Vehicle Safety

Tips to stay safe when travelling long distances


After a disruptive year due to the various lockdown and border closures, many New Zealanders are itching to get out and about over the festive season. Whether you’re heading to a relative’s place or a favourite family camping spot, the journey to get to your destination can be an interesting part of your holiday experience. Here are some tips to make sure you arrive safe and sound.

Plan ahead

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Map your route in advance (use an up-to-date journey planner app) and be prepared for busy roads during the most popular time of the year. If possible, consider leaving outside peak travel times to avoid heavy traffic, this could mean very early in the morning or later at night or you could even try an alternative route. Have roadside assistance and insurance contact information on hand in case an incident occurs on the road. Observe the speed limit and adjust your driving to suit the conditions.

Handy contact information:

AA Roadservice: 24/7 Roadside Assistance 0800 500 222 or *222 from your mobile.

AA Insurance: weekdays 8am – 8pm, weekends 8am – 6pm 0800 500 444, select option 5.

The AA have a handy webpage to assist in organising your journey, you can also use a feature within the map to display where your charging stations will be along the route. Visit the AA Time and Distance Calculator to learn more.

Consider a pre-trip vehicle inspection as repairs can be more costly on the road. Common items to check include air conditioning, drive belts, brakes, hoses and clamps – along with the fundamentals like drive fluids, oil and water. High temperatures can be harder on your cooling systems, so you’re best to get them checked out before you hit the road to prevent your vehicle overheating. It may well even be time for a service, most workshops are very busy just before a significant holiday period, so be sure to book your service well in advance.

Click here to make an online booking.

Stay fresh

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Before heading out it’s a good idea to get a good night sleep to make sure you are fresh and alert as driving when you’re tired can be as dangerous as driving when you’re drunk. This is an alarming thought and one to keep in mind when facing long distances.

Air circulating in the car will help keep you alert, and a good solution is to turn on the air conditioning system. Then to keep that cooled air circulating, you might be tempted to hit the air recirculation button.

Ironically, this may contribute to drowsy driving. Air recirculation in a car that’s moving slowly for long periods, such as in a queue on the motorway, can lead to a build-up of carbon dioxide (CO2) and that can make you drowsy. In those circumstances, a blast of fresh air from an open window will help, or otherwise switch the recirculation button off or put the A/C back into auto mode.

Tips for driving safe

  •  Avoid driving a long distance in one go.
  •  Take regular breaks to stretch your legs with short walks.
  • Avoid driving when you would normally be sleeping or likely to be drowsy, such as straight after a substantial meal or if you take medication which causes drowsiness.
  • Share the driving load with others.
  • Get a passenger to be your co-driver. They should manage directions, music, answering phone calls and texts, and other in-car distractions.
  • The passenger should also encourage breaks and meal stops.

If you’re drowsy

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  • Stop and have a rest. A short 15 - 20-minute power nap will restore your energy; any longer than that, your body may enter deep sleep and leave you feeling even more tired.
  • Eat a banana and drink water. While coffee or other caffeinated drinks might seem the obvious choice, they’ll deliver an energy spike but will take a while to be absorbed and won’t have a stimulating effect, especially if you drink coffee regularly.
  • Create a few playlists in advance of your journey. Whether it’s Britney Spears or AC/DC, upbeat music can keep your mind active on those long stretches of roads. Audiobooks are also a great way to keep your mind occupied.

Remember to keep safe and enjoy the journey.

 How the AA can help with your next road trip

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