A good road trip is hard to beat. Whether you drive across to France en famille or you’ve hired a car to explore Malta or Spain, what could be nicer than taking in the sights from behind the steering wheel?
Of course, driving safety should always be your Number One priority, especially when you’re on holiday and relaxing with a capital R.
While driving requires your full attention, it’s all too easy to get distracted behind the wheel. Luckily, most distractions are avoidable but some are not so easy to prevent, so you need to take care to manage them. It only takes a second for potentially life changing events to occur, and the consequences for yourself, your family or other road users are just too horrendous to contemplate.
With that in mind, here are 13 ways you can make sure that you minimise your distractions behind the wheel and focus on the road ahead while you’re on holiday.
1. First off, it goes without saying that you should concentrate fully on driving every time you’re behind the wheel. This means making a determined effort to not be distracted. Focus on the traffic around you, actively scan the road ahead, use your mirrors and pay attention to other road users and possible hazards, including motor biked, cyclists and pedestrians.
2. Be particularly vigilant when you drive in another country. Driving on the right hand side of the road, unfamiliar road signs and routes in a foreign language can all be very confusing, with additional concentration needed to navigate safely.
3. Take extra care when you’re in a hire car. Every car is different and it will take a while to get used to the controls and overall dimensions of a car that is not your own. Drive more slowly than you would otherwise, while focusing extra hard on the traffic around you.
4. If you have any passengers, it’s a good idea to get them to help you drive safely. Delegate any activities that could be distracting, whether it’s seeing to the kids on the backseat, changing the radio station or reading a map.
5. Any possessions you carry with you should be safely stowed away before you set off. Loose belongings rolling around in the car will tempt you to reach for them, whether they’re on the floor or on the seat, meaning you’ll be taking your eyes off the road.
6. Make sure you (and your passengers) are fully dressed ready to go before you get in the car. Don’t treat your car like a dressing room/table or use a red traffic light as a convenient time to adjust your rear view mirror so you can put make-up on.
7. Prepare for your road trip before you set off. This goes for comfort vehicle adjustments such as seats, mirror and air con as much as for trip specific settings such as GPS/Sat Nav, traffic information and music.
8. If you’re travelling with children or pets, make sure they are securely strapped in before you set off. If they need attention, pull off the road and stop the car to see to them. Reaching into the backseat while you’re driving is highly dangerous and should be avoided at all cost.
9. Snacking may be unavoidable, particularly on long road trips, but consider the practicalities of food and drink in the car. Wherever possible, eat or drink before your trip and/or have pit stops to have a snack or a drink. Messy foods and hot drinks can be difficult to manage while behind the wheel.
10. Regular stops are also a good idea for stretching your legs and getting some fresh oxygen into your brain. Long car journeys can be tiring, while driving at dawn/dusk and during the night requires even more concentration. Give yourself a break every couple of hours to stay fresh.
11. As you know, in the UK it is illegal to use a hand held mobile phone while driving – this includes texting, emailing, and using the device for Sat Nav. Other countries will have similarly strict laws and may not even permit the use of hands-free mobile phones while driving. Best practice is to put your phone away before you start the engine.
12. Electronic devices in the car are some of the most dangerous distractions. This includes in-car vehicle technology such as cruise control and wireless entertainment apps. By removing the need to engage with the car, the driver is lulled into a false sense of security leading to inattention.
13. If an activity other than driving demands your attention, don’t be tempted to multitask. Instead, pull of the road safely and attend to it then. After you’ve finished, put the device away safely or switch it off altogether before getting back on the road.