Road safety and vehicle maintenance for long trips
Before you leave make sure your vehicle is safe for the road, and safe for you and your passengers. Make sure you get enough rest and plan ahead. You should always plan your trip before travelling the many highways through Queensland.
Good preparation for your long trip includes:
- checking your vehicle is safe for the trip
- know what to do if your vehicle breaks down
- know what road conditions or obstacles you may encounter on your trip
- decide what route you will take to get there and how long it will take
- know what to do if you have an accident or breakdown
- pack enough food and water and a little extra in case your trip takes longer.
You should take a break every 2 hours and don’t drive for more than 8–10 hours per day. We recommend you plan which rest areas and driver reviver sites you will pull into on your journey.
You should regularly maintain your vehicle to help keep your car in good condition.
Before you go away on a long trip make sure you double check these essentials on your vehicle:
- tyres—check they are in good condition and at the right pressure including the spare
- fluid levels—brake, coolant, oil, clutch, automatic transmission, power steering, water
- lights—headlights, high-beams, reverse, indicators and brake
- windscreen wipers are working in case of wet weather
- fan belt condition and tension
- coolant hoses—ensure your coolant does not leak and the hoses are in good condition
- tow bar and connections (if towing)
- ensure you have enough fuel for the journey.
Towing on your journey
If you are towing a boat, vehicle or caravan on your journey make sure you check:
- your vehicle is suitable to tow the size and type of trailer attached
- tow fittings, couplings and safety chains are correctly fastened
- any loads are evenly distributed and properly restrained—don’t overload your trailer
- your vehicle, trailer and caravan are roadworthy and registered
- the number plate and registration are visible to other drivers.
Plan for on the road
You should drive to the conditions as highway speed limits are greater and the faster you drive, the longer it will take for you to stop.
Make sure you drive to the conditions of the road and remember:
- Use your headlights/fog lights if visibility is poor, or pull over for a break until the conditions improve.
- Drive with caution.
- Sunrise and sunset may also limit your vision of the road.
- Watch out for wildlife on the road and on the side of the road—especially at dawn and dusk. Slow down, flash your lights and beep your horn to alert the animal.
- Watch out for cattle and sheep—slow down or stop until the animal has moved off the road.
- Watch out for potholes, loose gravel and other obstructions on the road.
Pack your vehicle for country and outback driving
For country and outback driving you may find yourself heading into remote locations. You should pack your vehicle with essential items in case of an emergency such as:
- first aid kit
- water (20L emergency use and 4L per person per day)
- food, in case of delays or breakdown
- fire extinguisher
- tool kit (jack, winder, wheel brace, spanners, screwdrivers, spare fan belt, hoses and fuses)
- two spare wheels
- tow rope
- shovel (in case you get bogged)
- toilet paper
- maps, compass or GPS
- tarpaulin and blanket
- cooler or fridge
- rubbish bags
- matches or lighter
- communication equipment as your mobile phone may not work in the outback.
What to do if your vehicle fails on your journey
When you drive long distances you may find yourself in a hazardous situation. You should know how to control your vehicle if this happens.
Tyre blow out or flat tyre
If your tyre blows out or flattens when driving, your vehicle will pull strongly to the side of damage for the front tyres and sway to the sides for a rear tyre.
If this happens:
- do not panic
- grip the steering wheel firmly and compensate for any pull to 1 side
- do not immediately apply the brakes.
Once you have the vehicle under control:
- let the vehicle slow down gradually
- look for a safe place to pull over and stop.
It is important to remember that different vehicles may behave differently depending on the conditions, so this advice should be used as a guide only.
The Australian Design Rules require modern cars to be fitted with a dual braking system. If either the front or rear braking system fails and you are having trouble stopping the car due to reduced braking efficiency, you may need to:
- ease the handbrake on and increase the pressure gradually—sudden pressure may lock the rear wheels and cause skidding
- change to a lower gear
- use your horn and flash your headlights to warn other drivers.
If your windscreen shatters and you cannot see:
- slow down and look out the driver’s side window
- brake slowly and, if safe, pull off to the side of the road
- fill the demister vents with paper or cloth (this stops pieces of glass getting into the vents)
- carefully remove the whole windscreen from the inside
- wind up the windows
- drive at a slower speed.
If the windscreen is only cracked and there is no obvious danger, leave it in place and drive at a reduced speed with all windows wound up. Replace your windscreen as soon as possible.
If your car stalls in a dangerous situation (for example at a railway level crossing):
- switch on your hazard lights
- try to restart the engine.
If this fails, get help and try to push your vehicle clear.