Talking Law with Eugenia – Saturday, 25 September 2021 on Lofty Radio 88.9 FM


Driving involves risk and safe drivers aim to reduce and manage their risk by making good decisions and taking responsibility for their behaviour when driving.

SPEED: The faster you drive the harder you hit and the more serious injuries will be

Speed is a key factor in crashes and road trauma. Exceeding the speed limit increases the likelihood of a crash. As your speed increases, your ability to react to emergencies and stopping distances increase. Other road users also find it more difficult to judge how fast you are travelling.

At higher speeds there is a greater likelihood of severe injury or death. Even small increases in travel speed can cause disproportionately large increases in the likelihood of a crash that causes death or serious injury. In a crash your body will keep moving at the travel speed of the vehicle.

For vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, small differences in travelling speed can mean the difference between life and death. If you collide with a pedestrian, death or serious injury is likely even at relatively low speeds.

Research shows if you are travelling in a 60 km/h zone, your chances of being involved in a crash double with every 5 km/h increase in speed. Travelling at 65 km/h in a 60 km/h zone, you are twice as likely to be involved in a crash. A car braking from 65 km/h will still be travelling at 32 km/h at the point where a vehicle braking from 60 km/h has stopped.

There are two components to stopping distance:

  • The distance travelled by the vehicle during the time it takes for the driver to react
  • The distance travelled once the brakes have been applied.


Inattention is an issue in both rural and metropolitan areas, for all age ranges and for both males and females.

There are 4 main types of driver distractions:

  • Visual – what you see
  • Auditory – what you hear
  • Physical – the things you do with your hands – eating, drinking, using a mobile phone
  • Cognitive – what you think about

Distractions can cause you:

  • to straddle lanes on a multi lane road or veer across the road
  • to drive inconsistently, speeding up or slowing down without apparent reason
  • difficulty in maintaining appropriate safe following distances from vehicles in front (e.g. tailgating)
  • less awareness of safe gaps in traffic
  • slower reaction times and hence heightened crash risk
  • impairment of judgment.

Younger drivers having passengers in the vehicle is a distraction and coupled with peer pressure can increase the risk of a crash.

Any lapse in concentration increases the risk of your vehicle being involved in a crash. To anticipate and avoid hazards on the road, you must give driving your full attention at all times. When on the road concentrate on driving. Do not be distracted.

Avoid the temptation of doing other tasks and getting distracted while you are driving. Activities including using mobile phones, eating, drinking, changing a CD and conversing with passengers and children are all increasing your risk of having a crash and taking your attention away from the road. Remember who’s driving the vehicle. Taking your eyes off of the road or diverting your attention even for just a few seconds can be fatal.


Prepare for the trip and consider:

  • distance
  • type and condition of the roads
  • volume of traffic to expect
  • location of towns, rest areas and other services (e.g. service stations and motels)
  • weather and its effect on driving conditions
  • number of bridge and creek crossings
  • scenery and places of interest
  • speed limits (100km/h in SA unless signs indicate otherwise).

Rest areas are provided at regular intervals on major sealed rural arterial roads throughout the State.

Plan your travel time
Plan your travel to ensure you:

  • include a break or rest stop every 2 hours
  • avoid driving for more than 8-10 hours a day
  • have a good night’s sleep before driving, so you can start fresh
  • start your trip early in the day, and avoid driving during the night, or straight after you finish work
  • avoid driving at times when you are usually asleep.

Prepare the car
Consider carrying the following items:

  • first aid kit (ask your local ambulance centre for advice)
  • torch and spare batteries
  • reflective triangles
  • small tool kit containing pliers, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, fuses and bulbs, spare fan belt and top and bottom radiator hoses
  • fire extinguisher (if in doubt, check with your local fire service to ensure it meets Australian Standards)
  • jumper leads, tow rope and tyre pump
  • tyre pressure gauge.

Check fuel, oil, water and tyres beforehand to avoid having to stop soon after you depart. Make sure your tyres, including the spare, have the proper inflation pressure and that there is plenty of tread.

