you have enough fuel for the trip. If there is an accident or a natural hazard like a flood or bushfire, you may have to take a detour. If you only have enough fuel to get you to your endpoint, you may end up stranded on the side of the road.

Top 6 Driving Fails

Top Driving Fails
Here are our top 6 driving fails:
 
1. Not keeping an appropriate gap
The most common type of accident in NSW is a rear-end collision.  Rear end accidents account for 28% of all reported accidents making this our number 1 driving fail! The most common cause of rear-end accidents is not keeping an appropriate gap.
2. Distractions
A rapidly rising cause of accidents is distraction, with smart phones taking priority over what is happening on the road. You might get away with it once, but soon enough your number will come up.
 3. Driving in the right-hand lane
We refer to the right-hand lane as the ‘head-on collision lane’. It only takes a tiny error by an oncoming driver for a head-on collision to occur. Head-on collisions account for  30% of fatalities on NSW roads.
4. Late decisions
The late decision maker likes to keep us all guessing as to their next move. They brake late and try to squeeze into turning lanes that they did not realise were coming up. Late decision makers do not have the time to consider other traffic when they make moves and are difficult to predict .
 5. Not indicating
There are some drivers out there that think that indicators are there to be used because the road rules say so. The reality is that indicators are there to communicate with other road users. Nothing more frustrating than the driver that gives their indicator half a flash just after they have changed lanes.
6. Trusting a green light
Green means go right? Well did you know that 16% of crashes happen at controlled intersections? Just because we have the right of way does not mean everyone else will give way. Make sure you are safe before entering an intersection or you are committing one of our top 6 driving fails.
 
Are you looking for logbook hours? Complete the Safer Drivers Course and get 20 logbook hours.  Book today

Your child is ready to learn. Are you ready to teach?

learner driver
The focus for our blogs over the coming weeks is how to best work with your child to get their licence and keep them, and you, safe in the process.
So your beautiful baby is about to turn 16 and is keen to start driving. What can you do to make sure that they get the best start on driving?
Here are 5 tips from a professional trainer.
1. Have your child read the road users handbook
In the modern day most young people sit their driver knowledge test without having read the road users handbook. The driver knowledge questions are available as a mobile app from Service NSW for you to practice with. This serves a great purpose of getting you use to the layout of the questions and can even help you learn some of the road rules. It is not a complete knowledge base.
By reading the road users handbook most of the road rules are covered, it might be a good idea for you as a parent to have a read too!
2. Make sure that your learner knows all the vehicle controls before getting on the road
It is important for a learner to be comfortable with the controls of the vehicle before getting out on the road. The last thing you want is to be trying to explain to someone how to use the wipers during a sudden downpour! They can start learning the controls and switch work before they have a licence. Reading the vehicle user manual and spending some time in the garage with you testing their knowledge is a great way to start. Try to have your soon to be learner sit up front and watch what you are doing with the controls and your interaction with traffic. This will help to build muscle memory and understanding.
3. Don’t do too much too soon
During the early stages of actual driving everything is new. The feel of the accelerator and brakes (and even which is which) is a bit trial and error. Stay well away from traffic in the early stages of driving and try to get in lots of short sessions close together. It is exhausting when nothing is muscle memory. Be prepared for the accelerator to be used in place of the brake and if you don’t have access to an emergency brake from the left hand side of the vehicle then be very cautious about getting into difficult situations.
4. Remember that what is obvious to you is not to them
It is very difficult as an experienced driver to identify how and why you do what you do. Simple things like telling a learner to pivot their heel on the floor when operating the accelerator and brake makes a massive difference, but might not be obvious at first. The way we interact with traffic is another area that looks like magic to learners but is very difficult to put into words for the experienced driver.
5. Get help!
The early stages of driving are by far the most important. Giving your child some time with a professional trainer to kick things off is going to instil the correct techniques and should build confidence quickly. It is much easier to practice the correct techniques for 120 hours than to undo 120 hours of bad habits for the test. Consider getting some driving lessons yourself before embarking on your supervision career. Your driver trainer will be happy to take you out for some lessons and work with you on any bad habits. Remember that your driver trainer is there to work with you. They will be happy to give feedback and address any concerns that you have.
 
