As the year comes to an end it’s timely to reflect on how you might have been ripped off during 2012 and what can be done about it in 2013. Here are just some of the rip offs so feel free to tell us about others.
First up we have the ongoing petrol rip off. Poor old motorists got ripped off every day of the week as the same petrol was sold by the same petrol retailer at different prices at different locations.
At one location you could pay a higher price than another location. That’s the old geographic price discrimination trick. There’s no rational reason why the same petrol has a higher price in one suburb as opposed to the adjoining suburb or even across the road.
NSW now has the toughest mobile phone laws in Australia where if you do anything other than pick up your phone to pass it to a passenger you will be hit with a $298 fine and lose three demerit points.
Even pressing silent or stop to kill an incoming call will be illegal, in keeping with the mountain of research showing how massively distracting any use of the phone is while you’re behind the wheel. Now, Victoria’s top highway patrol cop wants to go one better and make it illegal even to have your mobile switched on while you are in the car at all.
It sounds on the face of it like an overreaction. Certainly it would make life incredibly difficult for the many people whose jobs require them to be in contact while out on the road, people who work in sales and deliveries, and who are set up with all the latest hands-free Bluetooth gizmos.
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There is nothing like an election campaign to get politicians into theatrical stunt mode. State elections often become bidding wars on crime and there is hardly a state in Australia where our politicians haven’t tried to demonstrate their toughness by advocating so-called “hoon” laws under which ratbag drivers have their cars confiscated and crushed.
Having spent much of my life living in a hoon haven suburb of inner-west Sydney, where boofheads in souped-up Skylines and WRXs would habitually fang it along Norton St, Sydney’s Lygon St equivalent, I have no personal issue with the concept of crushing cars. Save for the fact that the stupider and most reckless offenders aren’t sitting behind the wheel when their cars are flattened. Hoon driving is a genuine scourge in this country, not only is it obviously dangerous, it is also deeply irritating, and habitually tops the list of number-one concerns of law-abiding folks in Australian suburbia.
Nice though the idea of crushing their cars sounds, the only problem with it is that it also appears to be illegal. The Supreme Court ruled this month that mandatory legislated car crushing denies judges their right to discretion, and as such is unconstitutional.
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You can’t learn to drive early enough, according to the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS). They’re running a pilot program for kids as young as 12 in Adelaide that they hope the Government will pick up and run across all secondary schools.
It’s an absolutely fantastic idea. Not only will it prevent kids from picking up bad habits from parents or older siblings who drive them around, it’ll also prevent anyone chickening out of driving and waiting too long to get a licence.
As a child of the era of the first really graphic road safety television ads, I waited till my mid 20s to start learning to drive because I always felt too anxious to take the responsibility of getting behind the wheel.
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Confession: I’m a nanna driver. I hunch over that wheel as though it’s a Zimmer frame, bent forward with my shoulders around my ears. I actually LIKE getting stuck behind slow trucks because it means there’s no pressure to put the foot down.
Thing is, I live in the Hills. Lovely lazy winding roads with nowhere to pull over or overtake.
Upshot is I get tailgated. A lot. In a way I can’t blame people. I’m in the way. They’ve planned on getting somewhere at a certain time and I’m foiling their plans. As a punctual person, I understand their frustration.
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Today The Punch team has each selected two issues which get us hot under the collar, and which we feel deserve more airplay.
What are your thoughts on the issues we’ve chosen? And what other issues do you think we should all be talking about?
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Good driving and experience on the road go hand in hand. For this reason it’s pretty obvious that young drivers will always be at a disadvantage. But the solution to making them better drivers isn’t just more time behind the wheel.
The New South Wales state cabinet has recently agreed to a new policy initiave that will allow L-Platers to cut 20 hours off the mandatory 120 hours driving practice. To be eligible, L-Platers are required to finish an optional course of five hours of on-road and classroom training focused on driving attitudes. It’s a terrific start.
Plenty of L-Platers are bound to be attracted by the opportunity to shorten the seemingly endless hours of driving practice. But a fool-proof learner driver plan should include a test for emotional intelligence that reflects the very real and distinct pressures of being a young driver.
