The most important thing you can do this Christmas is to enjoy time with family and friends. If you’re driving home for Christmas, keep safe on the roads by following these tips.
Safety starts with your car
Ensuring your safety on the road this Christmas should start with your car. If you plan on driving over a long distance, ideally it would be a good idea to get your car serviced in the months or weeks leading up to your trip.
Otherwise, there are a few things you should check to make sure you don’t end up on the side of the road and miss out on that all important Christmas dinner!
Plan extra time into your journey
- Tyres – your tyres will take some wear and tear on the road in the hot summer months, so make sure there is adequate tread, the correct air pressure is in each tyre, and that your spare, jack and spanner kit is in good shape.
- Washers – check your wiper blades so that your visibility isn’t impaired should you encounter some torrential summer rain. Top up your washer bottle too!
- Belts and hoses – have a look at your fan belts, as these are responsible for keeping the overall cooling system from overheating. If they are looking frayed, they might need replacing. The hoses should be free of cracks so that they continue to pump coolant to the radiator.
- Filters – air filters need to be cleared of debris for good airflow to keep the engine cool, and keep the air conditioning system clear.
- Oil check – conduct an oil check before your trip home this Christmas so that your engine is properly lubricated in the warm weather.
- Battery – give your battery a once over, cleaning off any built up gunk and checking all connections are secure, and keep some jumper leads in your boot.
- Lights – it’s a requirement to have all headlights and brake lights in working order to be on the road, but it’s worth double-checking that none need replacing to avoid any problems.
- First aid kit – keep a first aid kit handy for any unexpected injuries or health issues.
If you’re heading home for the holidays, or plan on you and the kids spending Christmas with the Grandparents, then chances are, you’ll be sharing the road with many other families who are doing the same.
The traffic level can be unpredictable at this time, so better to be cautious and allow for extra time, especially if you’re travelling on the day or just before Christmas Day. There may be more caravans and trailers towing boats and jet skis on the road, which can cause minor delays and require extra caution from all drivers.
So allow an extra amount of time for your journey, even if you’ve done it before. Better to arrive safe and calm than rush and put your family or anyone else in danger!
Check the weather and conditions
Watch out for unpredictable weather and plan accordingly. Northern Australia can experience cyclones and flooding, and southern Australia has unfortunately played victim to some large bush fires.
Keep abreast of the news and listen to local radio on your journey to keep up-to-date on any changes to the conditions ahead of you.
Be aware of fatigue
The lead up to Christmas and the holiday period can be a very busy time of year. Christmas Day itself can be exhausting, with all the present opening, abundance of food and family times!
The weather is usually warm which is great for outdoor activities, but it can also make you a little weary at the end of the day. Get a good night’s sleep before you head off and try not to travel for more than a total of 8 hours, taking breaks frequently along the way.
Don’t let yourself drive if you’re feeling very tired, as fatigue can cause you to lose concentration on the road. According to the Transport Accident Commission, fatigue is suspected to be the primary cause of more than 20% of road fatalities. If you are on the road and you start to yawn, your eyes feel heavy or your concentration is waning, pull over and take a 15 minute power nap.
Prepare for different driving conditions
At Christmas time, city folk can end up in the country, and country folk might end up touring the city. Driving conditions can feel very different if you’re not used to it.
If you plan on heading into the country, be mindful of the following:
- Road conditions: The speed limits are usually higher on open country roads, but the roads themselves might be narrower and windier and there is potential for potholes, animals and slow moving tractors. Try and stick with the pace of other drivers, but be alert to any of these extra hazards that you might not be used to.
- Fatigue: As already mentioned, fatigue can cause many accidents on the road, and longer trips at high speeds on remote country roads can cause tiredness and loss of concentration.
- Overtaking: You may encounter extra-long heavy vehicles, slow moving trucks, and tractors in country regions so be patient and wait for a safe time to overtake. Keep in mind that you will need more time to overtake some long vehicles.
- Kangaroos: There is a lot of wildlife out there, but kangaroos get a special mention, as they like to bound along the road side and onto the road, particularly at dawn and dusk. The best thing you can do is to avoid travelling at this time. If you do spot a kangaroo, slow down if it’s safe to do so and try and keep some distance between your car and the kangaroo as they can jump out and into your path at any time.
- Night travel: The best advice here is to avoid travelling at night if possible. The possibility of road accidents increases, due to visibility issues, fatigue, wildlife and other drivers that may have been drinking alcohol. If you are travelling at night and your car breaks down, ensure that you put your hazard lights on so that you’re visible to oncoming traffic.
If you’re heading to the city from the country, road conditions to watch out for are:
Watch your alcohol intake
- Congestion: Road space is more limited and traffic levels are higher, so you might find yourself in heavy traffic without a lot of room to move. Be clear with your directions to allow yourself enough time to be in the correct lane.
- Temperament: Without wanting to paint all city drivers with the same brush, you might find there is less patience for any dawdling or mistakes you might make. Stay calm and polite and you should get a positive response.
- Unfamiliar road conditions: Depending on the city you’re visiting, you might encounter trams, one-way streets, bus/taxi/pedestrian only streets and faster paced intersections. Do your research on any new conditions you’re not used to before you travel so you are prepared.
We’ve all heard the statistics and campaigns around drink driving in this country. Whilst the legal limit of alcohol in your system on the road is 0.05, your best bet is to avoid drinking alcohol all together if you plan on driving the family around at Christmas time.
Alcohol impairs your judgement, gives you slower reaction times, causes fatigue and if over the limit, you may end up with fines and loss of your license, or worse – causing serious injury to you, your family and others on the road.
Keep the kids busy
Keep the kids occupied by bringing along plenty of activities they can do in the back seat to let you concentrate on driving.
You could also play games, an audio book, or strap a tablet to the back of the seat to let them watch their favourite cartoons.
Remember to plan for frequent toilet stops which will also give you a chance to stretch your legs and get some fresh air.