Safe motoring tips for long drives

Australia's leading road safety and driver education organisation, Jim Murcott Driving Centre, and Holden have compiled a list of safe motoring tips for the holiday season.

Child occupant safety is of crucial importance at holiday time, when motorists undertake longer drives than usual, so there are also some tips for keeping young travellers safe during the drive.

Prior to departure


  • Restrain any loose items in the vehicle? If you are driving a wagon or van, consider fitting a cargo barrier to avoid loose objects entering the cabin.
  • Loading the vehicle changes the mass distribution and therefore the handling of the vehicle when driving. After loading, extra care should be taken to become familiar with the feel of the vehicle.
  • Tyre pressures - checking the air pressure of your tyres (including the spare) ensures your safety, as well as reducing fuel consumption and increasing the life of your tyres.
    • Tyre pressure should be checked when the tyres are cold (stationary for more than three hours)
    • Always use a tyre pressure gauge to check the tyres - simply looking at them is not sufficient
    • If the vehicle is heavily loaded, the recommended pressure for the tyres increases - refer to the
  • tyre placard on your vehicle for further details.
  • Tyres which have been repaired or retread, can not be operated safely at high speeds, therefore their use is not recommended.
  • Check engine oil, coolant, brake and washer fluid levels. Ensure all weekly checks recommended in the owner's handbook have been performed.
  • Ensure there are no vehicle warning and reminder indicator lights on and that any outstanding vehicle services have been performed.
  • If towing, prior to departure, check:
    • wiring, lights and towing hitch
    • tyres and pressures (trailer tyre pressures should be higher than car tyres - around 40 PSI)
    • that caravans are loaded correctly - place the majority of weight forward of the trailer axle to ensure M
    • there is sufficient weight on the tow ball (this reduces sway).
  • More detailed information about appropriate tyre pressures, towing and loading requirements can be found in the owner's handbook.

On the road

  • Try to avoid driving at a time when you would normally be sleeping - this will assist in reducing fatigue. Power naps are a great idea - if tired or fatigued pull over and sleep for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • If your passenger or passengers are licensed, share the drive (change drivers every 1.5 to two hours).
  • Leave a minimum two second gap between your vehicle and the one in front of you. This equates to approximately eight car lengths when travelling at 60 km per hour, 12 car lengths at 80 km per hour and 16 car lengths at 100 km per hour. If towing, driving a four wheel drive or if it?s raining you may require up to a four second gap to be safe.
  • Accept that during the holiday period it may take a little longer to get to your destination.

Child occupant safety

  • The back seat is the safest place for children of any age. Where possible install the child restraint in the centre rear position.
  • Where legally allowable, you may install a forward facing child seat in the front seat (without a side impact airbag), but always move the passenger seat as far back as possible.
  • Don’t use a child restraint that’s been subject to crash forces. The protective structure could be invisibly damaged.
  • Remember to use the child seat for all journeys, however short. A baby is not safe in your arms. Even in a minor crash, collision forces may tear the child from your grip.
  • Fit child restraints properly. Follow instructions and make sure the capsule or child seat is firmly fitted, with minimal sideways or forward movement on the car seat.
  • Every trip, make sure that the child restraint harness is properly adjusted, checking that only the thickness of two fingers can be inserted between the harness and the child's chest.
  • It's never safe to leave children in cars, particularly in summer when temperatures inside a closed car can quickly rise to over 60 degrees Celsius. Leaving windows open a little does not reduce the temperature enough.
  • Make sure you keep your child occupied on long journeys (with soft toys, music and stories on tape, CDs etc). A bored child can distract the driver, fiddle with buckles and wriggle out of position.
  • If you require assistance in fitment of child restraints, contact your local state roads authority or auto club such as NRMA and RACV.

For further information contact:
Corporate Affairs, Holden  Tel: 02 9855 6300

Dan Leslie, Jim Murcott Driving Centre, Tel: 03 9573 3411