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Two women in snappy heels and skirt-suits are sitting at a boardroom table, when one leans to the other in a break in the meeting and whispers, “He’s bought a Mini”. A look of sympathy crosses the face of the listener, as obviously this means the other woman’s poor husband is in the midst of a mid-life crisis.
“A Mini?”, she asks, looking concerned. “Yes, he’s bought a Mini, a bright red one. What next? Flower arranging? A new career in window dressing?”
Offensive, right? And sexist. And not very witty. That kind of ad would never get to air, would it? Well, probably not. But something that feels similarly jarring has been on TV lately, and, as Kimmy from Kath & Kim would say, it’s been really getting up my goat.
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It’s highly annoying when recounting a tale of woe, pouring your heart out and shaking your fist, only to hear an unsympathetic someone crow: “That’s nothing, mate … blah, blah, blah … my neck’s bigger than yours.”
So when I hear Australians complaining about how other Australians drive, I tend just to nod my head rather than thicken my neck. I tend not to mention the past 10 years sharing asphalt with the Italians, for whom the speed of light is considered conservative, in the wet, in reverse, in their driveways.
That’s not to suggest I haven’t seen daredevil tactics in Oz. Despite the recent “good news” about 2011 registering the lowest number of road deaths since 1946, we still have our share of hoons, road rage and drink-driving are still a problem, and if I had a dollar for every P-plater I saw texting while driving… It’s as though they think you can steer with a smartphone. Perhaps one day you’ll be able to, if Darwinism extends to gadgets.
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It was a performance worthy of a Guinness World Record. Barreling along Sydney Road Fairlight, the truck driver was texting on one mobile phone while speaking on another, steering the rig with his knees.
I hit the horn and indicated – in no uncertain terms – he should stop before he kills someone. Still clutching the phones he slowly and deliberately raised his middle finger.
If only he’d read the story of 21-year-old Sarah Page, a serial texter from New Zealand. “It’s fine Mum, I do it all the time!” she’d protest. Until she wrapped her car around a pole in 2009.
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Last week I was standing at a pedestrian crossing at the Adelaide Airport with my two kids, aged five and eight. There was a car coming towards us, moving fairly slowly and appearing to slow down. In one of those split-second moments which people without kids will pontificate about, but which parents understand, we started to step onto the crossing.
The driver didn’t stop. He went straight through, missing us by inches. I shouted at him, as did a bystander, but he kept meandering along the road for about another 30m. He stopped his car smack-bang in the middle of the road, right on the white line between two lanes, where a security guard approached him to inquire as to what the hell he was doing.
The driver was so old that he possibly didn’t even know he was in a car at all. He looked like he was 90 in the shade. At least.
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Very few vivid memories remain from the morning of April 1, 2005. I was 17.
The one that sticks the most was dad crying. Dad never cries. Farmers never cry.
It could have been 4am, it could have been 7am. I still don’t know. All I remember was it was dark and mum and dad were standing at my bedroom door in tears. Daryl was gone. My mate.
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There’s a growing trend in rear window art. It’s the biggest thing since Baby on Board signs. Only these are telling you not just about the baby but every other member of the family - including the cat and dog.
They’re called My Family stickers and they need to come with a warning: “May Cause Road Rage”. Or “Will Incite Anger”. Because people are going nuts about these little white labels.
For every person proudly adding the adhesive version of their dog, cat or sibling to their back windscreen, there’s another one angrily waving their fist in objection. Or joining the Facebook hate page. Yep, those tiny stickers have divided the nation.
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“It’s been awhile since I’d been in the car with dad, but when he offered to drive to my cousin’s place last Sunday, I said yep. Hey, it was a great excuse to indulge in a extra glass of wine or two. Anyway, it wasn’t at all relaxing. From the minute we turned out of the driveway, I was gripping my seat. His driving was out of hand. Forgetting to check mirrors, not indicating and one terrible moment at the traffic lights when we skimmed through a red. He’s 75 this year and always been a pretty good driver. But I’m worried about him. What if he hurts himself? What if he hurts other people? If it was anybody else I’d be ringing the cops straight away. But can I really turn in my dad?”
