The school term is coming to an end, and many of us are excitedly anticipating summer holidays. Whether here in the UAE or overseas, at some point over the next few months many of us will soon be loading up the car and setting out on a road trip. But before you cram in that extra suitcase, have you checked that your luggage is safely packed and the car is safe for travel?
Whether you are setting out on the road trip of a lifetime, or driving home from the mall loaded up with bargains from the summer sales, here are some quick tips to ensure that your load, vehicle and most importantly, your passengers, all arrive safely at your destination.
- Start with a clean car: Clear out the car before you start packing; throw away litter, take abandoned toys and clothing back into the house, and remove old maps, guides etc. that you won’t be needing on this trip.
- Check child seats: If you have children, now is the perfect time to check that your child seats are the right size for your little ones. Here is a handy guide to car seat safety from the UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). Also check that your child seats and fastenings are in good repair.
- Pack heavy items at the bottom: Pack the heaviest things as far forward and as close to the floor in the trunk as possible. This keeps the centre of gravity low and reduces the weight over the wheels, preventing the car from becoming top-heavy and minimising the risk of rolling.
- Secure smaller items: Lighter items should then be secured on top of and around the heavier items. Never stack items above the level of the back seat or put items on a parcel shelf – if the car was to stop suddenly even small items become deadly as they fly through the air at great speed. Under emergency braking at 50 km/h, loose items can have a force of up to 50 times their weight.
- Double-check that you have secured everything: Many cars have fixings in the trunk floor where you can attach cargo nets, which can be purchased cheaply. Use them.
- Ensure visibility: The driver should have full visibility to the rear – another reason not to stack the trunk too high. If you really can’t fit everything you need to take with you, consider a roof rack for the additional items. Keep all windows clear to ensure full visibility for the driver, to keep passengers happy and guard against travel sickness.
- Keep passengers safe and comfortable: Be creative with the space available in the car, but avoid cramming items around passengers. Above all, make sure that everyone in the car can use their seatbelt safely. In particular, keep the area around child car seats clear, and don’t pack items up against them as this could compromise their effectiveness in an accident.
- Pre-trip vehicle check: Check oil levels and petrol, and ensure that no warning lights are on. If in doubt, take your car to your local mechanic for a once-over, or even book the car in for a service if practical.
- Adjust tyre pressure: As part of your pre-trip check don’t forget to check the tyres. You may need to adjust your tyre pressures to suit the increased load, so remember to check your vehicle’s manual. Ask at your local garage if you are uncertain, and remember to adjust them back again at the end of your trip.
- Keep the essentials handy: In all the excitement, don’t forget to keep essential items accessible! Check your vehicle documents and make sure you have all the insurance and registration papers you need. If you are driving a rental car on your holiday, make sure you have the rental company telephone numbers. Water, snacks, wipes, etc. will be needed during the trip, so remember to keep them close by.
These are a few simple steps that you can take to help keep everyone safe during your trip. Above all, ensure driver and passengers are buckled up safely, that the driver has good visibility, and that all luggage is secured safely. And then hit the road and enjoy your summer driving!