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When emergency services responded to a vehicle rollover in rural New South Wales, it was an all-too-familiar scene for police officers and paramedics.
A combination of speed, soft road edges and animals was to blame for the inexperienced driver losing control of the vehicle.
While the vehicle was a write-off, the driver and passengers escaped unharmed.
But they received a sobering lesson about some of Australia’s common road hazards. Here are five of these hazards:
1. Soft road edges
To stay safe on the road, it’s important to drive according to the conditions.
The farther away you get from built-up areas, the narrower the roads tend to be and the more variable their surfaces.
In rural and remote areas, you may have to move off the bitumen in order to pass oncoming vehicles.
The soft edges of the road can be gravelly or rutted, so it’s important to drive at a reasonable speed to maintain control of your vehicle.
When driving on dirt or gravel roads, it’s best not to swerve to avoid animals or potholes, as this can result in you losing control and having a worse accident.
If your vehicle starts to skid, take your foot of the accelerator, look where you want to go, and gradually steer your vehicle in that direction.
If in doubt, err on the side of caution when driving on unsealed roads — slower is always safer.
2. Rain after a long dry spell
During extended dry spells, grease, grime, oil and other contaminants accumulate on road surfaces.
These substances then get baked onto the surface by the harsh Australian sun.
When rain eventually falls, the water combines with these substances to create a slimy, slippery surface.
For this reason, it’s important to drive conservatively during and immediately after drought-breaking rain.
It’s also important to regularly check your car’s tyre pressures and tread depths, as they’re your first line of ‘defence’.
3. Wildlife and animals
Dusk — when visibility is generally poorest — is when motorists are most at risk of hitting animals and wildlife that wander onto the road.
On roads crossed by animals, drive slower than usual and, if there are no approaching vehicles, keep your headlights on high beam.
If an animal suddenly appears in front of you, avoid swerving, which can make matters worse.
Instead, apply your vehicle’s brake, sound its horn and flash its lights.
4. Flooded roads
If it’s flooded, forget it!
Every year in Australia people ignore the warnings and try to cross flooded roads.
Often, their vehicles become submerged and they have to be rescued or, worse, drown.
If you’re in any doubt, don’t attempt to cross a flooded road or causeway.
Instead, take a safer alternative route or wait until the floodwaters subside.
5. Driver fatigue
According to the Centre for Sleep Research, people who drive after being awake for 17 hours pose the same risk as drivers with a blood alcohol content reading of 0.05 .
Driver fatigue is a preventable, but it can catch out even the most experienced drivers.
Says NSW Police Senior Constable Peter Bickford, of Yass Highway Patrol, who once fell asleep at the wheel:
“I ran off the road. There were no fences, so there was no injury to myself, but it really alerted me to the issue of fatigue.”
Driving between destinations in Australia can mean long travel times. It’s important to plan your trip in advance and work out how far you’ll travel before stopping for a rest.
Signs of fatigue include a feeling of vagueness, a dream-like state, restlessness, sore eyes, headache, yawning and difficulty maintaining concentration.
First, get a good sleep the night before your long drive.
If you can avoid it, don’t start your journey after working all day and stop for a break every couple of hours.
Drink water, take a brisk walk and clear your mind. Australia has many driver reviver stops, some of which offer free coffee and biscuits.
If you do stop for a meal, it’s recommended you eat a relatively small, light meal, as it will be less sleep-inducing.
Dealing with fidgety and noisy kids on a long road trip can also be tiring. Aside from making scheduled stops to relieve their boredom, check out our road trip games to play in the car.