Australians love a summer road trip and for many, it ignites feelings of nostalgia of childhood holidays and provides a great opportunity to make new memories.
According to professional racing driver and Merlin ambassador Greg Murphy, the key to making your road trip safe and relaxed is planning ahead. This includes planning the route you take, the amount of time to allow getting there (allowing for regular rest breaks) and making sure your car is in good condition.
Here are Greg’s top tips for hitting the open road:
Ensure your car is in good working order
It is essential that you make sure your car is safe before heading off on a road trip. The most important items to check are the brakes, tyres, suspension, water and oil. Giving your car a fresh service before you head off will cover off all these vital elements and ensure you’re ready for your trip.
A lot of us love the outdoors and head off camping or boating, so if you’ll be towing it’s also critical that you have the trailer, caravan or boat trailer checked too. Spending time on the side of the road or looking for a mechanic to fix your car or trailer when you should be enjoying the sunshine is not fun for anyone!
Driver distraction is one of the leading causes of accidents on our roads, so it’s vital that you stay completely focused if you’re in the driver’s seat. If you take your eyes off the road for a split second you could put yourself, your family, other motorists and pedestrians at risk.
Phones can be a big distraction in the car, so it’s important that you keep your phone out of reach when driving. If you’re travelling in New South Wales, mobile phone detection cameras are also in use in 45 unknown locations across the state, issuing hefty fines and demerit points.
You can also try the ‘do not disturb while driving” function available on most iPhone and Android devices, which blocks phone calls and messages and sends an auto reply telling callers you are driving and will respond later.
Generally, there are more people travelling to and from popular holiday areas during the Christmas and New Year period, which can create traffic congestion. Remind yourself to be respectful enough of other road users and allow extra travel time in case the trip doesn’t go to plan.
Don’t trust your tired self
During long trips drivers can feel tired and may be tempted to keep driving to save time, putting themselves, their passengers and other road-users at risk.
NRMA recommends taking a break at least every two hours. Sleep is the only cure for tiredness so make sure you’re well rested before heading out and stop regularly (e.g. at Driver Reviver sites), even if you haven’t been driving for long.
Be prepared for challenging weather conditions
The weather can change quickly when travelling and it is important that you change your driving accordingly. Adverse weather conditions such as rain, snow, and dust can limit your ability to see, decreasing your ability to react to hazards.
After extended dry periods, when rain (or snow) does arrive, it can push motor oils to a road’s surface, decreasing tyre traction and makes roads slippery. Rain can also hide major hazards such as potholes and debris.
Taking caution and slowing down is essential, and if the weather continues to deteriorate, it’s very important to take a break until the weather passes. If you are towing something, remember the extra weight that is pushing you when trying to slow down!
Create the ultimate playlist
No road trip is complete without a killer playlist. My favourites are Powderfinger, Foo Fighters, INXS, Radiohead and Kings of Leon. Podcasts can also make great holiday listening!