‘Tis the season! We don’t mean the season to be merry (well, that too) but it’s the season for road trips!
The festive season heralds a barrage of holiday activities, and road trips have become increasingly popular in this regard. Domestic tourism figures are at an all-time high, fuelled in part by a burgeoning middle class with increased disposable income to spend on leisure travel. The rise and rise of online holiday booking platforms has pretty much coincided with that of car hire firms, meaning that a trip which would previously have taken months to plan can now be organized and paid for within minutes on your smart phone.
It’s as easy as getting a squad together in a WhatsApp group, surf the web to find a holiday package, book your stay, find a car hire online, pay via mobile money and you’re all set, right?
Not quite. Here are some of the safety concerns that you’ve got to think about before you get your squad together for that road trip:
Before the trip:
- Should you be driving your own vehicle, be sure to service it first. While at it, have your mechanic’s number on speed dial, just in case.
- Scout the route you’re going to take, especially if it’s somewhere you’ve never been before. Plan your stops in advance, and get estimates on how long it should take you to get there.
- While at it, it would also help to have someone knowledgeable on the route on speed dial. Preferably a contact person at your holiday destination.
- Ensure you have all the tools and safety equipment that you might need. A set of hazard triangles, a car jack and a torch or emergency light have to be in there. For longer trips, consider carrying a second spare tyre and a puncture repair kit.
- Pack some snacks, emergency rations and warm clothing. This helps if you have children with you. Besides, you should be prepared for eventualities like delays caused by accidents or natural elements. Did anyone else’s mom ever pack a whole kitchen when you were travelling, including full three-course meals? Now you know why.
(This writer was once involved in an accident when travelling with family many aeons back. Our vehicle had to be towed for about an hour in the dead of the night in the freezing cold-almost all windows were smashed in. Where our mom pulled out a pair of blankets from amidst our luggage, Lord knows. But she was the real MVP that night)
- Get some rest. Studies show that driving after being awake for 18 hours is more or less equivalent to getting behind the wheel after three drinks, and on 24 hours, five drinks.
- Keep your devices and gadgets fully charged and carry a travel charger with you, should you need to reach out and ask for help during your trip.
Remember: Make a plan. Stick to the plan. Always arrive alive.
During the trip:
- Keep other friends or loved ones posted on your progress as you go along. If driving a hired vehicle, let them know the vehicle’s registration details as well.
- Don’t let your fuel tank get low. Unlike when on your regular commute where the next petrol station is just around the corner and you can confidently drive with that fuel light on, you can never be too sure where you can fill up on a highway.
- Keep your children occupied. This minimizes the distractions that you will have while behind the wheel. Food, games (on a tablet or phone) and music should do the trick.
- Share the wheel. Consider letting someone else drive after a couple of hours (four at most) behind the wheel.
- ROAD SAFETY: Observe the Highway Code. Make sure everyone is strapped in. We cannot emphasize this enough.
- DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE: Forgive us for stating the obvious, but it’s worth repeating.
- BEWARE: Learn common tricks that thugs use to trick drivers into stopping. These include pretending to be in need of help, or signalling you as if to indicate that something is wrong with your car and you should stop.
When hiring a car, here’s a few things that should be on your checklist:
- A spare tyre and car jack.
- A set of hazard triangles.
- Check the vehicle’s condition. Take photographs of any external damage or signs of wear and tear, no matter how superficial.
- Get a direct contact from the agency.
- Are all the lights in good working order?
- Check on the condition of the tyres. This directly impacts your safety and keeps you out of trouble with law enforcement.