For most New Zealand adults, driving is something we do regularly and, if we’ve been driving for a while, often feels like second nature. It’s easy to switch into autopilot mode when we get behind the wheel, especially if it’s a road we travel regularly.
But it only takes a moment for an accident to happen. Already this year, over 146 people, including drivers, passengers and pedestrians have died on our roads as the result of a car accident.
Our national road safety charity, Brake, works to prevent road deaths and injuries and support people bereaved and injured in crashes across New Zealand. Each year it runs a road safety week campaign and the theme for 2018 was ‘Belt on, phone off – make it a habit’ focusing on raising awareness of the dangers of driving while distracted and without a seat belt.
Switching off your mobile phone and buckling up is a great start to staying safe on the road, but there are other ways to making sure you don’t become another road statistic.
Here are our top tips for keeping you and your whānau safe on the road:
1. Don’t get distracted
Many factors, such as mobile phones, kids yelling in the back seat or traffic can cause us to lose concentration when we’re driving. Turn your phone onto silent and ask the kids to use their “car voice” so you can stay focused on the road.
2. Stay calm
No-one enjoys being stuck in traffic or being cut off by another driver, but if it happens, stay calm, take a few deep breaths and don’t let your irritation affect your driving.
3. Use age-appropriate car seats
Up until children turn 7 years old they must be secured in an approved child restraint, such as a car seat or booster seat. Even if your child is aged over 7 the New Zealand Transport Agency still recommends use of an appropriate child restraint (or booster seat) until your child reaches 148 cm tall or is 11 years old.
4. Don’t drive when you’re tired
If you’ve got a big day of driving, try and get a good night’s sleep the night before. Take regular breaks when driving long distance – get out of the car, stretch your legs or grab a coffee, and if you can, alternate the driving with another person. Find out more about sleep and safe driving.
5. Plan your journey
Allow plenty of time to get to your destination, factoring in unexpected traffic or construction. Check the weather before you start out – if a storm or heavy rain is expected allow extra time or consider if you can travel at another time.