By Jeremy Rochow
Last updated on: December 21, 2020 at 10:44 am
Over the past 10 years, almost 600 people have lost their lives on our regional roads. In fact, country road deaths make up 57% of all vehicle-related fatalities in SA.
These shocking statistics have prompted RAA to remind motorists to take care as they head out on country roads this festive season.
RAA Manager of Safety and Infrastructure Charles Mountain urged motorists to consider their behaviour when getting behind the wheel during the festive period, especially in regional areas.
“If you’re driving on country roads this festive season, you can take a few simple yet lifesaving steps to keep yourself and your passengers safe,” he said.
“RAA is reminding road users to drive to the road conditions, avoid speeding and distractions, and wear seatbelts on every journey.”
Here are a few more measures you can take before and during your trip that’ll help keep you safe on the road.
1. Get your vehicle serviced
If your car breaks down while you’re hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town, it could ruin you summer holiday.
Having your vehicle serviced before you jump behind the wheel will ensure it’s in good working order and safe to drive on high-speed country roads.
2. Plan ahead
According to the Australian Transport Council, sleepiness contributes to about 1 in 5 deaths and serious injuries on the road.
That’s why it’s important to plan your trip before you set out. Set a realistic agenda so you’re not under pressure to get to your destination by a certain time. Try to share the driving on long trips and ensure there are enough rest stops so you’re not behind the wheel for hours without a break.
Look for towns with playgrounds and parks so children can run around and stretch their legs. This will help reduce the chance of them getting restless in the back seat.
3. Check the weather
Weather can play a big part in your holiday, particularly when there are extreme conditions. Heavy rain or dust storms could mean you have to slow down on the road, extending your travel time.
At the other end of the scale, extreme heat and bushfires could lead to road closures. Before you leave, check the Bureau of Meteorology website for the latest weather updates.
While you’re driving, tune into the local ABC radio station for any updates regarding bushfires in the area.
4. Don’t drive drunk or hungover
It might be the festive season, but it’s best not to overindulge the night before you jump behind the wheel and go on a long road trip. Drink driving is highly dangerous. Studies have shown that a blood alcohol level of 0.05 doubles the risk of being involved in a casualty crash. Also, beware of how much you drink the night before beginning your trip. Alcohol can remain in your system long after you’ve stopped drinking.
Random drug and breath testing has resumed as normal following COVID restrictions.
5. Check the basics
Before you leave, check your oil, coolant, and tyres.
Under-inflated tyres can impact your car’s steering and affect your vehicle’s fuel economy. Don’t over-inflate them though – this can lead to a blow-out or reduced traction.
Keep the tyre pressure to the manufacturer’s recommendation, which you can find in your owner’s manual or in a placard in the driver’s side door frame.
You should also look for cuts and wear, and make sure there’s at least 1.5mm of tread left on each tyre. If you’re unsure whether your tyres are up to scratch, take your car to a reputable tyre centre and get an expert opinion.
6. Be prepared
Heading off the beaten track? If so, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared, and that your vehicle can handle the terrain.
Make sure you carry extra supplies like water, food and petrol. You should carry at least enough water to last 4 days.
If you’re going to one of the more remote areas in Australia, purchase a good UHF radio and an EPIRB (Emergency position-indicating radiobeacon station).
7. Watch out for wildlife
Keep an eye out for any wildlife while travelling on rural roads, particularly during dawn and dusk when animals are more likely to be on the move.
If you encounter an animal on the highway, you should reduce your speed, but don’t brake heavily or swerve – this could cause a collision.
If you do hit and injure a native animal, remain at a safe distance, away from the road, and call the Fauna Rescue Hotline on 8289 0896.
Animals that have been killed should be removed from the road safely to reduce potential dangers to other motorists.
8. Follow the rules
When driving on regional roads, you need to abide by the speed limit and drive in a safe and responsible manner. Doing just 10km/h over the 100km/h speed limit on a regional road can double the risk of a casualty crash.
Clearly, you should always follow the road rules, but also note that during the festive period, police operations increase, meaning you’re more likely to get caught if you’re breaking the law.
Remember SAPOL take a zero-tolerance approach to all drug and drink-driving offences, and every police vehicle is a random testing unit.
Following these simple steps could save your life on the road this year. You don’t want to be missing from the Christmas table like the 575 people who’ve tragically lost their lives on South Australia’s regional roads since 2010.
To recognise those who’ve been killed on our roads, RAA planned to display messages of love in Victoria Square earlier this year as part of National Road Safety Week. Unfortunately, the event was postponed due to South Australia’s circuit-breaker pause.
As a result, RAA’s hoping to share the notes of love from road victims’ families and friends in the New Year. If there’s someone you’ll be missing this Christmas, you can send a message of love to them here.