12 ways to keep your family safe on road trips
For parents with young kids, the annual road trip is an affordable and achievable family holiday, but it can also be wearing. So as you load your family vehicle up this holiday, here are some must-read tips to ensure all you all arrive at your destination safely (arriving happy, however, is a whole different story).
1. Check the tyres
Tyre condition is one of the most important factors in preventing accidents; they are the only part of the vehicle which has contact with the road. Tyres help your vehicle steer, brake and corner. Lack of depth to the tyre treads, incorrect tyre pressure and poor condition of the tyres contribute to bad handling which leads to accidents.
Tyre pressure should be checked every month, and always before heading off on a holiday. Also have a good look at the tread depth on each tyre – it should be at least 1.6mm.
2. Service the car
Breaking down on a road trip can be stressful and expensive – plus it has its own dangers if your family is stranded on the side of a busy highway. So, along with organising someone to collect your post, feed the pets and water the garden while you're away, make sure you organise a full service for your car before you set off.
3. Plan your route
Make sure you know where you’re heading and, preferably, have a good navigator in the passenger seat. That way there’ll be no need for dangerous U-turns or extending the driving time because of missed turn-offs. Driver safety experts also recommend that you don’t plan to drive any longer than eight to 10 hours a day, and that you depart early to avoid driving during the evening hours.
4. Plan your two-hourly stops
Build in toilet/drink/rest stops every two hours. Study after study has found that having these regular revival stops greatly assists in preventing driver fatigue. Also the smaller passengers will probably start their highly distracting whining and squabbling after about two hours so the whole family will benefit from a brisk stretching of the legs.
5. Know if you’re getting fatigued
If you start experiencing a combination of the following symptoms, stop the car, take a rest or get someone else to drive.
- Continual yawning
- Difficulty keeping head up and eyes open
- Eyes feel sore and heavy
- Vision starts to blur
- Seeing things
- Difficulty holding a conversation
- Impatience and making rash decisions
- Reactions seem slow
- Feeling stiff or cramped
- Wandering over the centre line, into another lane or on to the road edge
- Hearing droning or humming in your ears
- Not noticing a vehicle until it suddenly overtakes
- Not remembering driving the last few kilometres
6. Driving tired is like driving drunk
Driving after being awake for 17 to 19 hours is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 percent. At this level, the risk of a crash is double than with a BAC of 0.
Driving after 24 to 27 hours awake is equivalent to driving with a BAC of around 0.1 percent. At 0.1 percent, the risk of a crash is seven times greater than driving with a BAC of 0.
7. Share the driving
If you’re making the drive with another licenced adult, build in a driver-change or two during the trip. But if you start to feel weary before your scheduled swap, pull over immediately to make the change.
8. Keep your energy levels up
Don’t drive on a full stomach or rely on caffeine to keep you awake. Also eating fatty or heavy foods during the trip is not recommended. The best driving foods for the whole family are ones that are light and fresh, such as sandwiches and fruit.
9. Can you power nap?
If you have another adult who can look after the smaller passengers, pull into a driver revival spot, or somewhere else off the busy road and have a power nap. Research has found drivers waking from a 10-minute nap show an immediate noticeable rise in mental performance and alertness that remains for a minimum of one hour after.
10. Keep the whining to a minimum
Fighting, whingeing kids can be distracting for the driver. Taking your eyes off the road to referee a sibling squabble can have fatal consequences. Talk to your kids before the trip about how you need them to behave as best they can, and prepare them for the long trip.
Also, fill the car with healthy snacks, toys and talking books to stop the whining from starting. If you have a portable DVD player (preferably complete with ear phones), this is a proven boredom buster for long car trips.
11. Minimise car sickness among the kiddies
Nothing’s going to throw you off your driving task more than kids threatening to vomit all over the car. So they key is to avoid the kids getting motion sickness by:
- Getting the kids to look out the window at the horizon, if possible. Boosters are good for school-aged kids because it enables them to see out of the window.
- Not feeding the kids any fatty or heavy foods before or during the trip.
- Keeping the car well-ventilated.
- Talking to your chemist about preventative medicines if you have a child prone to car sickness.
12. Interesting stats to know
- Fatigue-related crashes tend to occur in two distinct periods of the day: between midnight and 6am, and between 2pm and 4pm, according to research.
- Many accidents happen within 50km of the destination so don’t let your guard down just because you’re nearly there.
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