A suitable punishment for drivers that use their mobile phone

If you take a look at the passing traffic in Dublin, it generally only takes a minute or two until you spot a driver using their mobile phone.

Clearly some drivers are not worried about the prospect of 3 points on their driver’s licence, or a mandatory court appearance and fine of up to €1,000 if they’re caught texting.  Or the fact that they’re 4 times more likely to crash when distracted on the phone.

So I got thinking about a more suitable punishment, that would be reasonably easy to implement, and would be an added deterrent to people. The Garda and courts, in addition to the other penalties, would be able to enforce a 6-month outgoing call/text ban on an offender’s mobile.

The ban on outgoing calls/texts would remove the temptation from drivers to pick up their phones when driving, and it would be an enormous inconvenience to offenders generally. Incoming calls/text would still be allowed for safety purposes, as would outgoing calls to the emergency services.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping people switching to a new phone number, but that’s a massive inconvenience in itself, and would be embarrassing to explain to friends and family.

Cloning Remote Control Fobs

In my apartment block there’s an underground car park that’s accessed using a remote-control key fob. We have one allocated car parking spot down there, and as such the management company for the block only issued us with one key fob.

My wife uses the key fob for her car, but I also have a requirement to get in and out of the car park, because that’s where I lock up my bikes.

When we moved in around 18 months ago I approached the management company of the apartments to try and get a second remote control. And despite me explaining the situation, they refused to issue another one to me – even though I offered to pay the €70 they said it would cost.

After some discussion they reluctantly agreed to give me a key to the pedestrian gate, which I’ve been using ever since – but the inconvenience is annoying.

But then I was on the internet one day and found that you can buy cloning remote control fobs that can copy existing fobs, they’re less than a ten quid to buy, and they work perfectly!

Remote Control Cloning Key Fob
Remote Control Cloning Key Fob

I got myself one last week from an ebay seller, but they’re also available on Amazon and other places. The initial programming can be a little tricky to be begin with, but after that it works like a dream.

Obviously in order to clone a key fob you need an existing working fob for the gate/door:

  • To start the programming, press and hold the top two buttons (A and B) together for between 5-10 seconds, until the light blinks rapidly, and then release. This action puts the fob into learning mode, and also wipes any codes already stored on the fob, so if you want to program a new button you have to start again and program them all.
  • Touch the two key fobs together, and press and hold the button you want to program (say the A button) at the same time as the corresponding button on the original fob that you want to clone from. You may need to move the fobs around at different angles to pick up the signal in the cloning fob (end to side seems to work), and when you do the light will flash rapidly to say it’s finished learning. Then simply repeat the process for any other buttons you want to clone.
  • Timing can be an issue during the programming process, as the fob only stays in learning mode for so long – so you need to be fairly quick. Have everything ready to go, and have a few practice goes.
  • I actually stood next to the car park gate to do my programming, so that I could check the original fob was working (it was opening the gate correctly) during the learning process.

If you get into trouble, take a quick search on YouTube for key fob cloning tutorials.  When I first got my fob I thought it wasn’t working, but that’s because I wasn’t programming it correctly.

Avoiding Car Hire Additional Charges

With online booking comparison sites (I like to use CarTrawler) and increased competition in the car hire market, there are some great bargains to be had. But when you turn up to hire the car, you can often be stung for some very expensive extras.

Earlier this month, we hired a ‘compact’ car in Salerno from Budget Car Rental, and it cost us €242 for a week, which is a pretty decent price. However, when we turned up to collect the car, the agent tried to sell a whole load of additional things.

First off, he informed us that our rental only included ‘basic’ insurance, which has a damage excess of €1,500. This means that if we were involved in any accident, we would be charged an additonal €1,500 to fix the car – and with the stories we’d heard of Italian drivers, we though an accident was more likely than not! And if the car was stolen the excess to pay would be a staggering €2,299!

He encourages us to reduce these excesses to zero, by upgrading the insurance cover to the ‘complete cover’ option for the price of €21.78 per day – that’s an additional €154! And to add in Personal Accident Insurance (which arguably might not be needed if you already have travel insurance) it would be another €12.10 per day – or €85 for the week. That’s a total of €239, which almost doubles the price of the rental.

Luckily, we had been forewarned of this insurance scam by a friend of ours that rents cars quite often. She put us on to Car Hire Excess Insurance, which can be used to provide the same protection against huge excess payments, but for significantly less money. Within Europe they charge just €2.99 per day to reduce your excess to zero, and if you hire a lot of cars you can get an annual policy for €49.99, which is still a third of the price the rental agent was going to charge us.

In addition, I noted that these were the prices for the other ‘optional extras’:

  • Under age driver (21-25 years old) – €18.15 per day
  • Additional driver – €5.00 per day
  • Booster seat – €7.26 per day
  • Toddler seat – €24.81 per day
  • Infant seat – €24.81 per day
  • GPS – €14.52 per day

If you had a bunch of young children with you, it would cost an absolute fortune!  In fact I’m sure it would be cheaper to bring child seats with you on holiday, even as excess luggage on a flight, rather than pay these prices.

I did consider whether we might need a GPS to get around, but at €102 for the week, it was cheaper and easier to use the navigation functions on our smartphones, even if it did incur mobile data roaming charges.

Bike Lockers

This seems like a good deal, for those people who combine a cycle commute with either the DART or Luas. You can rent a Bike Locker for €75 a year, and have peace of mind when leaving your prized ride at the station.

Instead of jostling for a good spot to lock up at the station, and running the risk of your prized ride (or bits of it) being stolen while you’re away, you can instead lock your bike in a designated locker – and it even has room for your cycling gear.  And all for less that the cost of a year’s bike insurance!

Larnaca Avis Hertz Car Rental

I’m just home from a lovely holiday in Cyprus. We flew in and out of Larnaca airport, and hired a car through Avis. Unfortunately, neither Avis nor Hertz have allocated space in the airport car parks, and so share a compound outside the airport grounds. It’s a 5-minute minibus ride away, and they provide the transfer 24 hours a day.

When you arrive, you can safely ignore all the permanently-installed car rental booths on your left. Avis and Hertz have separate temporary structures to the right (as you exit) of the arrivals hall. The people in the airport don’t handle anything to do with the rental – they just direct you out of the building to the pickup point, and call the driver to come and collect you.

As you exit the arrivals hall turn right, and follow the footpath on a slight uphill. You pass the queue of taxi drivers, and look for a large road sign (painted grey on the back), and wait in the small carpark just beyond. There are no signs indicating the pickup point, but the minibus when it arrives is clearly marked.

The minibus will take you out of the airport to the compound where Avis and Hertz are based. When you arrive there will be staff on hand to process your booking. Take careful note of where you are when you drive off, because when it comes to returning the car you’ll need to know where to go.

We had trouble finding the location again, because we had arrived in Cyprus in the middle of the night, and Avis don’t provide a map showing their location (Hertz do). And so, when we returned the car, we had no choice but to drive into the airport, jump out, and run to the Avis desk in the arrivals lounge to get directions. That’s not ideal, so I thought I’d put together a Google map showing the location of the Avis and Hertz compound, for future travellers to reference: Larnaca Airport Avis Hertz Car Rental

One other thing is that we were told that it’s mandatory to pre-purchase a tank full of fuel when you take out the rental. The car comes filled up, and you’re meant to return it empty – which is harder to judge than you might imagine. The price they charge for the tank of fuel also seems pretty high, so be warned!