If you are towing a caravan or trailer, pay special attention to the condition of the tyres. Tyres which are only used once or twice a year can become brittle and prone to blowouts/punctures. Check the tread and the sidewalls to ensure they are in sound condition.

Sharing the road with heavy vehicles

There has been a significant increase in the number of heavy and long vehicles on our roads over the past 20 years, a trend that is continuing in response to growing demand and supply of goods.

Heavy vehicles are large, not very manoeuvrable and often slow around the city. Therefore, obey traffic laws, be cautious and patient when near them. On country roads drivers very often become impatient when behind trucks. Don’t take unnecessary risks when overtaking. Always assess the risks.


Drivers on country roads should take extra care when overtaking long vehicles.

Before attempting to overtake, ask yourself the following:

  • What will I achieve?
  • What are the risks?
  • Is it safe and is it legal?
  • How far is it to the next overtaking lane?
  • How long is the truck I am overtaking and how long will it take to overtake it?
  • Can I see if there is oncoming traffic?
  • Is there a bend or dip ahead of the truck that might be obscuring oncoming traffic?

Many heavy vehicles travel at night when it is more difficult to judge their speed and distance from you. When following a heavy vehicle that you intend to overtake, stay well back from the rear of the vehicle while waiting for a safe overtaking opportunity. This will allow you to see further along the road past the heavy vehicle without having to move significantly to the right. It also allows vehicles approaching from the opposite direction to see you earlier.

Towing a caravan and being passed by a truck? Just maintain your speed and stay in your lane and give trucks room to move

Road trains can be up to 54 metres long and 2.5 metres wide, with up to three trailers and should only be overtaken with extreme caution:

  • allow plenty of time to overtake long vehicles
  • allow even longer in wet weather or changed road conditions
  • remember that trailers or caravans may sway from side to side
  • never overtake a long vehicle that is approaching a cross road or a dip or bend. It may be hiding another vehicle which could be turning on to your road in front of it and you could find yourself in a high-speed head-on collision

Road users should be aware of heavy vehicle manoeuvrability and adapt their driving behaviour accordingly

Slow moving vehicles, including cyclists and large agricultural machinery, such as tractors and harvesters, may be encountered on country roads.

Remember to:

  • overtake agricultural vehicles at slow speeds as they often swerve when approaching roadside posts or turning in to a property
  • travel carefully when overtaking, cornering or driving over the crest of a hill – a slow vehicle may be on or entering the road in front of you

Many trucks carry loads that could be dangerous either through fire, explosion, corrosion or radioactivity. Information about what is being carried is indicated on the vehicle’s emergency information panels.

Take extra care when overtaking a truck carrying a dangerous load

Overtaking lanes are provided on some rural highways, in particular the Dukes Highway (A8), National Highway (A1) between Port Wakefield and Port Augusta and the Sturt Highway (A20). They give drivers of faster vehicles the opportunity to safely pass slower moving vehicles.

When in an overtaking lane, you must:

  • always use the left lane, unless you are overtaking
  • at the end of an overtaking lane, indicate clearly that you intend to move into the other lane, giving way to any overtaking vehicle in that other lane
  • when changing lanes at any time, give other road users sufficient warning by indicating clearly and giving way to vehicles in the other lane.

Stopping distances

Braking distance is the distance travelled by the vehicle once the brakes have been applied. This distance is much greater for heavy vehicles, including buses, due to their additional weight.

Keeping clear of heavy vehicles that are stopping will help prevent crashes.

Take extra care when you enter a road or change lanes in front of a heavy vehicle. Leave plenty of road space, as their additional weight also requires greater slowing distance.

The following video highlights safe driving techniques to prevent a rear-end crash

Blind spots

A blind spot is where you are a driver lose sight of the vehicles around you. Know where a truck’s blind spots are:

  1. Beside the truck’s left door.
  2. Directly behind the truck for quite a distance – if you cannot see the truck driver in the truck’s mirror, then the truck driver cannot see you.
  3. Immediately in front of the truck.

Get clear of a truck driver’s blind spot as soon as you can. Move to a position well in front of or well behind (several car lengths), where the driver can see you.


