It’s always great to get away for the holidays – sometimes it’s a family tradition to head off on that annual camping trip, or you might be surprising your loved one with a spontaneous romantic getaway.
Whatever your reason for your road trip getaway, it’s important to always stay safe – especially when our roads are at their busiest!
Tragically, there are thousands of deaths on our roads each year in Australia, with the toll reaching a staggering 1,290 in 2016. Unfortunately, many road accidents are caused by factors like driver distraction and fatigue, meaning that they are preventable, if only people take the correct precautions.
We’ve looked at the stats and done the investigating for you and we’ve come up with some top tips for road trips.
Here are the top 5 tips to ensure your next road trip is a smooth (and safe) ride.
1. Be prepared
Before heading on any long road trip, it’s important to ensure that both you and your vehicle are prepared for your time on the road.
For your vehicle it’s recommended to undertake a few preparations including topping up the water, radiator fluid and the air in your tyres.
Hopefully you have your car regularly serviced. If its due for a service it’s important to get this sorted before you head off on your trip – something going wrong when you’re out on the open road can be time consuming and expensive.
You should also ensure that you have a spare tyre and all the tools to change it in the back, as no one wants to get stranded in the middle of nowhere! It’s also a good idea to keep a safety kit in the boot in case of emergency.
The most important thing you can do to prepare for your road trip is to get a good night’s sleep, which leads us to our next point.
2. Stay alert
Did you know that being awake for more than 17 hours is similar to having a blood alcohol content of over 0.051?
Fatigue is a major contributor to road accidents, accounting for 15% of fatalities in Queensland between 2008 and 2013. Driving fatigued is dangerous; thankfully Transport and Main Roads have outlined several great tactics you can use to keep fatigue at bay:
- Be prepared: get plenty of sleep before you embark on your road trip and plan out when and where you will get the opportunity to stop and rest or switch drivers.
- Share the load: if possible, you should share driving responsibilities with the other people traveling with you to ensure that one person does not become overly fatigued – no one should drive for more than 10 hours in one day.
- Pit stops: don’t forget to take regular breaks of at least 15 minutes every 2 hours – if you are feeling sleepy, make sure you rest.
- Don’t drive too late: more accidents happen between the hours of midnight to 2am, 4am to 6am and 2pm to 4pm, so make sure, if you are doing a long haul road trip, to give yourself enough time to stop overnight at a hotel or motel – somewhere you can get a restful night’s sleep.
3. Avoid distraction
The use of mobile phones quadruples your risk of having a crash – they contributed to 271 deaths in 2013 in Queensland.
We are sure you have heard this before, but you should never text or check your mobile phone when driving – especially if you are driving on highways, your increased speed means that quickly flicking your eyes off the road could quickly result in tragedy.
Almost all cars these days have inbuilt Bluetooth, so it’s best to make sure this is set up and your phone is connected before you head off. This way you can easily make and take calls, be navigated by your maps system and have some back up tunes if the radio drops out!
If you are using a navigation device that isn’t on your phone, you should ensure that you have correctly set your destination in the device as well as properly physically set up the GPS device holder within your car before you set off on your journey.
It’s important to set these up properly, because when traveling at high speeds, taking your eyes off the road for even a second can be dangerous – if traveling on a highway at 100 kilometres per hour, you cover 20 meters every second.
The other distraction to consider is the passengers within your vehicle. A study of 340 casualty crashes in Victoria and NSW from 2000-2011 found that passenger interaction lead to more fatalities than the use of a mobile phone.
It can be hard to keep the car totally distraction free, especially if travelling with children or a car full of excited mates heading off on a much needed holiday. However, as the driver you are ultimately responsible for everyone in the vehicle – so if a friend is getting too rowdy or distracting, don’t be afraid to let them know!
It’s obviously different when travelling with your children, but regular stops and in-car entertainment should hopefully go some way to keeping the car more peaceful!
4. Avoid driving under the influence
Every year thousands of people are caught and fined for driving under the influence. In 2015, the Queensland Police Service conducted approximately 3.65 million breath tests and detected more than 22,000 drink driving offences.
Though this is a very obvious one, it seems that people still haven’t gotten the message, with drink-driving causing almost a quarter of all Queensland road fatalities 2013.
Driving under the influence of a substance is very dangerous as many substances skew perception of reality and slow reaction times substantially. If you have been drinking enough to put you over the limit or taking other illicit substances – you should not, under any circumstances get behind the wheel of a car.
5. Follow the rules
Following road rules seems a pretty obvious suggestion when driving on the road, however there seems to be one rule in particular that people like to stretch – speed. Even driving a small amount over the limit is dangerous – approximately half of all speed-related crashes resulting in death or injury where travelling only 10km/h or less over the speed limit.
If you are travelling to a time limit, make sure you leave early so that you reduce the temptation to speed in order to avoid being late. If you are running late, just remember the old saying: “better safe than sorry”. It’s not worth risking your life or anyone else’s.