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The Safer Drivers Course is designed for learner drivers wanting to learn more about becoming a safe driver. The course will help you gain a deeper understanding about what it takes to be a safe solo driver.
Through both in-class activities and on-road coaching, the Safer Drivers Course will help you to be safe long after the driving test. The course is fun, engaging and informative.
saferdriverscourse_infog
 

Are you being seen by other drivers?

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At most crashes one of the drivers will get out of their car and say,  “He came from nowhere” or “I didn’t see her”.
If you aim to be seen you will reduce your likelihood of being involved in an accident.
 
What can you do to be seen?
There are several things that you can do to ensure that we are seen on the road.
The primary way that you are seen is through the use of your signals and brake lights.
By making early decisions we become more predictable and therefore easier to see on the road.
In some situations, tapping the horn or flashing the headlights will help us to be seen on the road. This is actually the only correct use of the horn!
A big part of being seen is using your own vision to identify all the hidden possibilies.
You should always be questioning, is there a child walking out behind that bus? Is there a car about to run that red light?
When you identify blockages in your vision, you can slow down. If there is a car running a light, you can see them and they can see you too.
 
If you are finding it difficult to see other cars then we should be questioning if other cars can see you.
This could be due to the setting sun, rain, fog or mist on the windows.
If you are having trouble seeing other cars then you need to do everything you can to be seen – turn on headlights and slow down at high activity areas.
 
How do you know if you have been seen?
The only way to know if you have been seen is through eye contact. If you as a driver or even as a pedestrian are not looking at the other driver, you are not getting the full picture.
If you are approaching a car that is waiting to come out of a side road and all you can see is the back of their head then you need to slow down. You cannot be sure that they have seen you.
You will still need to exercise caution even with eye contact, in some situations it might look like the other driver has seen you but not.
What does an expert driver do to be seen?
At the top level a driver will adjust their position in their lane to be seen earlier by other road users. They will avoid driving in blind spots of other road users. Headlights will be on well before dark and after dawn. They will adapt a ‘horn ready’ stance in situations that have potential other road users to make late decisions. They will also give careful consideration to the colour of their vehicle and other safety features like daytime running lights.
Read more on Road Safety: Early Decisions
 
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The Safer Drivers Course is designed for learner drivers wanting to learn more about becoming a safe driver. The course will help you gain a deeper understanding about what it takes to be a safe solo driver.
Through both in-class activities and on-road coaching, the Safer Drivers Course will help you to be safe long after the driving test. The course is fun, engaging and informative.
saferdriverscourse_infog

The Safety Cushion

(and the three-second gap)

Have you ever considered why so many people crash into each other?
The majority of crashes happen because the driver does not have enough space around them.
The space around the car is what Trent driver trainers call the Safety Cushion.
By maintaining space around your car you will allow time to react, manoeuvre and stop if required. You need to guard this space!
 
How do you know if you have enough space around your car?
Ideally, you need 2 metres between you and parked cars and about 1 metre between an oncoming vehicle.
On narrow roads, this might be difficult to maintain so you need to slow down. The basic rule is: Space reduced = Speed reduced
As space increases, you can speed up again.
Early learner drivers naturally slow down because they feel the need to ‘suck in’ when they go through narrow spaces. As drivers get more experienced and are more comfortable around other vehicles, they start to go faster. The problem is that every time you double your speed, your stopping distance is multiplied by 4.
Be aware of driving in the blind spots of other road users and avoid having cars right next to you. In multi-lane traffic, you need to be conscious of your safety cushion to oncoming vehicles. The right-hand lane is the head-on collision lane and should only be used when overtaking or turning right. It only takes a moment distraction by someone coming the other way for a head on collision. Don’t be there!
As safe drivers we should be thinking “Is there a person about to step out behind that van?” or  “Is someone about to pull out from the kerb in front of me?”
 
How do I protect my  Safety Cushion?

At higher speeds, you need to think about the space between you and the vehicles in front, behind and to the sides. This is where the  3-SECOND GAP applies.

Drivers should always maintain a 3-second gap to the vehicle in front.

To calculate a 3-second gap,  watch as the car in front goes past a stationary object and start counting: 1001, 1002, 1003. If you pass the object before saying 1003, you are too close.

Often the vehicle behind will not maintain a 3-second gap to your vehicle (if they are really aggressive, just get out of their way).

