It might be the “most wonderful time of the year” but as we head towards the holiday season it might not be the most wonderful time on the roads. Around the world, many countries celebrate end of year holidays, leading to an increased number of family trips for many people. With roads typically carrying greater volumes of consumer vehicles than usual over the next few weeks, drivers are advised to plan ahead for safe travel.
eDriving’s top 10 tips for safe driving this holiday season:
1. Prepare 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, deicer, water, non-perishable food, car charger for your phone, warning triangle, basic first-aid kit, flashlight.
2. Plan ahead
Avoid peak travel times if you can. Check weather forecasts and travel updates before you set out. Put off traveling if weather conditions are bad (see eDriving’s winter driving safety tips). Let friends/ family know your travel plans and estimated time of arrival.
3. Load up safely
It may be a time for giving but give some thought to how you’ll get your gifts to their destination. 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. Manage distractions
You can expect noise and excitement in your vehicle this holiday season! A selection of quiet activities can help to occupy younger passengers – such as books, games consoles or DVD players (with headphones). Talk to passengers before you set off about the importance of you giving the road your full attention. Remember to set up technology such as GPS before you travel and turn your phone on silent or put it out of sight. Alternatively, give it to a fellow passenger for them to receive calls/ texts for you.
5. Get plenty of rest
The holidays are hectic but 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. 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. Buckle up
Ensure all vehicle occupants buckle up, for everyone’s safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that seat belts saved an estimated 14,668 lives in 2016. 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. Drive at 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.
8. Be alert for other road users
Remember that lots of other families are also on the road; with the same challenges as you! Drivers might be distracted by their children; they might be under pressure to get to their destination; they might be traveling on unfamiliar roads. Driving defensively helps you to keep away from problems on the road by anticipating the actions of others, remaining alert to everything around you and leaving a safety space around your vehicle.
9. Prioritize safety and security
When taking rest stops, park in a location that enables you to keep an eye on your vehicle or take it in turns to stay 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. Drive sober
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!