Five under-appreciated ways to stay safe on the roads


We’ve heard all the major safety tips already – share the drive, watch your speed and don’t even think about getting behind the wheel with a few drinks under your belt.

Christmas time is a time when thousands of us hit the roads every year, and that can also make the festive season a potentially deadly time of year.

There will be no shortage of radio, television, newspaper and YouTube ads urging us to stay safe this year, but aside from the crucial speed, fatigue, drinking and seat belt messages, there is a lot more you can do to make sure you stay safe on the roads.

Things like…

Leaving your lights on

Whether it’s day or night, city or bush, it’s worth keeping your headlights on in broad daylight (just watch out for those high beams). Headlights aren’t just for lighting your way, they also let other drivers know you’re coming and they help achieve this even during the middle of a bright summer day. The effect is amplified if you drive a dark coloured car.

Checking your tyres

It’s easy to cast a quick eye over your tyres and conclude they’re safe for the family road trip, but, to quote Groucho Marx: “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?”. Our eyes have a habit of being overly confident when it comes to tyre health, so the best way to stay safe is to do what the police do and take a hands on approach.

If you’ve ever been fined, or know someone who has been fined for bald tyres, you may know about the small nub in the grooves your tyres – if that number sits a few millimetres below the groove then you’re safe, if it’s flush with the top of the tyre then you’re pushing your luck. Make sure you get your hands all the way in to the inner edge of the tyre – just because the outside feels good doesn’t mean the inside is fine.

When you’re sitting on 110 kilometres per hour a blow out can be deadly, so it’s worth the extra time and money to make sure your rubber is good.

Watching your tail

Keeping an eye on the road is important, we all know that but we can all be guilty of focusing only on what’s ahead of us. What’s behind you can be just as important – especially when the roads are busy and hoons are out in force. A bad driver behind you can be just as dangerous as a bad driver in front of you and so you should always remember to watch your mirrors, even when you’re in the middle of nowhere. Should you encounter a tailgater, remember to gently slow down to increase the distance between yourself and the vehicle in front – if the worst does happen your breaks no need to stop two cars and that means you will need at least a four second gap between yourself and the car in front of you.

Watching the heat

The heat gauge rarely changes on your car but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Keeping a close eye on your engine temperature can be the difference between a minor problem and a total breakdown. If you’re travelling on outback roads then the last thing you want is to miss Christmas dinner because you’re sweltering in the desert.

Carry lots of water

Many of us will be making long road trips through hot country, many of us on remote roads. It’s easy to forget from the air-conditioned comfort of a family sedan how dangerous the Australian bush can be, especially without water. If the worst does happen and your car parks it in the middle of a remote highway you could be looking at hours on the roadside with little shade aside from the hot metal box you came in. For each person in the car you will need several litres of fresh water

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