Safe driving practices

by Mike Isle

Are we there yet? We soon will be. For many of us, the holiday season will soon be on us and with it the chance to kick back and relax. Nevertheless, there is one aspect of the holiday season when relaxing should be, tragically could be, the last thing we do — that’s when driving.

Driving during the holiday period presents its own set of problems and issues. The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) lists many of them on its helpful website, as does the Automobile Association.

Both provide helpful guides and tips to help cope with what can be difficult and unusual driving conditions.

They point to the fact that at this time of the year holidaymakers are often driving longer distances over often unfamiliar territory. There are increased traffic volumes, particularly out in the country.

There are more distractions such as traffic jams, fatigue and —yes — noisy and irritable children.

Of course, there is also the ever-present spectre of drunk drivers.

To mitigate the risk of crashes at this time, the NZTA and AA both recommend extra care and giving the road and other road users the attention they need and deserve. Even if we are keeping local and know the road well, we need to accept that others, particularly at this time of year, do not.

For local driving or going longer distances it is best to plan a journey to avoid the worst traffic peaks if possible, and — in any case — allow plenty of time so as not to rush the journey.

Schedule regular rest stops.

Watch out for fatigue. Long trips are tiring, and fatigue can be deadly when driving. Share the driving with someone else if possible.

Plan your route — some routes may be safer than others with more passing bays, etc. Others may be longer but carry less traffic and may, therefore, offer a better, safer alternative.

Check your vehicle and trailers and caravans. Are they safe — warranted — and have they been serviced recently?

When packing your vehicle, make sure that everything is securely stowed — and that includes those toys and other loose objects we give the kids as back seat distractions — don’t give them any more than they can safely handle.

Don’t eat while driving — use your rest breaks for that.

Ultimately, however, it comes down to being alert, diving to conditions, and keeping cool — literally and figuratively.

Follow these steps and holiday driving will be what it should be — a safe and enjoyable experience for you and other road users.