68 regional fatalities in 2014 73 of 108 road deaths in 2014 were in country areas
Overtaking on Country Roads
In Australia, major cities and towns are often spread far apart, so long road trips are a regular part of our lives. Driving through regional areas can present different risks however, and these apply whether you’re a country resident or a visitor.
We’ve compiled some advice for your regional driving to help to keep you and your passengers safe. Towing, overtaking, breakdowns, and even car games for the kids are all covered.
If you’re spending time on our country roads as part of a holiday trip, make sure you’re prepared and able to get to your destination safely. If you live in regional South Australia or take roadtrips often, these tips will be an important reminder of some things you may have forgotten. Enjoy the drive.
Did you know that fatigue is one of the biggest causes of road accidents on country roads? Long car rides can leave you exhausted, but there are a few ways to keep yourself alert and aware of any creeping tiredness. The more tired you are, the less you can recognise it, so it’s best to avoid getting sleepy in the first place rather than try to recover once it hits you.
Boredom is a key factor in causing driver fatigue. The boredom of a long car drive contributes to silly mistakes being made. While cruise control and climate control mean you can almost sit back, relax and wait to arrive, you won’t always be alert enough to respond quickly to an incident. Music is one way to keep you entertained, but be careful because it can also be a distraction. Don’t flick through songs, as this will take your hand off the wheel and your eyes off the road.
Your vehicle travels 30 metres every second you are looking at your CD player or personal electronic device.
You've probably heard that you should take a 15-minute break for every two hours that you’re driving. That’s to prevent you from getting fatigued rather than fix fatigue that you already have. Once you start to feel tired, it’s too late to fix things with a short break. Rest and sleep are the only ways to cure fatigue once it sets in. Sharing the driving duties helps, but you should still stop the car and both move around every few hours. It gets the blood pumping as well as your mind focused and ready to continue the drive.
Even if you’re taking regular breaks, you shouldn’t drive longer than 8 to 10 hours in a day. Driving can be very mentally tiring, so try not to drive any longer than your normal workday. If you were at work, you would usually have a coffee around 10am, so when you’re driving, stop for a coffee around 10am. Your body gets used to this kind of regular break, so you should make sure you’re giving it what it needs. This also applies to driving at times when you would normally be asleep. Your body clock has a surprising amount of power over how fatigued you’re likely to get, so plan your long drives like you would plan a normal day.
Remember that the traditional ways to get over your fatigue, like loud music, cold air, or overloading on caffeine, are only a very short term fix. If you’ve noticed you feel tired, you’re already fatigued. To stay safe, make sure you plan for the entire journey.
Going for a drive in the city is very different to setting out on a long road trip. For drivers that aren't used to rural roads, it can be a steep learning curve, and one with serious consequences for little mistakes. These five tips will help new drivers adjust to the different road conditions.
1. Following the road rules becomes more important the faster you go. Indicating with plenty of time, keeping to the speed limits, and only overtaking on broken lines are all vital at higher speeds.
2. Make small, smooth adjustments. When you're travelling at high speeds, a small input equals a big output. Even a small steering correction or road bump can have a big impact on your vehicle.
3. Be wary of standing water. A sudden change in the road conditions can cause your tyres to lose grip on the road. If the wet patches reflect rainbows, it's likely to be oil. It could send you into a skid if you drive over it so make sure you're on the lookout. Foam on the side of the road is also an indicator that the roads are likely to be oily and slippery.
4. Give yourself plenty of space because your stopping distance increases significantly as you go faster. At 110 km per hour, your stopping distance is about 92 metres.
5. Drive to the conditions. Speed limits are set for clear, dry days and a road surface that is in good condition. If there's fog, rain, dust or it's dark, adjust your speed accordingly.
No matter how well you know your car, it’s going to behave very differently when you add the weight of a trailer or caravan. There are a lot of things to keep in mind when you’re towing, so here are our top ten tips to help get both you and your cargo to your destination safely.
Manufacturers specifications - It’s very important to check your vehicle’s manufacturer’s specifications for the maximum towable weight, suspension requirements, etc. Disregarding these requirements can significantly increase your likelihood of doing damage to your vehicle, breaking down or being involved in a crash.
Tyre Pressure – Heavy loads and high speeds put extra strain on your tyres. Make sure they’re fully inflated before setting off, but not over inflated. The pressure increases as the tyres get hotter which could cause a blowout.
Speed – The extra weight of a loaded trailer or caravan means that you need to take more time speeding up. This is especially important when it comes to safely overtaking other slow moving vehicles. On the other hand, slowing down will take longer the more weight you have added to your vehicle. Brake early, progressively and never lock-up your wheels.
Wind – If you’re towing a caravan on a windy day, you’ll need to be extra careful. Just make sure that you take it easy and watch for any potential crosswinds. A good guide is to look at the trees ahead and along the road to see how much they are being blown about. You should also slow down when you are about to pass a truck. The air disturbance that they create can also cause your car and caravan to get buffered and lose control.
Weight Distribution – Pack heavy items first and secure them so that they will not move around if you have to brake suddenly. You can fill spaces in between with any smaller cargo. Keeping the centre of gravity low with at least 60% of the weight toward the front keeps the car steadier and the trailor less likely to topple.
Fishtailing – If you’re towing at highway speeds and your trailer is unbalanced with too much weight to the rear, you may experience ‘fishtailing’. Fishtailing is where the trailer suddenly starts to swerve from side-to-side without any input from the driver. Reduce speed gently, by lifting off the accelerator. Braking harshly will usually make things worse. Fishtailing may also occur when you pass an oncoming truck. The wind created by the movement of the truck can often cause the trailer to sway.
