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Security and Safety

Tips to aid in the prevention of car theft

With modern cars being fitted with complex immobilizers, a common tactic for thieves these days is to take keys off hall tables or from convenient key racks near the door, simply by ‘fishing’ for them with a pole through the letterbox.

The days of ‘hot-wiring’ cars are for the most part behind us.  However tactics have changed. Thieves will now target car keys, and will sometimes break into a house to look for them. It is a mistake to leave them in an obvious place like on a hall table.

Burglars are also adept at opening doors secured with conventional slam-shut barrel locks.  Once in the house, they’ll often find the keys left on a table or sideboard and can make a quiet getaway in the stolen vehicle.

AA Car Insurance tips to tackle car thieves:

  • Don’t be a temptation to the thief – lock your valuables in the boot.
  • Park legally in a secure place.
  • Lock the doors when driving.
  • Park before 11.00pm for greater comfort.
  • Use off street car parks.
  • Lock the car! It is all too easy to forget the obvious.
  • Use a steering wheel lock especially if you’re driving an older vehicle.  Cars built before 1996 are at high risk.  Cars built after 1996 are at low risk and cars built after 1999 are at very low risk.
  • Check your insurance. AA Car Insurance policies come with a Lifetime No Claims Discount for Fire, Theft or Glass claims.

Number plate theft

If your number plates are stolen you should contact the Gardaí immediately. It may seem trivial at the time but your plates will probably be used to change the identity of another car.  You could be wrongfully connected with a crime as result.

Satellite navigation theft

If you use a sat nav in your car, take it with you whenever you leave the car.  You should also remove the cradle and suction pads and clean away any tell-tale marks.

Driving safely and utilising vehicle space

Whether you’re moving house, picking up materials from the hardware store or heading off on a long weekend it’s good practice to take your time and organize yourself properly when loading up the car.

You should, adjust your tyre pressures if needed to suit the heavier load.  But remember to adjust them back again after the trip.

Drive more cautiously as handling and performance will be affected by the load plus stopping distances will be increased.

Don’t exceed your vehicle’s Maximum Permitted Weight (MPW).  This is the maximum permissible weight the vehicle is permitted to carry based on the capability of tyres, suspension, etc.  It includes everything in (including its passengers) and on the car.

Inside the car

  • Make sure everything’s secure:
  • Stuff sliding around or tipping over whenever you brake/turn will be both irritating and very distracting.
  • Empty boxes or plastic crates can be useful in the boot to stop things sliding around your boot.
  • Keep the dash or shelf beneath the CD player and front floor space empty.  Items will fall off and roll around could even get lodged under the brake pedal.

Keep larger/heavier stuff low down

  • Put the bigger stuff in first and then pack the smaller items around the larger items as this will help keep your centre of gravity lower to minimize the effect on handling.
  • Heavy items in the boot (cases of wine/beer, DIY materials) should be packed tightly against the back of the rear seat to reduce the risk of them bursting through in a crash. This affords better weight distribution and handling too.

Can you still see?

  • Avoid packing items above the back seat line so that you see clearly out of the back window.
  • Consider using a roof rack or roof box for lighter / bulkier stuff to leave more room inside.

Passengers come first

  • If you have to fold seats to get a large or awkward load in the car, simply come back for your passengers later on.  This is especially important if the load prevents them from putting their seat belt on.
  • Leave plenty of room for children – stuff packed in tight around them is sure to make for an unhappy journey.
  • Keep a bag handy for things you might need during the journey.

Plan for a puncture

Think about how you will get to the spare tyre in an emergency when packing up your car.

On the roof

Roof racks are a great way of carrying very large or awkward items but take care:

  • Check your car’s manual to make sure that the load, including the weight of the roof rack itself, doesn’t exceed the maximum.  This limit tends to be quite low.
  • Ensure that your load is securely attached and that it doesn’t stick out creating a hazard.
  • Once you’re underway, the airflow will be trying to lift the front of any long load so a secure fixing, holding the front of the load down is important.
  • Under heavy breaking the load will tend to slide forwards – secure fixings to the rear will help prevent this.
  • Fixings will work loose – stop, check and re-secure regularly.
  • Don’t forget the extra height.
  • Take care, for example, when entering covered car parks.
  • Distribute weight safely.
  • If you can, try to put bulky but lighter items on the roof and heavier items low down in the car.  This will help keep the centre of gravity down and improve stability.

