The warmer and festive season puts many of us on the road to celebrate and socialise with family and friends. Whether you’re driving to a nearby Christmas or New Year’s Eve party or on a good old-fashioned Kiwi road trip, safety needs to be a priority. The tolerance for speeding is lowered over the Christmas and New Year’s period to only allow 4kmh over the limit, driver safety is more important than ever. Police will be focused on speeding, fatigue and distracted driving – which have been the leading causes of serious-injury crashes and fatalities this year. Here are four ways to stay safe on the road this summer:
1. Plan Your Trip
Identify the safest route, not the fastest. Traffic volumes increase during the summer period and there are often larger, slower vehicles towing trailers or caravans. Remember that you’re sharing the road. Be aware of your speed and where you’ll stop to take a break. It’s also an important part of route management to identify potential hazards like roadworks and changing weather conditions that should be factored into your journey. Even though it’s summer, it can still rain at any time in New Zealand.
2. Pre-Trip Checks
Is your vehicle in fit condition for your Christmas road trip? Check that you have the right about of engine oil to keep your vehicle running smoothly. Make sure your brake lights are working, there’s plenty of window wash in the reservoir and your mirrors are clean (and cobweb free). Do you have the correct air pressure in your tyres? Road safety begins before you get into your vehicle and attention to detail increases your chances of arriving safely.
3. Take Regular Breaks
A four-second micro-sleep while travelling at 100 kilometres per hour means you’ll travel approximately the length of a rugby field before regaining control of your vehicle. Risks associated with driver fatigue are amplified during the summer holiday season, as many people travel long distances on unfamiliar roads and leave in the early hours to avoid traffic. This means driving when your body is programmed to sleep but there are ways to manage fatigue. Stopping for a break every two hours allows your body to reset. Getting out of your vehicle and going for a walk replenishes oxygen in your blood so you can avoid driving whilst drowsy. This adds a little time to your journey but may save your life.
4. Avoid Distractions
Driving is not the time or place to send one of the 1.27 million texts that was sent in New Zealand on Christmas Day 2017. Texting behind the wheel takes your eyes off the road for up to 40 per cent of the time when sending or receiving a message – this means you’re not looking where you’re going for 12 out of every 30 seconds. Mobile phones aren’t the only culprit. Adjusting radios, talking to your passengers or eating and drinking are all potentially dangerous driving distractions. Turning your phone off, keeping music to a reasonable volume and stopping to enjoy your flat white in peace will all reduce risk.
Christmas and New Year is a dangerous time on Kiwi roads. By taking extra care and looking out for fellow drivers, you’re one step closer to making sure everybody arrives safely.