Why the road toll climbs during holiday periods and what you can do to keep safe

Holiday driving often means driving long distances on unfamiliar roads, and at times of the day when we don’t normally drive.
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist
CarsGuide

19 Dec 2015 • 7 min read

Holidays should be fun, a time to enjoy a break from our regular work routines, to kick back and relax, but sadly many Australians have their lives touched by the tragedy of road trauma at this time of year.

You only have to tune into the news and listen to the warnings from police and other community bodies in the lead-up to our annual holiday period to know that it is a dangerous time on our roads.

We’re rushing around, shopping for presents, catching up with friends and family, partying with work colleagues, and often distracted and not always taking the care we should be to stay safe.

On top of that it’s a time many of us embark on long trips to the country, even interstate, which can be more stressful than relaxing.

Planning for your trip

Start planning for your trip weeks before you leave.

Check the route you plan to use getting to and from your holiday destination, so you have some knowledge of the roads you’ll be driving on before you leave home.

Look for things that might delay your journey, like road works, adverse weather events etc., and identify the locations of roadside rest areas, service stations and food outlets you could use to break your journey.

You could also check on local attractions that might provide a welcome distraction for your passengers, particularly kids, from the boredom of the trip.

Check your car

Consider having your car serviced before your long journey

Go over your car well before your intended departure date to make sure it’s up to the journey you’re about to undertake.

Make sure the wipers, headlights, air-conditioning are all working, check that the tyres, including the spare, are roadworthy and the jack and tools are stowed in place so they’re available to use if needed.

Consider having your car serviced, so it’s in tip-top shape when you leave and not likely to break down along the way.

Driving long distances

For most of the year our driving consists mostly of commuting to and from work, the shops, school etc. It’s local and on familiar roads.

Come the holiday period we like to get away, and that often means driving long distances on unfamiliar roads, and at times of the day when we don’t normally drive.

Get a good night's sleep

Fatigue is one of the main causes of crashes on long distance trips, so it’s important that we don't hit the road tired.

Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before you leave.

Don't drink or take drugs

There’s every chance you’ll get caught if you take the risk and drive intoxicated

The holiday period is a time when we like to let out hair down and enjoy ourselves with friends and relatives, and that usually includes having a glass or two of beer, wine or spirits.

If we do drink we need to be aware that drinking alcohol impairs of ability to drive, and we need to drink responsibly.

It’s not wise to drink the night before your trip, that way you won’t be hung-over when you hit the road

The police are also more active around holidays, particularly in holiday destinations, so there’s every chance you’ll get caught if you take the risk and drive intoxicated.

Being put off the road is a sure way of killing the fun of a holiday.

So too with drugs, it’s not worth the risk of driving while affected by drugs.

Don't speed

Excessive speed and fatigue is a cocktail for disaster

Excessive speed is another of the factors in road crashes.

Don’t speed, stick to the posted speed limit and take your time to get to your destination.

The combination of excessive speed and fatigue is a cocktail for disaster.

Stay alert, take breaks

Taking regular breaks is vital. Stopping every couple of hours and walking around for a few minutes can be refreshing.

Drinking water keeps us hydrated and helps keep us alert.

Eating a small snack can help too, but consuming a large meal can have the opposite effect.

If you feel sleepy, stop and take a break. Falling asleep at the wheel is a recipe for disaster, both for you and your passengers, and other road users.

Watch out for wildlife

We need to be extra vigilant driving through the evening

Driving in the country presents a number of different challenges, wildlife being one.

As cute and cuddly as they are kangaroos, wombats and other furry creatures are a hazard when driving on country roads.

They are particularly so around daybreak and dusk when they’re more active, and the low light makes them harder to see.

Many of us set off early in the morning looking to get to our holiday destinations and start the fun. Some can’t wait to get started and leave after breaking up at work and face the hazards of driving through the evening.

We need to be extra vigilant at these times, kangaroos can appear in our path with little warning, and we need to be prepared if they do.

Hitting a kangaroo or other animal can cause major damage to our cars and injuries, swerving to miss them can result in even more carnage.

Will you be traveling long distances this holiday period? Tell us in the comments below.