Booze cruises

AA Patrols are called out regularly, especially around Christmas, as overloaded cars break down on their return from the Continent. Overloading can cause breakdowns through the following problems:

  • Damage suspension
  • Burn out the clutch
  • Cause punctures or uneven wear on tyres

AA advice for safe motorbike driving

Often overlooked, these are very important aspects of motorbike safety. Operating a motorbike safely is much more physically and mentally demanding than driving a car. Are you physically able to ride safely? Are you mentally prepared to ride and concentrate on the riding tasks? Many things can impair either or both. Some things are rather obvious, some not.

Consider this list:

  • You have had a drink in the past two hours.
  • You are just getting over a pretty bad case of the flu.
  • You are upset or angry.

It is obvious that item 1 will impair your physical abilities to operate a motorcycle and depending on how much you’ve had to drink you could be breaking the law. Item 2 is less obvious but potentially just as dangerous. You may feel MUCH better, but after a day or two of extreme weakness and bedrest, you are not back to 100% as quickly as you may think.

Your bike falling from under you when your leg is too weak to hold it up at a stop is not the time to realize it. It would be impossible to list all things that could impair your abilities. The key is to be aware of your physical and mental condition and save the ride for later if there is anything that could substantially impair either. Your life may depend on it.

Riding Gear

When most people hear the term “riding gear”, they think of things that will lessen injury in case of a fall. While that is a big part of it, riding gear can and should be used to help keep you from falling in the first place. Never thought about it that way? If not, you’re certainly not alone. Proper riding gear is used to maintain comfort as well as provide crash protection. Discomfort can actually CAUSE a fall.

So what is proper riding gear? It depends on the conditions, but at minimum it is:

  • An approved helmet. The helmet should fit snugly but not be too tight. In other words, it should be comfortable. Besides being the best defense against head injury in case of a fall, it is also the Law.
  • A long-sleeved shirt or jacket, snug at the wrists.
  • Long pants. If your bike should fall over at a speed greater than, say, 3 mph, one of your legs will likely contact the ground. Bare flesh is no match for the rigid substances that our transportation folks like to make roads from. Long pants also offer adequate protection for your legs from the extremely hot parts that many bikes like to show off.
  • Full-fingered gloves. Besides abrasion protection, gloves usually offer a better grip on the controls, especially in condition extremes. In the cold, you will need them to stay warm. In the heat, sweaty hands or fingers may slip off the controls. Gloves offer a buffer against this. They also provide some level of protection against flying objects, such as rocks picked up by traffic or insects, that inevitably will collide with your hands.
  • Eye protection. This may be goggles or a visor.
  • Sturdy footwear, preferably leather and preferably over the ankle. Besides the obvious abrasion protection, on most motorcycles there are many hot parts that reside near your feet and ankles. You should avoid long or dangling laces. Your quick thinking may be put to the test if you come to a stop and your foot won’t go down because you have a lace caught in the shifter or brake pedal.

Tailor your riding gear to the conditions you will encounter!

Making sure your Motorcycle is ready

You being ready to ride is only part of the battle. You need to make sure your motorcycle is ready too. You should perform a quick, overall inspection of your motorcycle before each ride. To do this, use what is referred to as the T-CLOCK inspection, explained below.

  • T – Tyres and wheels
    Check your tyres for proper air pressure, tread depth, cracks, bulges or embedded objects. Check wheels for dents, cracks and roundness. Check spokes for proper tightness or missing spokes. Check bearings and seals for signs of failure.
  • C – Controls
    Check all levers, making sure they are not broken, bent, cracked or loose. Check the condition and routing of control cables, making sure they move freely, are not frayed, and have no sharp angles, and are of sufficient length as to not interfere with steering. Check that all hoses are in good condition and don’t interfere with steering. Make sure your throttle moves freely, with no sticking and snaps closed when released.
  • L – Lights and electrical
    Check your battery, making sure the terminals are clean, electrolyte fluid is sufficient, and that it is properly secured. Check your headlight, making sure it works, has no cracks and is aimed properly. Check all other lights and reflectors for operation, cracks and fastening. Check wiring, looking for frays, clean connections and proper routing.
  • O – Oil and fluids
    Check oil and fluid levels, including brake and clutch fluid, coolant and of course petrol. Check all fluid reservoirs, hoses and lines for leaks.
  • C – Chassis
    Check condition of the frame, looking for cracks, dents or bends. Check forks and shocks, making sure they travel freely and are properly adjusted. Check chain or belt, for proper tension, lubrication and wear. Check all fasteners, bolts and cotter pins, making sure they are not missing, broken or loose.
  • K – Kickstand
    Check the sidestand and centrestand. Make sure they are not cracked or bent, and that they spring into place and the tension is sufficient to hold them.

