Monday, June 21, 2010

Tips for new migrants: driving

Driving in a new place is not only about knowing the traffic rules. It is about knowing how to avoid a collision, knowing what to do in a collision, and finally how to avoid the fines and summonses. The following pertains to Melbourne. I'll only mention what a seasoned driver from Malaysia may not be aware of.

Traffic rules: Always give way to pedestrians. At the roundabout, always give way to the traffic on your right even if you arrive first at the roundabout. When turning right at a junction, if there is no red arrow right-turn signal, you are allowed to go forward and wait until the oncoming traffic is clear. Then turn right. It is helpful to get just one or two lessons from a driving instructor. At least, read the driver's manual which you can pick up from any newsagent.

What to do in a collision: If no bodily injury is involved, you can pull over to the side and talk with the other person. There is no need to make a police report in this case. Exchange the name of the driver, address, phone, license plate, driver's licence number, and insurance company. If the driver drives off or is uncooperative, the best you can do is to get his rego (i.e registration number or licence plate), and then make a police report. It helps to get the name and contact number of a witness of two. There is no need to discuss on the spot who is in the right, because it is up to the insurance companies to work it out between themsleves. They will arrange for a repairer for you.

Avoiding fines and summonses: Obey all speed limits; speed traps are everywhere. They won't stop you; you'll just get a letter in the mail. Usually your first speeding ticket will be waived if you write in and appeal. In a school zone, the speed limit is often 40kph at certain hours. Watch out! The other place you don't want to get caught are at traffic junctions where both speed cameras and red light cameras are installed. I have seen the camera flash go off very often when waiting at a busy junction. There's a heavy fine and demerit points.
Parking fines are also very common. In areas of limited parking, the parking inspectors are very, very hardworking. People often get a ticket for going over time by 5 min. Be familiar with loading zones, wheelchair bays, no-standing ("S" sign), and clearways ("C" sign). The last two are especially very rigorously enforced. In a no-standing area, you can get a ticket even if you still remain in the car with the engine running. In a clearway, your car will be towed away right before your eyes. There's no negotiation. In addition to a fine, you'll have to pay towing cost and storage charges.

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