Public and school holidays are high risk times on Australian roads. With more people out and about, there’s usually more traffic congestion, more fatigue and more driving in unfamiliar locations.
Having a holiday is supposed to be about relaxing and having fun but it often ends up being a time when everyone rushes around. This frenetic pace can lead to speeding, impatience, distraction and carelessness behind the wheel.
The Christmas and New Year holiday period is a particularly dangerous time for drivers: between 23 December and 3 January in 2016/17, forty people died in road accidents in Australia – up from 34 the previous year.[i]
During the festive season, we tend to travel longer distances and often find ourselves driving in new environments where we’re not as comfortable or confident as we’d be in our local neighbourhoods.
There are a lot more trips to crowded shopping centres for Christmas gift shopping too, which can boost stress levels – not just on the roads, but in the car parks as well. Being tired and in a hurry is never a good combination in the car.
End-of-year office parties and other alcohol-fuelled celebrations are an inevitable part of the holiday season too, which can result in a higher number of people driving under the influence than normal.
Easter and Christmas are peak times for motorists towing trailers as well, which can make life on the roads even more interesting.
There are several simple ways to stay safer on the roads during holiday periods. Here are some of the most important:
Make sure your car is ready for the journey
If you’re planning a big holiday road trip, check your vehicle for tyre tread and air pressure, engine oil, lights, brakes, coolant, battery and overall condition.
Getting your car properly serviced before you head off is a sensible idea. Preparing for a Christmas road trip should involve thinking carefully about car maintenance, packing the car safely and carrying an emergency kit so you can handle any issues that arise during the journey.
Choose the safest route – not the quickest
These days, we’ve got all sorts of mapping apps that can tell us the quickest way to get from Point A to Point B. Keep in mind that the shortest route may not always be the safest – and if there are road works or traffic jams, it won’t be all that quick either!
It pays to do a bit of research about the route you’re taking, so you have some idea of the hazards you might encounter along the way. Narrow shoulders, dirt roads, detours, potholes and motorways heavy with truck traffic can all affect how quickly and safely you reach your destination. Try Budget Direct’s Pttstop planner to have breaks in between
Holiday periods are notorious for freeway accidents, too, so give yourself enough time to account for unexpected hold-ups on the way due to accidents and/or higher traffic volumes.
Drive to the conditions
We’re not just talking about weather conditions here, though being aware of them is important. ‘Conditions’ can also mean the fact that you’re tired, have children in the car, are using a narrow road or have just entered a new state where the road rules or speed limits are a bit different.
Tightly winding mountain roads reduce the time you have to react to oncoming traffic around a hidden bend, so you’ll need to be extra cautious. A crowded Christmas-time car park is no less dangerous, with a bunch of harried shoppers desperate to get in and out quickly and no shortage of frustrated drivers looking for those elusive and limited parking spaces.
Plan ahead for a smoother trip
Know your exact route before you head off and try to avoid peak traffic times for both departure and arrival. Use a rest stop planner to work out the best places to stop for a break so you’re never driving more than 2 hours at a stretch without a rest.
Use your rest stops wisely and be aware of fatigue. Sometimes we get up extra early to beat the traffic during the holidays, which can lead to tiredness on the roads.
The only cure for serious fatigue is sleep: leaving the window open for fresh air, drinking coffee and blasting the radio are ‘band-aid solutions’ at best – they don’t address the fact that you need to stop and have a decent sleep before you can safely go any further.
If you’ve been drinking
A bit of alcohol consumption over the holidays has been known to happen but if you indulge, make sure you stay under the limit. If you don’t, it’s time for Plan B – a designated driver, sober friend, taxi or Uber to get you home safely.
Don’t try to drive: your judgement and skills will be impaired and you’ll be breaking the law and endangering yourself and others. Don’t try to walk home if inebriated either – your balance will be way off and you could injure yourself or stray into oncoming traffic.
Chill out and slow down
Be patient, obey the speed limit, give yourself enough time to get things done and remember that courtesy goes a long way on our roads. Everyone deserves to be safe in the traffic over the holidays – but we all have to play our part.
- Holiday periods are a dangerous time on Aussie roads with increased rushing around, traffic congestion, drink driving and fatigue
- 40 people died on Australian roads during the 2016/17 holiday period from 23 December to 3 January
- Crowded Christmas-time car parks can lead to heightened stress levels, so time your shopping and other car trips to coincide with non-peak times of the day