You don’t have to be drunk to be affected by alcohol. You might feel normal, but no one drives as well after drinking alcohol. Studies have also shown that a driver’s risk of being involved in a casualty crash doubles for every increase of 0.05 above zero BAC. Drugs like cannabis, speed and ecstasy can impair performance on driving-related tasks.

Don’t mix driving with alcohol or drugs (including medicine). To avoid the risks plan ahead.

  • Designate a non-drinking driver, if you are with others.
  • Catch a taxi home.
  • Use public transport.
  • Stay the night.
  • Arrange for someone to pick you up – only accept a lift if you are certain the driver has not been drinking or using drugs.

Under the Road Traffic Act 1961, it is an offence to:

  • drive with a prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA)
  • drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI)
  • refuse to comply with directions from a police officer in relation to an alcotest or breath analysis (Refusal to blow).


Using a mobile phone while driving impairs your driving performance through distraction and increases the risk of crashing by at least four times. The most common types of crashes associated with mobile usage are ‘run-off-the-road’ crashes and ‘rear end’ crashes.

Using a mobile phone while driving significantly impairs your:

  • reaction time
  • visual search patterns
  • ability to maintain speed and position on the road
  • ability to judge safe gaps in the traffic
  • general awareness of other road users.

If you need to use your mobile phone, stop and park safely where you will not endanger yourself and other road users.

Research shows that young drivers can be easily distracted and may experience difficulty in balancing the many demands on their driving – from perceptual, mental and physical tasks. Using a mobile phone while driving, even if you’re just looking at a message, increases your risk of a crash by up to four times.

Avoid the temptation to multi-task when you drive. Don’t look at your phone or talk to anyone.


Learner’s Permit and P1 Provisional drivers are banned from using any type of mobile phone function while driving. The mobile phone ban includes:

  • using hands-free mode including Bluetooth technology
  • loudspeaker operation
  • GPS
  • text messaging.


On average, seven children are killed each year and 60 seriously injured after being hit or run over by a motor vehicle at home. Very young children are at greatest risk. 90% of children killed and 70% of those seriously injured are under five years of age.

The vehicle is usually only moving slowly and is often being driven by a parent, family member or friend.

We don’t think of small children as being in danger in such a familiar and caring environment – but they are.

  • Small children are naturally inquisitive and want to see what’s going on. They can also move surprisingly quickly.
  • In the time it takes for the driver to say goodbye and start the car, a child can move from a ‘safe’ position onto the driveway and into the path of the vehicle.
  • Small children can be impossible to see from inside a car, especially if they are immediately behind it.
  • The rear vision of a number of popular cars has been tested and results show that there is not a ‘blind spot’ but in fact a large ‘blind space’ behind most cars.

Even if your car has parking sensors or a video camera fitted, you may not notice a small child until it is too late to stop. And remember, children are run over by vehicles moving forward as well as reversing.

What can you do to keep your child safer?

  • Always supervise any children whenever a vehicle is to be moved – hold their hand or hold them close to keep them safe.
  • If you’re the only adult at home and need to move a vehicle, even just a small distance, put children securely in the vehicle with you while you move it.
  • Encourage children to play in safer areas away from the driveway and cars. The driveway is like a small road and should not be used as a play area.
  • Limit a child’s access to the driveway – for example use security doors, fencing or gates.
  • Be aware of your vehicle’s blind zones and learn the best way to use the mirrors and any other reversing aids in your vehicle.


Driving a motor vehicle is a responsible undertaking. The safety of other people depends on your fitness to drive. Various health problems may affect us from time to time. As we get older the risk of developing a medical condition that may affect our ability to drive increases and we may notice deterioration in both physical and mental abilities.

If you feel at any time that you are not in a fit state to drive, then DO NOT DRIVE. If you feel that your health and general fitness are not sufficient to continue driving, you should consult your doctor.

Fitness to drive responsibilities

The Registrar of Motor Vehicles has an obligation to ensure that all drivers are medically fit and able to drive competently and safely.

Both you and your doctor are also required to report any medical condition that could affect your ability to drive a motor vehicle safely to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.

