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Alternative holiday safety tips

These tips will help make your holiday driving that little bit easier.

We know what you're thinking: not another road safety message. But this one is different. You might not have heard about these tips - and they might just get you through the holiday traffic headaches in one piece.

Barefoot is OK

Contrary to what many people believe, it is legal to drive barefoot. In fact road safety experts would rather you drove barefoot than in thongs or high heels, which can slip off the pedals. Ideally, however, drive in comfortable shoes with grippy soles.

No sugary treats

Avoid a sugar crash - don't eat or drink junk. You may get a burst of energy from a sugar high but it's short lived and you will feel more tired soon after. Stick to foods with a low GI (unsalted almonds are good to snack on) and drink plenty of water. Avoid coffee and other caffeine drinks for the same reason. Sorry to be a party-pooper.

Beware the 'day-after'

Up to 20 per cent of drink drivers are busted between 6am and midday - it takes longer than most people estimate for alcohol to clear the system. So don't have a bender, get a ride home, then get busted the next day collecting the car because you're still over 0.05. Give yourself ample time.

Don't swerve

The RSPCA and wildlife advocates agree it is better to hit an animal than swerve and crash, worse still into an oncoming car. It's hard to go against your instincts in an emergency but if an animal jumps out in front of you, hit the brakes by all means, but whatever you do don't swerve.

Leave a message

If you have an iPhone, add emergency contact details and any allergies to the 'Medical ID' section of the built-in Health app. Emergency services can access your next of kin, blood type and allergies even if your phone is locked (providing you enable access to the details in the locked screen).

Aircon beats fogging

There is a temptation to turn the aircon off when the weather is cold and wet - only to have the inside of the windscreen fog up, especially with a car load of people. Aircon takes the extra moisture out of the air in the cabin and will clear the windscreen in no time.

Hidden fuel clue

Men constantly risk running out of fuel seeking to find out "how low you can go". Women start looking for a servo with a quarter of a tank remaining. When it's time to refuel, most modern cars have a discreet arrow near the fuel gauge so you know which side the fuel flap is on. Handy if you're driving someone else's car.

Headlights on

Increasingly, cars are being driven at night without headlights because the instrument displays are so bright. Formerly, the speedometer wouldn't be illuminated unless the headlights were on. Better still, drive with your headlights on during the day to increase your chances of being seen, especially on shaded stretches of road.

Avoid diesel patches

Even if you own a petrol car (as three out of four of us do), rising diesel sales means there's more of it spilt near petrol pumps. Because diesel is more oily than unleaded you can end up with diesel grime on the soles of your shoes, and later slip off the pedals. Grab a paper towel and stand on that, or find a pump without gunk.

Check tyre wear

Less than 1.4mm of tread depth is illegal and dangerous. "A lot of people measure the middle of the tyre, but if the edges are worn, it's deemed unroadworthy. You may also need a wheel alignment to prevent the new tyre from wearing unevenly," says George Chalazia from Bob Jane T-Marts in Granville. A space-saver spare can go a maximum of 150km. "We get a lot of people coming in this time of year with bald space-saver tyres. That's highly dangerous," says Darren Ward from Jax Tyres in Kensington.

Check the spare

A spare isn't much use without air. Don't change a flat on the side of a busy road or freeway. Drive slowly (walking pace) to a safe area away from traffic. On a freeway, try to reverse the car behind a safety barrier.

Don't overload

The roof, boot or parcel shelf especially. It's probably best not to store anything heavy on the shelf behind the back seat. Keep any pets in a cage on the rear passenger floor. Most cars can handle 60kg-100kg tops on the roof. A greater load could damage the roof rails or raise the centre of gravity, affecting your car's dynamics.

Lubricate trailers

If you own a box trailer or a caravan do us all a favour - get your axles and bearings checked, regreased or replaced. If it has been sitting in the weather for a year, there is a good chance the axles are rusty and the bearings seized. That's why you see so many trailers on the side of the road with a wheel astray on the holidays.

Miss your turn-off?

Don't veer wildly across lanes or try to reverse to the exit ramp. Rather than causing havoc, go around the block, head back from the next roundabout or pull into a side road and start again. Breathe in, breathe out, try again.

No lane-sharking

Try being courteous to other drivers and don't push in to a merging lane. In New Zealand, drivers can be fined for cutting in. Try being considerate to others on the road this summer. It might just catch on.