Although this sounds like a lot, this inspection can be performed quite quickly. While it won’t guarantee against a failure of some sort, it will increase your odds of finding problems before they become dangerous or fatal.


Carrying a passenger

Carrying a passenger on a motorcycle is not like taking someone with you in a car. A passenger affects the overall handling and dynamics of your motorcycle. Unless you are a fairly skilled rider, you probably should not even consider taking on a passenger. If you do carry a passenger, you should know and do the following:

  • NEVER carry a passenger unless your motorcycle is designed for one, including seating space and passenger footpegs.
  • NEVER allow a passenger to sit anywhere except on the area of the seat designated for a passenger.
  • Make sure that the weight of yourself, your passenger and all gear does not exceed the maximum recommended weight for your motorcycle according to manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Make sure your passenger has proper riding gear. It’s just as important for your passenger to be protected and comfortable as it is for you.
  • Make sure your passenger knows what he/she is supposed to do. Unless the person has ridden with you many times and you know he/she understands the rules, take the time to go over them before you start your ride. The passenger should:
    • Keep his/her feet on the footpegs at all times, and avoid contact with hot parts.
    • Sit still as much as possible, particularly when slowing or stopped.
    • Always lean with the motorcycle. This means the passenger’s torso should always be the same angle as the motorcycle. They should not lean in or out.
    • When in a turn, look over the shoulder of the operator in the direction of the turn.
  • Make sure your suspension is properly adjusted for the extra weight.

Loading Your Motorcyle

When loading your motorcycle, you need to do more than just randomly fill space. Don’t forget to

  • Check your owner’s manual to find out your gross carrying capacity and never exceed it. Whether you have a touring machine with a travel trunk and saddlebags, or a standard motorcycle, the rule is the same – the bulk of the weight should be placed low and as close to the center of the motorcycle as possible.
  • Distribute the weight evenly on both sides, and if using manufactured bags, never exceed the weight recommendation for that bag.
  • Make sure that any attached load is securely fastened, and that any straps are tight, have no loose ends, and not freely moving.
  • Make sure that any attached load does not block any lights or turn signals, or interfere with your steering, braking, gear changing, or other control of the motorcycle.

AA Car Insurance: Safety Tips for Older Drivers

For most, continuing to drive as they get older is important as it helps them stay active in their communities and access essential services. However, as we age there are particular driving risks to be  aware of.

Issues commonly experienced by older drivers include:

  • Changes in eyesight
  • Health issues
  • Medication side effects
  • Uncertainty on busy roads and junctions
  • Decline in physical strength

What older drivers do well

While older drivers face more physical challenges than younger drivers, generally speaking they’re a lower motor insurance risk compared to other age-groups, especially young drivers. This is because older drivers usually:

  • Wear seat belts
  • Don’t drink and drive
  • Don’t speed
  • Obey the rules of the road when they drive and demonstrate courtesy to other road users
  • Drive less kilometers compared to younger drivers and motorists driving to and/or for work

Because of their physical frailty, older drivers are more likely than other motorists to suffer injury in the event of a car crash. With this in mind, it’s important, if you’re an older driver to keep up your driver fitness levels.

Keeping fit to drive

  • Make sure you have regular eye and hearing check-ups
  • Avoid driving when you’re tired
  • Avoid driving on unfamiliar roads, at night, in bad weather and during rush hour traffic
  • Share the driving when travelling longer distances
  • Allow yourself longer driver reaction times
  • Leave plenty of room between your car and the vehicle in front
  • Indicate in plenty of time
  • Drive cautiously
  • Keep your car well maintained
  • Never drive if instructed not to by a doctor
  • Be aware of medication side effects and whether or not they’ll impact your driving.
  • If driving grandchildren around, fit approved child car restraints in your vehicle correctly
  • Stay physically active as this’ll help with actions such as turning the car’s steering wheel and looking over your shoulder
  • Know when it’s time to consider hanging up your car keys.  If you become confused while driving or you’re concerned about your ability to drive safely it may be time to consider alternative forms of transport.

Safety concerns while driving with SatNav devices

Across the world, driver distraction is a major cause of road accidents.  Sat Navs are an amazing piece of technology however can lead to bad habits and mistakes behind the wheel.

