While long distance car trips can be enjoyable, they’re often also taxing. A lengthy journey needs planning, concentration and patience to make it safe for the driver, passengers and everyone else on the road. Here are our tips to help make long distance driving easier and safer for your passengers, including the insurance coverage you'll need in case your plans take a wrong turn.
Prepare your vehicle
Before you leave, check the mechanic's service sticker on your windscreen to make sure it hasn't been too long since your vehicle's last service. If there's no sticker, your car should have an owner's manual that sets out scheduled services.
If the sticker hasn't quite reached its due date, there are several simple DIY checks you can conduct, which include checking the dashboard warning lights, your car's battery life, its wheel alignment and signs of worn brakes.
The Queensland Department of Transport also recommends you check the engine oil, transmission fluid, windscreen washer liquid, radiator coolant, and brake and clutch fluid are at the right levels. If they’re getting low make sure you top them up.
You should also visit your local petrol station to check your tyre pressure – including that of the spare. See your user manual for the right PSI for your vehicle's tyres and while you're at it, check the tread is in good condition.
Lastly, don't forget to check that all indicators, headlights and warning lights are functioning properly.
If you break down
It’s important to prepare for contingencies just in case you break down.
Double check that you have a car jack in case you get a flat tyre. But remember to only change a tyre if you know how to and make sure you’re in a safe location if you decide to change it yourself.
Otherwise, call your roadside assistance provider and wait for help in a safe position away from the road.
“You may also want to check you’re covered for emergency temporary repairs, emergency accommodation, transport and towing costs in case your car cannot be driven,” says QBE National Product Manager for Private Motor Insurance, Rachel Spooner.
Plan your route
Look up your destination on a map and work out the distance so you have a good idea of how many kilometres you have ahead of you, as well as how long the drive will take when cruising within, not pushing the speed limit. Don't forget to factor in a 15-20 minute break for every two hours on the road, and account for potential traffic delays.
It's important to pick a departure time that will help you arrive at your destination at a safe hour. That's because you should avoid travelling when your body is usually asleep, as most sleep-related vehicle crashes happen between 2am and 6am, according to the Queensland Department of Transport.
Finally, consider getting a satellite navigation system, as it will not only help you navigate the road ahead, but will also alert you to speed limits in different states and territories. Before setting off, check the road rules in the states you’ll be travelling so that you’re aware of any differences in speed limits or other legislation.
Share the driving
Every year, particularly in peak travel times over the holiday periods, there are road-related deaths in Australia. Fatigue killed 83 people on NSW roads in 2016, which is more than a 50% increase from 2015 according to a report from Transport for NSW.
So make sure you've had plenty of good quality sleep before you take off. Fatigue-related crashes frequently occur when the driver is alone so share the load with another driver, if you can, and rotate frequently.
QBE’s Rachel Spooner, says you should double check that all people who will be sharing the driving are on your insurance policy if you have preferred or nominated driver cover.
It's also never a good idea to eat, drink or navigate while driving, so wait until it's your turn to sit in the passenger seat before doing so.
Know the warning signs
Coffee and other caffeinated drinks are no substitute for sleep.
Queensland Transport recommends you take at least a 20 minute sleep if you notice any of the following warning signs:
Drifting in the lane or over lane lines
- Changing speed without reason
- Blinking more than usual
- Notice your eyes closing for a moment or going out of focus
- Feeling drowsy, tired or exhausted
- Having trouble keeping your head up
- Don’t remember the previous few minutes of driving
- Experience slower reaction times
Plan for unexpected events
It’s important to always have contingencies in place and the appropriate insurance cover in case something unexpected happens.
“Windscreens can crack, tyres could go flat, animals might jump out, and there are drivers less careful than you out there, too,” QBE National Product Manager for Private Motor Insurance, Rachel Spooner says.
“None of these you can entirely prevent, but you can take steps to ensure they won't ruin your holiday, such as havingcomprehensive car insurance in place,” explains Rachel, “our policy provides complete protection against accident damage, fire and theft, plus damage to other people’s cars and property”.