Summer driving is hot, long and busy. We’ve all experienced the chaos of a summer holiday jam, with everyone trying to get out of town. So our first tip is an obvious one: pick a departure time that isn’t the same as everyone else’s!
With accidents being common at this time of year, we’ve put together some suggestions for safe summer driving:
- It’s bright out there: Summer equals long days and that particular glare that hits you right in the eyes when the sun is low. Be careful of driving around this time and take it slow, especially if you’ve been on the road for a long time already and may be fatigued
- Passing a towing vehicle: In New Zealand we love both camping and boats, which means there’s a lot of things being towed on the road at summertime. Never underestimate the length of a car that’s towing a boat or caravan, and make sure there’s plenty of clear road ahead of you when passing.
- Lighten your load: Do you really need to bring the espresso machine? Lighten the weight where you can – heavy loads affect your vehicle’s speed and maneuverability, puts more pressure on your tyres and uses more fuel. Take it slow around corners, and allow for greater stopping distances.
Pre-roadtrip checks of your vehicle
Before you take any long journey you should always do some basic maintenance on your car – like checking the oil, water and tyre pressure. Here are some more essentials:
- Check your tyre pressure before you leave – not during: Check your tyre pressure BEFORE you begin your journey to get a more accurate reading – if you do this later down the road during a fuel stop, the numbers will be higher because your tyres have heated up and air expands when heated. Checking your tyres is particularly important in summertime temperatures
- Got coolant? Sometimes overlooked by those of us who aren’t engine-minded, the radiator is actually a very important part of your pre-trip checks. You’ll need to make sure you have enough fluid in here, which is a mix of coolant or ‘anti-freeze’, and water. You can buy coolant at a petrol station.
- Keep your car hydrated: Check your vehicle’s water and oil levels more frequently if you’re doing a lot of long drives. You need hydration too, so keep a water bottle handy while you’re driving.
Prepare yourself for the journey, not just your vehicle
Fatigue can be a big factor in road accidents over summer. Long distances, heat, and lots of traffic – it’s a testing time to be a driver.
Here’s some help with staying alert and safe:
- Although you might be desperate to get to your destination, it’s so important to take plenty of breaks. Going for a short walk when you stop can work wonders
- Ever been woken up earlier than usual, and found yourself feeling groggy for ages? This is an interruption to your body’s natural rhythm. So choose your departure time for when your body is used to being awake and active, and get a good sleep the night before
- Hot car? To avoid the hottest part of the day leave early in the morning or in the late afternoon, and keep that air-con cranking – heat build up in your car can have the same effect as a blood alcohol level of 0.5
- We’re never too far from the ocean, rivers or lakes in New Zealand. Stop and take a refreshing dip along the way!
- Don’t forget your most important cargo: your passengers. Use sun shades in the back seat to protect your kids from the sun, and make sure they wear their seatbelts at all times.
Tips for packing your car safely
- Never travel with unsecured pets in the car – use the appropriate safety harnesses or travel boxes
- Avoid using the passenger area for storing your luggage. If emergency braking at 50 km/h, loose items can have a force of up to 50 times their weight
- Determined to squeeze in that extra boogie board or folding deck-chair? If you’ve packed your boot to the brim, invest in a net or safety screen so nothing can fly forward into the back seat
- Pack large, heavy items at the bottom of the boot, keeping them as far forward as possible so the centre of gravity is low and there’s good weight distribution
- Keep any essential items that you may need during the journey close at hand – like food, drinks, medicine or entertainment for your kids. ‘Last in, first out’ is a good rule of thumb to consider.
Safe driving this summer, everyone!