Follow the tips below from AA Car Insurance to get the most out of your Sat Nav and stay safe:

  • What you see must take priority over what the Sat Nav says.
    People have been marooned in fords, driven into rivers and down railways because their sat nav told them to. If the road looks wrong, don’t take it.
  • You know what you’re driving, the Sat Nav probably doesn’t.
    If you have a large vehicle, or a trailer, you can’t be sure that the road is suitable for you just because the sat nav tells you to go down it. Watch for signs.
  • Watch the road – not the Sat Nav.
    A sat nav can give all sorts of information about where you are going, much of which you don’t need.
  • Put the sat nav in a sensible place.
    It should be in your line of sight – you don’t want to have to look down or turn your head a long way – but it should not create a blind spot and obscure your view of the road. Put it where it won’t injure anyone in an accident.
  • Don’t try to programme the Sat Nav while driving.
    You know it will take one hand from the wheel, two eyes from the road and a brain from driving. Pull over to adjust settings.
  • Use all the Sat Nav’s features.
    On a complicated, busy roundabout, it is unwise to take your eyes off the road to look at the sat nav, and much better to receive spoken instructions.
  • Check the route is practical before you start.
    If you put in the wrong destination, it will take you to the wrong destination. Does the route look right?
  • Update the Sat Nav regularly.
    It needs to know about new roads, new one way systems and generally keep itself up to date.
  • Remember, thieves like Sat Navs too.
    If it’s detachable, always take it out when you leave the car. Thieves know that when people remove them they tend to keep them in the car, so mounts or suction cap marks also attract thieves.

Compliance and regulations around towing

Driving with a trailer in tow is a big responsibility and one that motorists should take seriously.  Motorists towing a trailer on Irish public roads must ensure that it is fully compliant with national and EU safety standards.  These safety regulations provide drivers with rules as regards a trailers’ weight, lights, brakes, plating, under-run, side-guards, securing of loads, etc. that must follow be adhered to.

The three main pieces of regulation that drivers should familiarize themselves with are:

Drivers towing a trailer are required to have a specific driving license in accordance with the weight of the trailer that they are towing. For guidelines on which driving license type you require, additional information is available from the RSA by clicking here. Drivers should also educate themselves on the specific driving rules in terms of trailer type and brake requirements by clicking here.

To avoid being a danger to themselves and other motorists, drivers should always do a safety inspection before getting in their car and heading off on their drive to ensure:

  • The pin securing the ball mount to the receiver is intact.
  • The hitch coupler is secured.
  • Spring bar hinges are tight with the safety clips in place (load equalizer or weight distributing hitches).
  • Safety chains are properly attached.
  • The electrical plug is properly installed.

The weight capacities of the tow vehicle and the above mentioned components must not be exceeded by the gross trailer weight (GTW). Motorists should always consult their vehicle and trailer handbooks for these weight capacities.

AA Rescue advice on driving with trailers

Every year our breakdown service attends to hundreds of broken down vehicles with a trailer in tow. In addition to the above regulatory information AA Patrol, Keith Keegan, offers the following tips to drivers towing a trailer:

  • Motorists who are new to driving with a trailer should take time to practice their maneuvers in an empty car park before driving on a public road.
  • Drivers should consult their vehicle owner’s manual for guidance on what gears they should be in when driving with a trailer.
  • Motorists should plan their driving route to avoid any potential height obstructions such as bridges or tunnels. This is especially important if driving with a boat or other tall objects in tow.
  • Drivers should keep their speed down and their driving smooth. The car is pulling a heavier and longer load than usual, which can be harder to maneuver. Motorists should be especially careful when driving in fog, rain, icy conditions or on bumpy roads.  A moderate driving speed will also help to avoid trailer sway.
  • Drivers should leave themselves extra driving time to get to their destination.
  • Drivers should avoid sudden steering maneuvers while driving that might cause the trailer to sway.
  • Drivers should take turns wider than normal. The trailer’s wheels will be much further to the inside of a turn than the towing vehicle’s. The trailer will ride up on the curb on left turns and could even sideswipe another vehicle.
  • Motorists should allow more time to bring their car to a stop. The heavy load behind the car will add momentum.  Suddenly braking the car could cause the trailer to slide or the even jack knife.
  • Motorists should anticipate the need to slow down their driving. More time is needed to react.
  • If overtaking another vehicle or changing lanes, drivers should indicate well in advance and allow extra distance to clear the vehicle  they’re overtaking before pulling back into the inside road lane.
  • Drivers should never overtake another vehicle on a hill or if there is an uneven road surface up ahead.
  • Whenever possible motorists should ask someone to guide them when reversing or parking and take it slowly. Drivers shouldn’t be afraid to start the maneuver again if needed.  Over steering can cause the trailer to turn sharply, so gradual movements are recommended.
  • Drivers should be conscious of the fact that they’ll be more affected by gusts of wind and wind shift caused by large trucks when driving with a trailer. They should avoid the temptation to slam on the car’s breaks when this happens.

