So whilst it’s always best to look on the bright side, a side serving of caution and preparation goes a long way. After all, by pre-empting the unexpected and ensuring you’re adequately equipped to deal with some of the more common problems facing long-distance motorists, you’ll be able to take them in your stride and enjoy your getaway, your way.
Here are some top tips to help you prepare for the best (safest) festive road trip:
Make safety your top priority
It’s not always possible to avoid being involved in an accident, but there are a number of steps you can take towards reducing the risk of something going awry. So before hitting the open road, make sure to get your car serviced, ensuring your wheels are aligned and that your tyres are correctly inflated based on the recommendations for your vehicle.
Remember that your tyres are your primary point of contact with the road, so it’s important to check for any worn tread, punctures, or bulges. Worn or damaged tyres can put you in danger, especially in slippery conditions, and can also compromise any claims that might arise in the event of an accident. Make sure the tread depth of all your tyres – including your spare – is well above the minimum regulatory depth of 1.6mm, which you can measure by inserting a match horizontally between the grooves. According to the AA, if the match is level with the tread, you’re good to go. However, if you aren’t 100% sure, you’d be advised to consult a mechanic before your departure.
Plan to succeed
Fatigue is one of the primary causes of road accidents, so make sure to plot out your route ahead of time, making provision for plenty of stops along the way so you can recharge your batteries. It’s also worth ensuring you have your toll fees, padkos and playlist sorted out in advance to avoid unnecessary distractions whilst behind the wheel. You’ll also want to make sure you have all relevant emergency numbers on hand, and that you have your insurer’s app downloaded to facilitate quick roadside assistance should you need it. While you’re at it, make sure your road trip playlist is ready for the drive to add to the fun.
Knowledge is power
A flat tyre can quickly take the fun out of a family road trip, particularly if it occurs in a dangerous area or the darkness of night. So why not save yourself the stress and make sure you know how to change your tyre yourself? It’s relatively easy, and there are numerous tutorials available on YouTube to help you out. Not only could this save you time and stress, but it could also save your life, enabling you to quickly set off again rather than waiting for assistance in a potentially unsafe spot. Remember to ensure that your spare tyre is in roadworthy condition, and that your jack and spanner are both packed and easily accessible.
It’s also important to know what to do in the event that your brakes fail. If you realise your brakes aren’t reacting as they should be, take your foot off the accelerator calmly, switch on your hazard lights and allow your vehicle to slow down. Pumping the brake pedal can sometimes be an effective remedy, but if this doesn’t work, it’s best to gradually gear down to slow the car down, using your handbrake to assist. Pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so, and make sure your handbrake is up and your hazards are on until help arrives.
The summer season is also known for its wet days, some more intense than others, so should you find yourself caught up in an extreme downpour or hailstorm, it’s important to know what to do. In this case, make sure your demisters are switched on to maximise visibility, and to turn on your headlights and even your hazards to light up your way a bit better. Make sure to keep a safe following distance, and to avoid slamming on brakes, as this could cause your car to skid. Flowing water can also be deceptively powerful: in fact, it takes just 60cm of moving water to sweep a vehicle away.
So if you come across a flooded bridge or stretch of road, make sure to stop and wait it out. In the case of a hailstorm, do your best to seek shelter as soon as possible in the form of a covered car park, a petrol station or a bridge. Avoid parking under trees, as dislodged branches and falling debris can further worsen the situation. Remember that hail causes more damage to moving vehicles than to stationary ones, so it’s in your best interests to stop as soon as possible.
Stay on track
Tracking devices can prove invaluable in the event of an accident, allowing your insurer to mobilise emergency services in the event that any impact is detected and you’re unresponsive. Utilising geo-location and impact tracking, many insurers are now able to offer this and other potentially life-saving services, like warning messages, which are sent to your phone should you find yourself entering a potentially high-risk area. So make sure you speak to your insurer to understand what options are available to you, ensuring you equip yourself with a compatible tracker that enables you request help without having to lift a finger.
Double check your cover
Before setting off, it’s also important to make sure you’re comprehensively covered in the event of an accident. Should any of your personal details have changed since taking out your policy, you should update your insurer to avoid any potential claims complications down the line. Equally, if the regular driver of your vehicle has changed, this needs to be updated on your policy, as your cover could be at risk should the information on file not correspond with the facts. For those crossing borders this festive season, getting in touch with your insurer for a cross-border letter will save you an avoidable headache.
Youlon Naidoo, executive head: Claims and Procurement at MiWay Insurance
Remember that preparation is the key to any successful holiday, so rather than racing to reach your destination, take the time to arm yourself with all the information and tools you need beforehand to avoid any unwelcome surprises that could end up making this season feel a whole lot less festive than anticipated.
MiWay is a licensed non-life insurer and Financial Services Provider (FSP 33970).