Start your holiday with safe travels this festive season while you’re out and about and on the road.
School is out, the festive shutdown is around the corner and we’re all feeling the holiday mood. In order to enjoy this festive period and your summer break the right way, it is essential to start your holiday with safe travels. Follow these hints and tips to reach your destination happy, healthy and in one piece.
Before hitting the road this summer there are some checks to your vehicle that should be done to help prevent a frustrating roadside breakdown, or worse an accident. Do these checks with enough time before you leave to do any necessary repairs.
You wouldn’t go for a long hike or run a marathon in bad shoes, the same goes for your vehicles tyres:
- Check for any signs of cracking or lumps and bumps on the side walls (the one next to your vehicle body too), these are a sign of tyre damage and ageing and can lead to dangerous blow outs so replace your tyres if you notice these.
- Check your tread depth – in South Africa the legal minimum depth over the entire surface is 1mm, but 1.6mm is a much safer minimum to stick to. Replace your tyres if your tread is heavily worn as this can affect braking and vehicle handling, especially in wet weather. If you do have an accident with worn tyres, your insurance can also refuse to pay for your claim!
- Check your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure to prevent tyre damage, maintain proper handling and improve fuel economy. This should be done when your tyres are cold, in other words before you have driven your vehicle anywhere, rather than whilst you are filling up with fuel at the service station. The correct tyre pressure for your vehicle will usually be on a sticker or plate inside the driver’s door or the fuel filler flap and remember to check whether there is a different recommended pressure if your vehicle is fully loaded.
- If you haven’t had your wheel balancing and alignment checked in a while, get this done before you hit the road. Arrive Alive recommend that you get your balancing and alignment checked every 10 000km or 6 months to maintain safe and comfortable vehicle handling and prevent uneven tyre wear.
- Remember to check the condition and pressure of your spare wheel too – if you do get a puncture, a flat or damaged spare tyre will leave you stranded!
Check your windscreen wipers – they’re essential in a downpour and can degrade pretty quickly in our strong sunshine. Squirt you washer sprays and check that the wipers clear your windscreen without leaving streaks or missing areas and replace them if necessary.
Check that all your vehicle’s lights are working properly. Enlist the help of a friend or family member to help you check that all your lights are working as they should both front and back.
Get a battery health check, especially if your vehicle is sluggish to start.
Check all your vehicle’s fluid levels are correct to avoid breakdowns. Check that the oil, coolant, brake fluid, washer bottles and any other hydraulic reservoirs on your vehicle are within their manufacturer recommended volume ranges.
If you have noticed any squeals, juddering or pulling to one side on braking, get your brakes checked out. It is an absolute road safety must to have a vehicle that can brake safely, reliably and under control at all times.
We shouldn’t have to tell you this, but don’t ignore any warning lights on your dashboard – get them checked out!
Caravans and Trailers
As with your vehicle, if you are towing a caravan or trailer you need to make sure that they are fit for the road too.
If you haven’t had it done recently, make sure your caravan or trailer’s wheel bearings and brakes (if fitted) are serviced properly. A seized wheel bearing could well put an early end on your holiday.
Check your caravan or trailer’s tyres – they also need to be examined for cracking, blistering, tread wear and correct tyre pressure too. A tyre blowout or reduction in traction or handling can be just as catastrophic as on the towing vehicle.
Check that all your lights work and that your vehicle plug and socket are in good condition.
Check that your tow hitch is in proper working order and that it fits securely to your tow ball.
Pack your load properly – heavy weights packed high up, far behind the axle or unevenly across the width of your trailer or caravan can be hard to handle and dangerous to tow.
On The Road
Know the route that you are taking:
- Make sure to know if you will encounter any tolls and be prepared for them.
- Check out how many fuel stations are on your journey and any long gaps between them so that you can plan your stops accordingly to avoid running out of fuel.
- If you know of any congestion hot-spots on your route, try to have some back up routes around them
- Plan for potential places to stop and stretch your legs and toilet breaks, especially on very long journeys and if you’re travelling with young children.
Unleash your inner Scout and be prepared! Make sure that you have what you need to stay comfortable on your journey.
- Pack some snacks and make sure that you have plenty to drink with you – an accident on a busy highway on a hot December day can stop you in your tracks for some time, so make sure that you can stay hydrated
- Wear comfortable clothes and if part of your journey will be early in the morning or late in the evening, then remember a light, warmer outer layer that you can put on and take off easily
- Basic medical supplies such as headache tablets, sunscreen, bite and sting cream and hand sanitiser are a good idea in addition to a vehicle first aid kit
- If you’re travelling with kids, then remember some boredom-busting activities to put off the inevitable “are we nearly there yet?”
A holiday isn’t any fun if you don’t make it there at all and even the best break can be ruined by a nightmare journey home. When you hit the road, consider your safety along the way:
- Driving tired can kill – driver fatigue is as dangerous as drink-driving. Be as well rested as you can be before getting behind the wheel for a long journey and try to split the driving time with another person in your group if possible. If you do find yourself feeling drowsy whilst on the road, then open your window a crack for some fresh air, turn the radio up a little and stop at the next available safe service station to take a break and get some rest. Very long journeys should be split over more than one day
- Wear your seat belt – no matter how tempting it may be to take your belt off for a comfortable snooze in the passenger seat, don’t. In the event of an accident, a seat belt can save your life and other passengers too
- Plan to take a break roughly every two hours to stretch your legs and fight fatigue
- Plan your stops well – don’t stop at the side of the highway or by unlit roads, use service stations and well-lit safe areas in towns. Stopping where it’s not safe poses a risk from passing traffic and leaves you vulnerable to robbery
- If you suspect there is something wrong with your vehicle, try to stop in a controlled manner in a service station as soon as you can rather than pushing on and breaking down by the side of the road. Check whether your insurance offers you emergency breakdown recovery or consider taking out a breakdown and recovery policy with a motoring organisation
Cross Border Adventures
If your holiday adventures take you over the border, make sure that you are fully prepared for border crossings and your destination’s rules and regulations.
If you’re flying then make sure that you all have your passports and have checked for visa or passport validity rules. If you’re renting a vehicle at your destination have your driver’s license and any other documents requested by your rental company.
When driving cross border, you will need your vehicle’s registration documentation and if your vehicle is financed or registered in someone else’s name you will more than likely need letters of permission from the bank or registered owner. Check out the rules of the road in your destination country and make sure you can comply with them. Some will need you to carry certain items like fluorescent vests, warning triangles or fire extinguishers and speed limits, road procedures and drinking rules may well be different to at home too. Some countries also have special rules if you are towing a caravan or trailer and rules on vehicle accessories such as light bars.
Remember you will also need to make sure that you have your passport with you – you’re still going abroad even if you’re driving and also check out visa and passport validity requirements. Check out any customs regulations on the gear and provisions you are taking with you, especially when it comes to food, alcohol, fuel in jerry cans or potentially hazardous articles like pepper spray.
If you are South African and travelling with children, remember that South Africa still carries out anti child-trafficking checks. Children in your party will need a child passport with full particulars of the parents or an unabridged birth certificate in addition to their passport. If a child is travelling without one or both of their parents, then they will also need an affidavit from the parent(s) not travelling giving their permission for the child to travel.
But above all, have a very happy holiday, make awesome memories and enjoy yourselves!