Motorists who breaking down while driving with a trailer in tow should:

  • Pull the car and trailer as close to the road’s left hand verge or hard shoulder as possible if they are still driveable so as not to obstruct traffic.
  • Switch on their trailer’s hazard warning lights.
  • Inform the Gardaí if a hazard to other drivers
  • Drivers who are AA Members, should call for breakdown assistance on 01-6179104 and an AA Patrol will provide roadside assistance.
  • If it’s safe to do so, drivers should place their vehicle’s hazard triangle on the side of the road
  • Drivers shouldn’t remove any animals if present from the broken down trailer.
  • Drivers and their passengers should exit the car on the non traffic side and stay as far back from the road as possible.

Worried about a Young Driver? Here are some facts and information on younger drivers

Most young drivers are safe. Only a minority can be considered unsafe drivers.

It’s not always down to inexperience

There are two problems. Inexperience and deliberate bad driving which is aimed at either “impressing” friends or gaining a thrill through risk taking.

Inexperience is probably the less serious threat to a young driver in Ireland, especially if they accept they are still learning.  The rate of accidents for young drivers, particularly males increases significantly during the early hours of the morning. However it is much lower in the earlier evening which suggests behavior rather than experience driving in the dark is the problem.

The show-off and the risk-taker

Young people, men in particular like to show off when driving. This means that they are generally less safe with friends/passengers in the car. Research suggests that both sexes show off more to young male passengers than to young women. Some youngsters find it “cool” not to wear a seat belt – yet it cuts the chance of being killed in a crash by a half.

It’s not only about driving ability

Drink, drugs, and high spirits all add up to make young drivers take risks. All are dangerous in their own right. A combination leads to the higher accident rates late at night.

“Egging on”

Egging on adds to the problem – passengers who’ve also been drinking and having fun, can pressure drivers into taking risks they wouldn’t normally take. Passengers just shouldn’t apply this pressure – the risk to passengers is every bit as large – and drivers have to fight hard not to conform.

Spotting a likely bad driver

This isn’t easy, but many youngsters can easily be characterised as “the show-off type”. Similarly, some quiet, unassuming people can change behind the wheel – after years of being quiet at school, poor at sport and a failure with the girls, driving gives them a whole new way to become “popular”. Obviously drivers who have been drinking, or taking drugs are a particular danger.

Don’t get in – or ask to get out

If you don’t think a driver is going to be safe – perhaps because he is drunk, there’s no need to get into his car. Similarly if his driving is poor or is scaring you, ask to get out. This can often be enough to make a driver change the way he drives.

Country roads aren’t safe roads

Much bad driving by young people – particularly showing-off and risk-taking – happens on country roads. This leads to many head on collisions, and collisions with trees, both of which are all too often fatal.

Inexperience – there has to be a first time

Even a driver with hours of professional driving instruction and many more practising with Dad and Mum has to take a passenger of his or her own age for the first time.

Passengers can help by being quiet and understanding rather than encouraging the driver to drive in a way he or she doesn’t want to. It’s best to be progressive – start with one responsible friend and slowly move on to carrying multiple passengers.

Driving instruction doesn’t prepare you for chatting and driving.

Parents can help! Both young drivers and their passengers need to be able to ‘opt out’ whilst parents have to balance authority with keeping their offspring safe.

The ideal is an agreement to “rescue” the youngster – should he or she either be unable to drive or not want to come home with a driver.

Many youngsters find themselves facing a choice between the wrath of their parents or driving home drunk/getting a lift with a bad or drunk driver. An “I’ll collect you, no questions asked” approach may be the safest way.

The basic facts

  • Of the 212 peope who died on Irish roads during 2010, 38% were aged under 25.
  • One in five drivers has an accident in the first year of driving.
  • Nearly 15,000 teenage passengers were casualties in road accidents in 2006. 167 were killed. Many of these would have been in cars driven by teenage drivers.
  • Teenage females of driving age are 33 per cent more likely to be killed or seriously injured while travelling as passengers than as drivers. Males of the same age are 50 per cent more likely to be killed as drivers than passengers.

A fun night out

But it is not only drink driving that shows this risk – teenage male drivers in the early hours of the morning have 17 times the risk of the average male driver. The urge to show off, and to take risks plays a part, and the addition of drugs or alcohol to this kind of behaviour can only make things worse. For the youngest drivers inexperience counts twice, teenage drivers are generally inexperienced drivers and inexperienced drinkers – yet another dangerous combination. The police are well aware of the propensity of young drivers to drink – young men are more likely both to be breath tested and to be found over the limit following an accident. For the last few years the number of breath tests has been inching up and the number of tests conducted in the latter part of the year (last quarter) is 50% higher than in any other quarter.