Easter is a second Christmas break for many of us – religious associations aside, it’s the line-up of Good Friday and Easter Monday bookending the weekend that sends a lot of people out of town for a decent four-or-more day break away. Sadly, just like Christmas, Easter is one of the worst times on our roads for accidents, demerit point penalties, licence losses, and for peak-time traffic gridlock. The key to avoiding these pitfalls and staying safe on the road is all in the preparation.
PLAN YOUR TIME, PLAN YOUR ROUTE – AND PERHAPS TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
The Thursday afternoon exodus can be chaotic, with the usual gridlock of home-going workers doubled up with families and friends trying to sneak off for the long weekend. It can often be better to leave later on the Thursday, after the peak hour flow, or first thing Friday morning, than adding to the gridlock and getting the red mist of road rage.
Part of the adventure can be taking the scenic route, or taking roads that get you away from the highways – and the traffic. Provided you aren’t in the peak hour times, going via the old roads can be far more enjoyable, and you can indulge in some great turns, good food and stunning vantage points.
Check out and download some live traffic apps, and review your route before you go. Live updating navigation like Google Maps can track your route and find alternate ways around road blocks and traffic on demand, while downloadable apps such as Live Traffic (NSW) provide congestion information overlaid on live time maps, letting you know if your gridlocked road frees up around the next corner, or whether you should take the next exit and find another way around.
These apps usually offer live camera feeds, speed camera locations and major roadworks as well. Of course, these should be in the hands of your passenger – even in a cradle, using apps like these can be too distracting for a driver while the vehicle is in motion.
Check out these apps for your state:
NSW/ACT – NSW Government Roads and Maritime
VICTORIA – RACV
NORTHERN TERRITORY – Road report
WESTERN AUSTRALIA – Right Move Perth via iTunes and Google Play
TASMANIA – Tasmanian Government’s Tas Alert
DRIVER REVIVER, REST AREAS AND STOPOVERS
You should stop and stretch for at least 10 or 15 minutes every two hours; so when you plan your route, plan your rest stop.
Each holiday season, up to 200 Driver Reviver Sites can be found on major roadways across Australia. Run by volunteers and sponsored by tea and biscuit companies, the Driver Reviver sites aim to reduce fatigue by serving up free tea, coffee and a bikkie by the roadside. A list of sites can be found at the link above.
Rest areas have improved immensely over the past decade, and some particularly pretty stops with clean facilities can be found along major routes. There are some listed here at Explore Australia.
And of course, there are fabulous cafes and hidden gems in most towns, so be sure to get off the highway and get your traditional scones and jams from the country café or big burger at the truck stops – TripAdvisor.com.au is a great resource for honest reviews and foodie photos.
CHECK YOUR VEHICLE
There is nothing worse than a breakdown on holiday, particularly over Easter when many businesses close for the break, or have a captive audience to charge top dollar to get you back on the road again. Be sure to have your car serviced early if it’s coming up, and at the very least, check your fluids and tyres - including your spare! Here are our top tips for looking after your car.
If you aren’t taking your beloved furry family with you, be sure that someone you trust is aware that they are home and can access them. Even if you are just tripping away from home overnight and leaving food out, you must let someone (preferably with a key to your place) know about it. If you are involved in an accident or mishap, your animals can be looked after.
Taking your furry friend with you? Check out our story on car harnesses and barriers to keep your pet safe and secure.
KNOW THE DOUBLE DEMERIT DAYS
Not that we should be speeding or breaking the law on any day – but double demerit periods are even more incentive to take it easy and be extra attentive behind the wheel. This Easter, the double demerit system will be in place from Thursday 24 March to Monday 28 March inclusive; that’s midnight Wednesday to midnight Monday.
DRIVING AT NIGHT OR TOWING
Both driving at night and towing can be quite stressful and tiring for a driver, even if you don’t realise it. You need a bigger braking gap in both instances, and constant checking in mirrors or peering into the darkness can speed up fatigue. Be sure to take more breaks, and factor this into the timing and planning of your trip.
DON’T BE A STATISTIC
Over the past decade, there has been an average of 25 fatalities on our roads during the Easter period. Last year, Queensland experienced its worst Easter road toll in almost two decades with eight deaths recorded; more than double that of last year. Queensland police reported that every single death was avoidable, naming alcohol, driver behaviour, not wearing seatbelts and inattention as contributing factors in each death. Please, drive safely – and enjoy your holiday!