The 3-second gap works at all speeds

 
How do I know if I am good at applying the safety cushion?
When you have mastered the safety cushion you will:

  • Find yourself adjusting your position inside your lane to maximise your safety cushion where ever required.
  • Always have a 3-second gap or greater.
  • You will actively avoid driving next to other vehicles and get out of the way of aggressive drivers.
  • You will feel uncomfortable in the head on collision lane.

If this is you then great work! You are much more likely to be safe on our roads.

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The Safer Drivers Course is designed for learner drivers wanting to learn more about becoming a safe driver. The course will help you gain a better understanding about what it takes to be a safe solo driver. Through both in-class activities and on-road coaching, the Safer Drivers Course will help you to be safe long after the driving test. The course is fun, engaging and informative. saferdriverscourse_infog

The Kerbside Stop

You will need to do kerbside stops in the driving test.
This often overlooked skill is essential to gaining a licence.
Often it will be done on an uphill grade, especially for manual learners.
You will also need to perform the same manoeuvre as part of a reverse park or three-point-turn. Getting the kerbside stop wrong will make it difficult to pass your driving test.
Getting the kerbside stop wrong will make it difficult to pass your driving test.

Where can I do a kerbside stop?

When practicing kerbside stops, you will need to consider the road and surrounding area. Start on a quiet road so you have plenty of time.
You cannot park across a driveway, in a clearway or a bus zone. All parking signs need to be checked to ensure that you are parking in the appropriate place for the length of stay.
An often forgotten parking rule is that you need to leave at least three metres from any double unbroken center line to leave enough space for cars to go past.
For more parking rules see: http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/roads/safety-rules/road-rules/parking.html

How to do a kerbside stop?

To master kerbside stops, you will need to be proficient in the use of:

  • Accelerator and brakes
  • The gears
  • The clutch
  • Starting and stopping the car
  • Hand-over-hand steering technique
  • Vision
  • Safety cushion
  • Blind spots

When practicing your kerbside stop,  find a suitable place to pull into the kerb; be aware of all the traffic and pedestrian activity around the vehicle.
Once a good spot has been found you can start to drive towards kerb. The aim is to be 20-40cm from the kerb once you have stopped, with the wheels parallel to the kerb.
If you are parking behind another vehicle, leave about a metre gap.
TIP: If you are having trouble judging the size of your vehicle, a transit line can be set up from your eye through to a point on the windscreen or bonnet to the kerb. This will help you repeat your position. LTRENT Driver Trainers can teach you this trick if you are unsure.
When the vehicle is parked, apply the park brake, select park in auto vehicles or first gear in a manual.

When you are leaving the kerb, the first step is to get the vehicle ready to go.
Start the motor and select drive or 1st gear. Make sure that there is enough room for you to the clear the car in front of you. Reverse a little bit if you need more space.
Check the mirrors to find a space to pull out into. Signal your intention to other road users with your indicator. The indicator needs to be on for five seconds before pulling out.
Just before you leave the kerb,  check your blind spot in the direction that you are moving. There could be a car pulling out of a driveway that you cannot see in your mirrors. If your blind spot check comes back clear then you can leave the kerb.

How do will you know when you are an expert at the kerbside stop?

At the highest level, you should be able to pull into a space that is about 2 car lengths long and be parallel first go in a busy traffic situation. You will also be able to pick and take an appropriate gap in busy traffic up a hill with cars parked either side of us.
More on manoeuvres: ANGLE PARK

Manoeuvres: Angle Parking

Do you need to know how to angle park?

Angle parking is not often in the driving test. This does not mean that you won’t have to do an angle park in the test. Often the driving test starts or ends in angle parking.

Aside from the test, you are going to need it in real life. Just like reverse parking, angle parking is a skill that most drivers just do. Before we can perform an angle park, we need to be proficient in the use of:

  • Accelerator and brakes
  • The gears
  • The clutch
  • Starting and stopping the car
  • Hand over hand steering technique
  • Blind spots
  • To and from the kerb
  • Slow moving forward
  • Up hill starts
  • Down hill starts
  • Reversing
  • Slow speed control
  • Road signs and markings

In addition to the above skills we need to have a really good feel for the size of the car. When we are performing an angle park we need to be uncomfortably close to other vehicles to succeed.

Where to do an angle park

Angle parks are found in all shopping centres, shopping strips and most car parks. They can be 90º, 60º or 45º.

How to an angle park

When we are doing an angle park we need to keep the vehicle moving slowly and smoothly and turn the steering quickly.

