When it comes to road safety, most of us think we have the basics down pat. Look both ways, check blind spots, don’t speed. But it’s the lesser known safe driving tips that could end up saving a life.
Read on for a refresher or perhaps to pick up some new tips…
The risks on Australian roads
We Aussies are a fairly happy-go-lucky bunch, not often dwelling on serious threats to our lives. Why would we, when we have all that glorious sunshine to bask in and the great outdoors to explore?
When we do think of such matters, we might conjure images of sharks lurking off beaches and planes falling from the sky. Jumping in the car to go to the shops is unlikely to be the first thing to spring to mind. Even though driving is one of the riskiest things we do.
And if you’re a child aged 1-14 years, it’s the number one threat to your life, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
But this sobering fact needn’t put you off planning that epic family road trip, or make you think twice about that Christmas summertime driving holiday with the girls. With a little bit of road safety know-how, you can help protect yourself, your family and other road users.
Safe Driving Tips
Most of us know the basics of car safety: don’t drink and drive, don’t tailgate, don’t drive when tired and always be alert. But there’s more to staying safe on the road, especially when you’re driving with children in the car. Here’s some lesser known but super important safe driving tips.
Seat belt safety
Okay, so we all know we’ve got to ‘click clack, front and back’, as this classic Australian road safety ad from the 1990s so effectively informed us. But following a few simple seatbelt rules can help when they are small people on board.
Don’t start the engine until everyone is buckled up, yourself included (kids notice everything!). Similarly, make it a rule that seatbelts stay on until the car is switched off. Ensure younger children understand they must keep their seatbelt on at all times.
Bribe them with chicken nuggets if you must. No judgement here.
Secure loose items
Is your car full of random junk? An old hairbrush, footy boots from last season and the spanner that’s been missing from dad’s toolbox for months? To name only a few items…
Time to tidy up your act, because even small loose items can become deadly flying missiles in an accident.
Pack items neatly into the glove box or the boot, as close to the back seat as possible and never above the height of the seat. It’s also a good idea to consider a cargo barrier to protect passengers from loose objects in the back.
Pets travel in a crate or harness
Pets count as loose objects, too, as anyone who has ever copped a flying staffy to the head can attest. Ensure they are restrained in a harness or a crate.
For the full lowdown on travelling safely with pets, check out our guide here.
Kids to the back
According to the experts over at Kidsafe NSW, the safest place for children under 12 years of age to sit is the backseat. That’s because the force with which front airbags deploy can seriously injure children.
In most parts of Australia, children under seven cannot legally sit in the front seat if there is an available backseat.
Child car seat safety
Please please please keep the kiddos safe by ensuring they travel in an appropriate car seat. It must be suited to their height and weight, and meet Australian/New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS 1754) for child car restraints. That’ll be printed on the label.
Child car seats should be less than 10 years old and have never been involved in an accident.
Want more info on car seat safety? Check out our top tips for parents.
Lights on during the day
Okay, so you might have scoffed quietly when Grandpa Joe flicked his lights on before heading to golf at 10am, but you know what? That old-timer was onto something. Lights on during the day increases other road users’ ability to see you and helps to avoid road accidents.
Most late model cars are fitted with daytime running lights (DRL) which illuminate automatically. But if your car doesn’t have DRL, flick your headlights onto low beam when driving, no matter the hour.
How safe is your car? Find out here.
Body parts inside the car
The iconic image of a dog hanging its head out the car window, jowls flapping gleefully in the breeze is, sadly, misleading. It might look like fun, but hanging arms, legs or heads out the window isn’t safe.
Not only is it distracting for the driver, it’s a good way to lose a limb if contact is made with an object outside the car. Sounds morbid, but it happens.
It’s also illegal and could land you with a hefty fine.
Child safety when exiting the car
If you have young children, always travel with the child safety lock on so the rascals can’t escape. When it’s time to get out of the car, an adult should assist the kids to get out on the kerbside.
If you are solo parenting with a baby and a toddler, get the baby out first and securely into their pram. Why? Because they are less able to dart onto the road in a split second once their straps are off.
Then buy yourself something nice – you deserve it.
Distracted drivers are dangerous drivers, and unfortunately those tiny people can be mighty distracting. Keep children entertained with books, iPads or audiobooks. Give them spill-proof drink bottles and snacks that won’t make a mess.
On longer trips, stop for regular breaks and encourage them to stretch their legs. 20 star jumps or a race to and from somewhere safe usually does the trick! Save the burpies for gym class (they have no place on a joyful roadtrip).
Driveway safety tips
Safety around cars doesn’t end when you pull in the driveway. Sadly, three children are run over every week in Australia, mostly in the driveway of their own home. So, here are a few vital safety tips to protect your family:
Supervise kids at all times
Little kids generally don’t understand the dangers of a moving vehicle and can run into the path of a car very quickly indeed. Always hold your child’s hand near driveways, and never allow them to be near a driveway unsupervised.
Put kids in the car with you
If you need to move a vehicle yourself and you’re the only adult present, put the children in the car with you so you know for sure they’re safe and secure. Never trust a young child to stand out of harm’s way just because you told them to.
Never play in the driveway or in a car
Ensure kids know that neither the driveway nor the car are play areas. If you have a play area in your front yard, fence it off so kids can’t accidently wander onto the driveway or try to sneak into the car.
If they want to play on their scooter or bike, hit up the local skatepark or bike path.
Prevent access from the house
Use a locked security screen or child-proof gate to prevent kids from wandering from the house onto the driveway while you are inside unaware.
And keep your car doors and windows locked at all times! Not only to prevent kiddie play but also to prevent car theft – did you know three quarters of car thefts take place outside the home?
Don’t rely on reversing cameras
Always do a complete visual check around your car before getting in and driving, even if your car has a reversing camera. Cameras can have blind spots.
Wind the window down before driving or reversing in driveways so you can also hear what’s happening outside the car.
Treat carparks like driveways
Remember, carparks are basically giant driveways full of grumpy strangers with questionable driving ability and kids wanting to break free of their parents.
Supervise your kids at all time in car parks (and look out for others’ while driving). Hold their hand while walking. Put them in the car before loading in groceries and keep them in the car while unloading gear and putting the trolley away.
Safe driving tips explored
As you can see, there’s more to car safety than just indicating early and obeying stop signs – especially when you’ve got kids.
By following these simple safe driving tips, you can help to minimise the risk to yourself and your family when you’re out on the road and close to driveways.
At PD Insurance we want you to stay happy and safe – but it’s always good to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered, with affordable and comprehensive car insurance.
You might even like to read these tips on how to save money on your policy.
Over to you – safe driving tips
Got kids? What safe driving tips and tricks can you add to our list? We’d love to hear how you help to keep your family safe on the road and on driveways.