Road trips provide a fun and relatively inexpensive way to enjoy the sights here in the wonderful land down under.
However, they also come with their own share of hazards. Accidents on the road are more common than other forms of transportation. In 2013 there were 1,193 road deaths in Australia. Despite the fact that this is a significant decrease from previous years, it is still a large number and should be taken very seriously. Driving long distances on your next holiday will require concentration and a good amount of planning if you want it to be safe. Consider the following:
Always be aware of the weather conditions you will be driving in. Many people check the weather for their final destination in order to know what to pack, but forget to check what the weather will be like on the way. Online sources can help you determine what you will be driving through so you know how to prepare your vehicle as well as knowing what to have ready on hand in case of an emergency. For example, if you know you will be driving through cold weather, pack blankets that can be accessed quickly. If travelling through extreme heat, bring extra water and sunscreen. Also, make sure your car has the capability to deal with weather extremes if you will be facing them.
Staying awake and alert might be the most difficult challenge of your road trip. Knowing that you have hours of driving ahead of you, it’s easy to become relaxed. The monotony of the road, especially at night, isn’t all that stimulating. Obviously falling asleep at the wheel is a serious concern and can quickly put the lives of you and your family at risk, not to mention endanger others driving around you. Even if you are not completely asleep, drowsy driving is comparable to drunk driving in terms of delayed reaction times. There are several things you should do to avoid drowsiness.
It all begins with a good night’s rest the night before. Plan far in advance, so you aren’t frantically packing through the night and miss out on much-needed sleep. Adequate sleep will help you feel refreshed and energetic while driving. If you are driving several days in a row, stop for a full night’s sleep and avoid driving through the night. Taking breaks is also essential. Even if you feel you are doing fine, it’s important to periodically stretch your legs and get your mind off the road, even for a few minutes.
You will naturally have to take breaks to fill up on petrol, but plan on stopping more often than that, even if it takes you a little longer to reach your destination. You should take a break every two hours.
Keep your car cold while driving. This may not be welcomed advice if you are someone that prefers a bit of warmth. However, the human body becomes more relaxed in warmer conditions and is more likely to fall asleep. Keeping yourself chilly will help ensure that you remain alert.
It is also helpful to keep yourself awake with caffeine or a wet washcloth. Of course, neither of these things are good substitutes for a decent night of sleep. But they can give you a “pick-me-up” when you need it. Keep a cold washcloth in a cooler and when you start to feel yourself getting tired put it momentarily on your face. Or, take a swig of caffeinated soda or coffee.
Finally, it is always safer to drive with a partner with whom you can alternate driving duties. If you need to get some sleep, do so when a fresh driver takes over, not several hours later when they might be getting tired as well. However, if everyone in the car is asleep, it could make it more difficult for the driver to stay awake. Consider having one-person stay up to keep the driver company and engage in conversation.
Drowsiness isn’t the only threat to safety on the road. There are a number of other distractions that may arise. If you are travelling on a road trip with children you should know what to do when they act up. If parents, including the driver, are trying to resolve conflicts that are occurring in the back seat, the driver can easily become distracted. If there is a problem that needs to be resolved, pull over to the side of the road to fix it. Before you ever leave your home, be sure to educate your children on passenger safety, and establish rules for behaviour.
Stay away from electronics while you are driving, especially mobile phones and personal music players. Never read or write emails or send texts while driving. Conditions and situations can change quickly and all it takes is a brief moment of looking away from the road for disaster to strike. If there is an urgent matter that you need to take care of, have someone else in the car write a text or email for you. If you need to speak to someone over the phone only do so if you have a hands-free system in the car so you can keep both hands on the wheel. Handling a music player, such as an Mp3 player or iPod can be just as dangerous. Have someone else change the music or create long playlists so you don't have to continually change the song.
Speaking of music, if it is too loud and aggressive it can actually change the way you drive. According to one study, drivers who were listening to upbeat music were twice as likely to jump red lights, and had twice as many accidents. While music with a fast tempo can keep you energised and awake, don’t allow it to make you more aggressive or careless behind the wheel.
When you’re out in the middle of nowhere, it may be tempting to break the rules of the road every once in a while. However, the rules are there for a reason and will help you stay safe. Observe proper road etiquette, including staying in the proper lane and letting cars pass you if you are driving more slowly than they are. Road rage is known to cause accidents and should be avoided at all costs. Never participate in racing with other vehicles or any other dangerous manoeuvres.
Ultimately, road trips don't have to be dangerous if drivers are well prepared and make the right decisions along the way.