Firstly we pull up a little bit past the parking spot that we want to park in, about a meter out from the cars we are parking next to.

As we reverse back we need to find the spot to start turning into the parking spot. In most cars it is when the rear wheel is in line with the first corner of the car you are parking around (for 90º).

We need to adjust the starting point to for 60º and 45º parks. At this point we start to turn into the parking space, this will feel too close! As we are moving into the parking spot check your mirrors to evaluate your position in relation to the other cars. If you can see a gap between the bumper of the car you are parking around and the side of your car then we are OK.

Once the rear wheels are past the car we are parking around we need to move our focus to the car on the other side of the car spot and the lines. If we can see more of the car next to us coming into view then we are clearing it, if the view in our mirror is not changing then we might be on a collision course, stop!

As we are starting to line up with the lines we need to start straightening the wheels and reverse back in a straight line parallel to the parking lines. When we are far enough into the spot we can stop.

When we are leaving the spot make sure to move out in a straight line for at least half a car length before turning the wheels.

Driving in forwards is pretty straightforward, just make sure that you use a wide arc to enter the spot so that you are going straight as you are entering the spot. If you are reversing out of a spot make sure that you go almost fully out before turning the wheel so that you avoid bumping other cars and posts.

How do we know that we are expert?

The toughest situations for angle parking are when there is lots of traffic, say the week before Christmas at the central shopping centre. You only have one spot available, it is narrow due to the large 4wd vehicles parked either side. If we can do this first go (and leave enough space to exit the vehicle) then we are winning!

 

More on manoeuvres: REVERSE PARKING

Manoeuvres: Reverse Parking

Many learners come to our driving school just wanting to learn how to reverse park. It is seen as the pinnacle of driving skill. It is a complex manoeuvre, however, you are unlikely to hurt anyone too badly by not performing it well.

The reasons that it is difficult to teach the reverse park for most supervisors is that they are at the unconscious competence(habit) level of skill ie they just do it. What most learners don’t realise is there are several skills that must be mastered before reverse parking can be attempted. If we try to do reverse parks before these skills are mastered then frustration is what you will be practicing!

Before we can reverse park we need to be proficient in the use of:

  • Accelerator and brakes
  • The gears
  • The clutch
  • Starting and stopping the car
  • Hand over hand steering technique
  • Blind spots
  • To and from the kerb
  • Slow moving forward
  • Up hill starts
  • Down hill starts
  • Reversing
  • Slow speed control
  • Road signs and markings

The key to doing a successful reverse park

Once we are proficient with the above list of competencies then reverse parking can be relatively simple, we just need to identify a couple of key points on the vehicle to turn in and turn away again. Our trainers know exactly where these points are.

Whenever you are setting up a reference point, use the rear corner closest to you of the vehicle you are parking behind. Any method that references the steering wheel or any other point on the other car is floored, not all cars are created equal! The main thing to remember when we are practicing is to keep the vehicle moving slowly as possible and the steering moving as quickly as possible. Over time the learner will get faster and more unconscious of the process until ultimately they are not thinking at all about the process.

The other thing to make sure to practice is how to fix a park that goes bad, eg we are further from the kerb than we hoped. In these situations we need to work on getting the rear wheels closer to the kerb. Think of this process like doing a mini reverse park. This skill will be useful when getting into parks that are only just big enough for the car to fit. If we find ourselves at too higher an angle and too close to the kerb and too close to another vehicle then the only option is to start again.

What level do we need to be to say we are expert?

When we first start practicing we will be using either flat or slight uphill roads but how do we know we are ready for the real world? Many young people are going to make one of their first trips to the beach on a nice summer day. This will involve a tight reverse park on a steep hill with other cars waiting, people walking around and fish and chips shops full of spectators. Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to confidently park up in this situation!

How to make your testing officer feel comfortable

driver and trainer
The Aim of the Test
Learner drivers usually hear stories from their friends on what the driving test is going to be like and advice about what to do. Some of this is true, most is not.
During the driving test, the learner driver’s aim is to make the testing officer feel comfortable, that is, they feel safe in the car with you.
Setting off in a controlled manner and driving confidently right from the outset will make the testing officer more relaxed.
Generally, if the testing officer is chatting with the learner driver, this is a sign that they feel confident. If they are using the grab handles then they might not be feeling so comfortable!
 
