When I talk to people about doing the 'Big Lap' around Australia their concerns or fears are usually related to getting stranded in remote areas, snakes or running out of money!
While these are valid concerns, the biggest risk is a road accident.
Australia's roads are busier than ever and many remote roads are unsealed and totally unpredictable AND you'll probably be towing a van or camper so need even more care to avoid things going wrong. We found this out the hard way on our big lap when we managed to roll our car and camper trailer while travelling only 40km/h on an unsealed track with some big washouts (that's another story!).
Speeding, drink driving, fatigue, failing to wear a seat belt and driving a big heavy rig on bad roads can all lead to bad news. Poor rear vision and merging skills, tail-gating, in-car distractions such as mobile phones and entertainment systems, and even driver frustration levels are key contributors to crashes.
The folks at NRMA Insurance have put this checklist together for car and motorcycle safety and they've also made a video.
Take these basic precautions to stay safe on the road:
- Driver fatigue is a factor in one in five road fatalities, so make sure you take regular breaks on long trips - ideally 15 minutes every 2 hours - you're not in a hurry after all and you'll need toilet, ice cream and photo stops anyway.
- Slow down on the roads, observe the speed limit and set a good example for our young drivers. Driving 10km/h slower will make little difference to the time you arrive but be much safer and use less fuel.
- If you're driving below the speed limit because you're towing and there are limited overtaking opportunities, pull over frequently to let cars get past to avoid them doing something dangerous.
- Don't drink and drive. Towing a van or camper you'll need all your wits about you. Â Wait till you get to your destination, setup your camp, then enjoy something cold and refreshing.
- Be aware of stopping distances and leave enough of a gap between you and the vehicle in front. If you drive an older car, the gap needs to be greater as it's going to take you longer to stop. Likewise if you're towing you'll need a lot more road to stop suddenly.
- Driving and texting don't mix. If you need to send a message on your mobile phone when you're in the car, stop to send it
- Use headlights in wet or poor weather or dusty/smoky conditions that you might encounter in remote areas. It makes it easier for others to see you
- When approaching a roundabout, give way to traffic already on the roundabout and indicate left when leaving
- At traffic lights, an amber light means prepare to stop unless it is not safe to do so
- Anticipate what pedestrians will do and be prepared to take evasive action if they do something silly
- Adjust the top of your head restraint to eye level or higher. It will help prevent a whiplash injury
- The rear seat is the safest place for children of any age to ride in a car
- Leave your radio on when travelling through major tunnels, so you can be reached if an emergency is broadcasted