Going down hills – When travelling downhill, engage a lower gear in both manual and automatic vehicles to increase control and reduce dependency on your brakes. It takes much longer to stop going down a hill than if you were travelling on level ground, so reduce speed well before you start descending. If the road is wet, significantly reduce speed.
Reversing –If you need to get your trailer or caravan into a small space, try to back up in as much of a straight line as possible. Remember to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction to where you want your trailer or caravan to go.
Overheating – Towing can cause your car to overheat, so keep an eye on your temperature gauge and take a break when it needs to cool down.
Courtesy to other drivers – It’s not always safe to travel at high speeds when you’re towing and many drivers opt to stay a little under the speed limit. Please be courteous to other drivers and make use of slow vehicle turnouts when they’re available.
If you’re not confident of your towing skills, try practicing on quiet streets near home first. It will help you get used to the acceleration and braking differences and the way that your trailer or caravan behaves.
What are the main differences between driving in the city and driving in the country?
This quick comparison highlights what to watch out for, no matter where you are.
Help is usually close by.
Emergency services may take a long time to arrive, especially if you are some distance from a major centre
Other cars, houses, shops, and signs provide constant visual stimuli.
Irregular visual stimuli mean you have no reference points to judge distance or speed.
Your stopping distance is 32 metres if you’re travelling at 60km per hour.
At 110 km per hour, your stopping distance jumps to 92 metres.
Looking after your tyres is really important when you’re going on long, higher-speed journeys. The pressure and tread wear of your tyres can have a huge impact on stopping distance, cornering ability and load carrying. Under-inflated tyres can become excessively hot on long journeys, causing the tyre to rupture and rapidly deflate. Make sure your tyres aren’t worn and are pumped up to the manufacturers specifications.
Remember, if you see emergency services attending an incident on your trip, you still need to slow to 25kmh to pass them. It’s going to take considerably longer to slow down when you’re travelling at high speeds, so be wary of these conditions. Wet weather is another time to take note of extra braking time. Stopping suddenly at speed will take double the time it would take to stop when it’s dry, so please drive to the conditions.
Farm and wild animals live near the road and might get in your way, but often we see them too late. Brake firmly, and if you have time, flash your headlights and sound your horn. Swerving to avoid hitting an animal can sometimes end in a more serious accident than if you didn’t swerve at all.
A key thing to keep in mind when you’re on a road trip is the further you are away from help, the longer it will take to get to you if you’re in trouble. Emergency workers may take some time to get to you, so please make sure you drive carefully.
The further you travel, the more likely you are to spend some time driving at night. Empty roads without streetlights can present dangerous driving conditions. Here are a few risks to look out for the next time you have to travel long distance in the dark.
- At night, there is no colour contrast to help you judge long distances. It’s effectively like seeing in 2D rather than 3D. You’ll find it harder to understand the relative distance of objects.
- Unless visibility is reduced due to fog or adverse weather conditions, fog lights are not only illegal but also serve no practical purpose. At night, fog lights only project light a very short distance in front of you, when you need the light to be shining light much further ahead.
- Use high beams to give you a better view of what’s ahead, but make sure to turn them off 200m before passing another car. If you’re on a dusty road, you may also need to turn them on to low beam to avoid the light reflecting off the dust.
- Look out for the reflection of your headlights in animal’s eyes. You’ll likely be able to see that before you can see the rest of their body.
- Keep your windscreen clean so you don’t get any glare.
- Very dark or foggy nights have reduced visual stimuli and it is easy to miss seeing hazards, so adjust your speed accordingly, especially if you’re not familiar with the road.
- Most newer cars have rear vision mirrors with two settings: day and night. Adjusting it means that you won’t be blinded by glare from car headlights behind you.
- Using the interior light while driving means your eyes are adjusting to the light inside the car and then suddenly to the low level of light outside. It takes time for your eyes to readjust which leaves you driving with impaired vision and more likely to miss important details.
- Keep in mind that driving when you would usually be asleep gives you a high risk of fatigue. Your body clock is more demanding than you might think. For most people, this means that you should not be driving between 12am and 6am.
Start your journey in the morning when your mind is most active and rested, but avoid sunrise and sunset. It’s the most likely time to experience animals coming out and about or get caught in sun glare.
Long road trips can be exhausting for kids. When they get bored, they also get distracting. Keep them entertained and ward off fatigue with these games.
- Try to find the letters of the alphabet in order as you’re driving along. Look closely at number plates, signs, and billboards to win.
- You can’t go wrong with the classics! I-Spy is a family favourite and you’ll be amazed at what they say they can ‘spy’.
- Play begins with the first player saying, “I’m going on holiday and I’m going to pack…” and naming an item, with each player adding something new. Try to remember all the things that have been packed and see how long you can last.
- This game can be played by all ages, and is great for getting everyone into fits of giggles. Ask passengers what they would rather choose of two funny situations. Would you rather own your favourite car but never be allowed to drive it, or get to drive the Bat-mobile for 10 minutes?
- Another old favourite that’s great fun for everyone is 20 Questions. One person thinks of an object (animal, vegetable, or mineral) and then the rest of the passengers have 20 yes or no questions to figure out what it is.
To get them even more involved, you could have a small prize for the winner, like getting to choose the next song to be played or which snacks to open.
Breaking down in the middle of nowhere at night is scary and can be dangerous. If you find yourself in that situation, follow these steps to keep yourself safe while you wait for assistance.
- Turn your hazard lights on.
- Get the vehicle as far off the road as possible.
- Stay out of the vehicle and far away from the road.
- If you need to stay in the vehicle due to safety or weather conditions, sit on the passenger side with your seatbelt on.
- If you have warning reflective signs, put them out for other motorists. Be as visible as you can be.