Globally, the season for holiday planning, office parties and thinking ahead to our new year dreams and objectives is upon us, but it is also the season for increased leisure traffic on the roads. There is a much greater potential to encounter distracted and fatigued drivers during this time of year. It is critical that your planning includes journey, safety and travel considerations so that nothing prevents you and your family from enjoying a happy and successful end to this year and to the start of 2020.

eDriving’s top 10 tips for safe driving this holiday season:

1.Maintain your vehicle

Check fluid levels, fuel, lights, tire pressures, tire condition, brakes, battery and wiper blades. Consult a professional if you’re unsure how to carry out any checks. Pack an emergency kit that includes a blanket, de-icer, water, non-perishable food, car charger for your phone, warning triangle, basic first-aid kit, flashlight.

2.Plan a safe trip

Schedule trips to avoid peak travel times if you can. Check weather forecasts and travel updates before setting out. Delay your trip if weather conditions are bad (see winter driving safety tips). Let friends/ family know your travel plans and estimated time of arrival.

3.Load your vehicle safely

Overloading your vehicle can affect its suspension, handling and braking capabilities. Look for maximum weight limits on a sticker inside the driver’s door or in your vehicle owner’s manual.

Make sure no items are in – or behind – the driver’s footwell and be aware that small items in the rear footwell could slide forward while your vehicle is in motion. Beware of stacking gifts on a parcel shelf or anywhere that they could be projected forward in the event of a collision.

4.Reduce distractions

You’re sure to experience noise and excitement in your vehicle this holiday season! However, packing a selection of quiet activities can help to occupy younger passengers – such as books, games consoles, tablets or DVD players (with headphones). Talk to passengers before you set off about the importance of you staying focused on the road. Remember to set up technology such as GPS before you travel. Avoid phone distraction by giving your phone to a passenger, putting it on silent or turning it off completely! Read more about distracted driving.

5.Get plenty of rest

It’s important to be well-rested before traveling. Driving while tired affects driving ability in the same way as drinking alcohol; it reduces reaction times and affects concentration and co-ordination (read more about the effects). Allow plenty of time for a good night’s sleep before you set off and take regular breaks from driving – at least 15 minutes every two hours.

6.All buckle up

Make it a rule that you will only set off when everyone’s buckled up correctly! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that seat belts saved an estimated 14,995 lives in 2017. For drivers and front-seat passengers, using a seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injury by 45% in a car. Make sure children are seated in appropriate seats – check requirements here.

7.Stick to a safe speed

Speeding reduces your reaction time in an emergency and increases the force of a collision. Travel at a speed that enables you to stop safely in the distance you can see to be clear and remember that a three-second following distance is for good conditions only. Double it when roads are wet and increase it even more in extreme weather conditions such as snow and ice. Read more tips about safe speeds.

8.Look out for others

Expect lots of families on the road over the holiday season; most experiencing the same challenges as you! Remember that other drivers might be distracted; they might be under pressure to get to their destination; they might be traveling on unfamiliar roads. Defensive driving helps you anticipate the actions of others, remain alert to everything around you and maintain a safety space around your vehicle.

9.Prioritize your family’s safety

When taking rest stops, park in a location that enables you to keep an eye on your vehicle or take turns staying with the vehicle. Plan rest stops in busy/ well-lit areas and remove everything of value from your vehicle as soon as you arrive at your destination.

10.Avoid driving impaired

When driving, no amount of alcohol is okay. Keep the “morning after effect” in mind while celebrating over the holiday period; you could still be impaired even if you feel fine. Look out for family and friends too. If you know someone has been drinking, don’t let them drive. Call them a taxi, arrange a lift with a sober friend or encourage them to stay over for the night.

Safe and happy holidays!