How to avoid a horror holiday road trip

The holiday period can be stressful and at times dangerous for drivers. New research from Qantas Insurance shows that more than 12 million Aussies will hit the road this summer holiday period, travelling an average of 1000km or 16 hours of driving. There are a few simple rules you should follow to avoid a disaster on the road these summer holidays.

Bushfire awareness Fires are burning across three states and the advice from emergency services is clear: Driving in bushfire zones is extremely dangerous and should be avoided. If you are driving through affected areas on the way to your holidays, plan alternate routes before you leave.

A longer drive is always preferable to being caught in a dangerous situation. Drivers can check conditions ahead using smartphone apps and local radio. Commuters should carry at least three litres of drinking water per person.

And pack a couple of woollen blankets — they offer some protection in an emergency. Get your hands off it Driver distraction can be deadly on the freeway.

Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission says you will travel more than 55 metres if you take your eyes off the road for just two seconds at highway speeds. Even at 60km/h you travel more than 30 metres. Not only is it dangerous but you could be hit with a hefty penalty.

NSW and Queensland have increased the penalty this year to five demerit points and £344 and four demerit points and £1000 respectively. Research by insurance company Ubicar shows that mobile phone distraction skyrockets during the Christmas-New Year period. It’s particularly bad among those aged 18-34.

If you have a smartphone try out the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode which blocks all incoming calls, texts and social media alerts. On iPhones, it will also send a message to those who call or text you telling them you are driving and you will reply when you stop. Plan your route

Take some time to plan your journey before you leave. That way you’re less likely to miss that turn off the freeway. Getting lost increases your stress levels and takes your mind off your driving.

Schedule breaks into your trip and leave a realistic amount of time for your journey. That way you won’t panic about being late and won’t be tempted to speed. UbiCar research has found that Christmas Day is one of the most common days for speeding.

Make sure you have some healthy snacks for the roads. Chips, greasy hamburgers and sugary snacks will give you a temporary boost but could leave you sleepy later on. And make sure the iPads are charged and stocked with entertainment options for the kids in the back seat.

Happy kids mean fewer distractions for the driver. Don’t be a 3am hero It’s almost an Aussie tradition to wake up as early as possible and be on the road before the sun rises.

If you are usually asleep at 3am that is exactly where you should be the morning of a road trip. If your body isn’t used to such early starts it will eventually catch up with you. Driver fatigue is one of the biggest causes of accidents.

Over the past three years one in five fatal crashes in NSW was attributed to fatigue. That figure is higher than fatal crashes involving alcohol. While we’re on the topic of alcohol, avoid it the night before you head off.

Apart from the fact that hangovers and long journeys don’t mix, there’s a chance you could still be over the limit if you set off early. Check your car’s vitals Roadside assistance providers are busy people over the holiday period.

Soaring temperatures and traffic snarls can push the family car to breaking point. Last year, the NRMA attended more than 25,000 incidents while the Queensland and Victorian equivalents made more than 17,000 and 12,000 call outs. You don’t need to be a mechanic to check some of your car’s essentials and a few minutes at a servo could save you hours on the side of the road.

Check the oil, water, wiper fluid and tyre pressure as a minimum. RACQ spokeswoman Lauren Ritchie says: “Before setting out on a road trip we say prevention is better than a cure. Make sure your car’s servicing is up to date and avoid leaving it to the last minute as workshops are usually busy at this time of year.

Always check the basics before heading off such as tyre pressures, oil and fluids and that all lights are working.” Tyres are critical as they are your only point of contact with the road. Check the tread depth a few days before you head out.

Bald tyres are extremely dangerous as they mean less control and longer stopping distances. And make sure your spare tyre is pumped up and good to go. Don’t overload the car

It can be tempting to cram boogie boards, fishing roads and bikes into the family car, but if you can take a minimalist approach will make for a safer drive. Ideally in an SUV you shouldn’t pack anything higher than the parcel shelf so you can still see out the rear. And be aware that if you’re carrying extra weight or towing a trailer it can affect braking and handling in emergency situations.

If you are towing make sure you know your payload and towball limits. Think of others We all want to get to our destination as fast as possible but a bit of common courtesy and patience can go a long way to making the roads safer for everyone.

Stay left unless overtaking (Police will fine you for hogging the right lane), don’t tailgate and be prepared for other drivers to make mistakes. Try to wait for overtaking lanes and if you do venture to the other side of the road, leave ample space to complete the manoeuvre. Drive to the speed limit and keep the lane changes to a minimum.

Weaving in and out of traffic is a recipe for disaster.

Make sure everyone is wearing their seatbelts and check regularly to make sure littlies haven’t wriggled out of theirs.

Most importantly, take a breath and relax, you’re on holidays.

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