If you are required to complete an assessment on your fitness to drive, you will be informed by your medical practitioner or you will receive a notice in the mail. If you receive a notice regarding your driver’s licence you must act on the request in that notice by the due date or your licence may be suspended.

Your fitness to drive is assessed in accordance with the national guidelines “Assessing Fitness to Drive” published by Austroads.
For information on fitness to drive assessment, or to report a medical condition please contact a Service SA customer service centre or call 13 10 84.

Medical conditions

There are a wide range of medical conditions, or combinations of medical conditions, that can affect your fitness to drive. Some of the most common are listed below.

  • Alcohol/drug dependency
  • Arthritis and other joint conditions
  • Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementia
  • Blackouts
  • Cardiovascular conditions including high/low blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Eyesight – If you are required to wear glasses or corrective lenses whilst driving but do not have a specific medical condition then this will be recorded as a condition on your licence but you will not be required to have a medical assessment.
  • Heart disease
  • Injuries and disabilities, including limb amputation or paralysis
  • Parkinson’s Disease and other neurological disorders
  • Sleep disorders like sleep apnoea
  • Stroke

Declaring your fitness to drive

You are required to declare any medical conditions when you apply for or renew a driver’s licence in South Australia. You may also be required to undergo the following assessments.
Medical Assessments

You will be sent a Certificate of Fitness in the mail and asked to visit a medical practitioner for a medical assessment if one of these apply:

  • you have a medical condition recorded against your driver’s licence that is subject to a periodic review, or
  • you are aged 70 or older and hold a licence for a class of vehicle other than a car, e.g. heavy vehicle or motorbike.

If you hold a class MC (multi-combination) licence and drive certain road trains and B-triples, or on particular routes, you may be required to be medically examined at regular intervals regardless of your age or whether or not you have a medical condition recorded against your licence. Refer to for more information.

Self Assessment

You will be sent a self-assessment annually in the mail to complete from the age of 75 years if you hold a class “C” (car) licence only and you do not have a medical condition.

The self-assessment enables drivers to self-assess their fitness to drive. It is designed to be completed independently, however if you answer yes or are unsure of any of the questions you will need to visit a doctor to complete the assessment. The self-assessment will be sent to you around the time of your birth date and is designed to help you to think about your health and how it may impact on your ability to drive safely.

Practical Driving Assessment

You will need to take a practical driving assessment if your medical practitioner feels it is necessary to help determine your fitness to drive.

The driving assessment consists of a short drive of about 30 minutes; it is not the same as the test that new learner drivers undergo to obtain their provisional licence.

Drivers are recognised for their experience and previous driving record. The practical assessment primarily looks at the ability of the driver to control the vehicle and demonstrate safe driving on the road in light to medium traffic while complying with the road rules.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances where extreme danger occurs due to poor vehicle control, drivers referred by their doctors for a practical test are given at least two (or more) attempts at the driving assessment.

From the age of 85, if you hold any class of licence other than “C” (a car licence) e.g. a truck or motor bike, you will have to do an annual practical driving test. Car class licence holders are not required to have a practical driving assessment.

Surrendering a licence that is no longer wanted

If you no longer want to continue to drive, or you think you are no longer fit to drive, you may either return your licence to a Customer Service Centre in person or send it by post to GPO Box 1533, Adelaide SA 5001, with a letter stating your decision. You will receive a refund for the unexpired portion of the licence.

If you hold a licence for a class of vehicle other than a car, e.g. a motorcycle, truck or a bus, and you no longer need this class of licence, you can downgrade your licence to a class C (car). You simply advise a Customer Service Centre of your decision and arrangements will be made to issue you with a new licence.

Do you still want to drive?

Some drivers know when to stop driving. They feel increasingly uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally, when driving. Driving has become an ordeal instead of a pleasure and they realise that they could possibly be a danger to themselves, their passengers and other road users.

If you’re not 100% sure, talk to a family member or someone you know.

For more information about issues facing older drivers, driving safely and alternatives to driving, visit and download the Obligations and Opportunities for Older Drivers resource.