Appearance Counts
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The test starts before the learner driver gets into the car. The learner driver wants to make a good first impression to the testing officer.
Follow these points:

  • Don’t be late
  • Be neat and tidy
  • Smile
  • Have all paperwork sorted out and neat (look after your logbook)
  • Have a clean car parked in the correct location
  • Know how to operate the indicators and brake lights without the engine running

 
How to drive during the test
Be seen
We have heard from some students that they have been advised to drive 15 km/h below the speed limit. This is not a good idea, it will make the testing officer question the learner driver’s ability. It is best to drive with the flow traffic up to the speed limit unless there is reduced space or vision, then slow down as required.
You may hear stories that everyone fails for head checks or blind spots. While this is often true, the solution is not to look like a laughing clown at Luna Park while driving. You need to understand what you are looking at, then you can check the appropriate blind spot, the traffic and do observation checks for the situations presented. Testing officers are onto people who are looking just for show and will be really picky about observation errors for these applicants.
Learner drivers need to make safe decisions. We have all been in the situation of waiting to do a right-hand turn onto a busy road waiting for a gap (high risk of accident). This will be on the test too. You cannot be swayed by the aggressive driver four cars back honking the horn. If there isn’t an appropriate gap, then wait till one comes along. The testing officer would prefer the driver to wait for a safe gap than have a go at a gap that is not big enough. Remaining calm in this situation will show the testing officer maturity in your driving.
Sometimes things go wrong on the driving test. The car might be stalled or your reverse parking may be botched. Remember these two things – the testing officer is human, they might not have noticed the mistake and it is OK to make a couple of errors, often they are not marked as harshly as you might think.
It is most important the learner driver does not give up after the first mistake. Just take a deep breath, relax the grip on the wheel and carry on.
 
Getting Results
Thanking the testing officer regardless of the result will put them in a better mood for the next applicant!
If you are not successful on their first attempt, don’t argue with the testing officer about the result. There is every chance that you will end up with the same testing officer in the next attempt. That will make for a very quiet drive…
 

Why do people fail their Driving Test?

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We surveyed our trainers on what were the main causes of failing the driving test.
What was the number one response? Nerves.

How to Prepare

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The best way to manage your nerves on test day is to be trained to above the driving test standard. By working with a driver trainer early in the learning process, you will build safe habits into your driving. When you are under pressure your muscle memory will take over, so any bad habits that were ‘corrected’ in the days before the test won’t have had time to take root in your muscle memory and they will come back.
In the weeks leading up to the driving test, your trainer can put you through the Trent on Road Test (TORT). During this test you will be taken around a predetermined test route that is far more difficult than the driving test.
This way, you get used to being assessed. The TORT will also test what is habit and where weaknesses exist. It is just as important to practice being assessed as it is to practice your reverse parks and three point turns!
On the day of your test, your trainer will look after you with our concierge service. You will go for a short warm-up drive and be presented to the testing centre. Your trainer knows where to park, what paperwork is required, when to arrive and how to present the vehicle so that you don’t have to worry about anything.

Getting the Right Mindset

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Get a good night’s sleep before the test, eat your normal meals and do something that takes your mind off the imposing test. Don’t overthink the event. When you are well prepared you can walk into the test with the mindset that you are going to show the testing officer how safely you can drive. Take a couple of deep breaths before moving off on the test and stay calm.

Don’t Give Up!

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Too many times we have seen students return from their test and the testing officer saying that they drove really well until they stalled on the hill start. Had the student just taken a deep breath and kept trying their best,  the minor control error would not have blown into a fail item for a poor decision at a roundabout. The testing officer is not expecting you to drive like Mark Webber, they are looking for you to drive safely.

Common Myths

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There is a misconception that all testing officers are evil grumps that enjoy watching you fail. This is not usually the case! Since the changes to Services NSW has been rolling out, the testing officers are of a much higher standard. They realise that it is in their interest to make you feel comfortable on your test. The testing officer will not try to trick you by asking you to do a turn where one is not allowed.
If you accidentally turn right when the instruction was to go left, it is not the end of the test.

What if you are not successful?

Not everyone passes first go. Plan your course of action before the test, are you going to re-book on the spot or online with your trainer at a later date? Before you attempt another test, have a couple of lessons with your trainer to work on the items that were not up to scratch the first time and go to the next test with more knowledge and skill. Sometimes you will learn more in defeat than in victory.
For more information about the driving test read: WHATS IN A DRIVING TEST?