Can you help this reader? Post your thoughts below.
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Last year, I resolved to buy a car.
My enthusiasm quickly evaporated, however, when I actually started poring through the classifieds and realised the whole thing was going to cost me a substantial amount of cash.
I also became terrified of getting stiffed by some crisp-collared sales-jerk or a bunch of snakes in a floral-print dress disguised as a sweet old lady.
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Justice is “the principle that punishment should be proportionate to the offence”. Well, that’s a dictionary definition anyway.
For many innocent victims of dangerous driving in South Australia, justice would seem to be a myth. In March last year, John Swindle was walking his dog when killed by a 17-year-old speeding along Saint Bernards Road, Magill. Under the effects of alcohol and cannabis, the P-plater panicked and fled.
In February, the Adelaide Youth Court spared the boy a jail term, instead handing down a suspended sentence, a $1,000 fine and a 10-year licence ban.
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ANYONE who has spent any time in NSW would be familiar with the provocative “small-penis” advertisement aimed at combating hoon driving.
The ad, filmed in slow motion with a classical music soundtrack, features a pimply-faced youth, still on his P-plates, who almost loses control of his crappy old Toyota Corolla while trying to do a burn-out.
His mates in the back seat look at each other, raise an eyebrow and smirk, then make a wiggly gesture with their little finger as if to say their driver friend must be so poorly equipped tackle-wise that he has to compensate by being a big man with the car.
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Everyone should abide by driving laws but I reckon there’s a need for a guide to driving etiquette.
Is it just me or are drivers becoming more agitated, more selfish and lacking any respect for other motorists? They aren’t necessarily breaking the law, they just make driving more annoying.
Gone are the days when driving was a pleasure. Today it’s a means of getting from one place to another with the least amount of aggro.
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Roadkill is a reality of Australian life.
Drivers should slow down, be aware, and avoid killing native animals without putting their own lives in danger. Other animals, though, may not deserve so much care.
You shouldn’t run down kangaroos, for example - but cats could be another matter.
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Across Australia today a familiar push and shove is taking place as cyclists vie for space with the ever increasing numbers of cars on our roads. It is a pattern that is repeated throughout our towns and cities; a symptom of our car loving culture and sense of road entitlement from drivers and cyclists alike.
Drivers resent the packs of Lycra warriors when they take up entire lanes and invent their own road rules, and cyclists understandably fear cars which are often wielded like 100 tonnes of road clearing debris.
Neither party is blameless in this dangerous game of chicken, but it is up to state governments to appreciate the differing needs of commuters and adjust their infrastructure accordingly.
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This massive billboard for McDonald’s Yass is the funniest sign on the Australian highway network. Imagine the word “kiss” in front of it and you’ll soon see what I mean.
But there’s nothing funny about the roadside dining options on Australia’s highways, which generally range from gross to inedible to botulism-inducing.
I did plenty of driving over Christmas, in a loop of SE NSW that included a south coast beach holiday and three days camping in the Snowy Mountains. Kilometres covered: about 1,200. Memorable road meals: zero.
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Lying about having epilepsy was when I hit rock bottom on the excuses spectrum.
But when faced with the perfectly reasonable question from a Canberra cabbie who had picked me up twice in a day, as to why a seemingly healthy 27 year old did not just drive himself, I blanked and then came up with: “well I have epilepsy you see, stops you driving.”
Firstly, apologies to any epileptics reading this for using your problem as an excuse to escape the embarrassment of not having my driver’s licence, as well as using possibly factually inaccurate information about epilepsy impeding your ability to drive (a friend with epilepsy just mentioned this once so I especially apologise to him).
What’s a long weekend in Australia without attempting to drive just a bit too far?
That one extra day can inspire many of us to pack up the car and make the most of it.
But why does that also so often mean that we decide to drive way too fast and far too recklessly?
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