As COVID-19 restrictions slowly start to roll back, Australians will begin returning to our roads after several months of social distancing. With many of us going back to work, taking on more jobs, looking forward to catching up with friends and family, or even going on road trip or weekend away, it’s important that we all do our part to make the roads as safe as possible.
Although there have been fewer road deaths over recent months compared to 2019 stats, new factors are emerging that pose serious risks to road users. Here are our top tips to help your fleet return to the road safely.
Tip #1 – Resetting Behaviours
While many of us have been hibernating or working from home in recent months, those who have been using the country’s road network have taken advantage of quieter conditions. While the number of drivers on our roads has dropped, the percentage of people breaking road rules has increased.
A report from the Australian Road Safety Foundation (ARSF) shows that one in four Australians admit to taking more risks on the road under COVID-19 restrictions, whether it’s speeding, drink driving or running red lights.
As we start returning to more typical day-to-day driving, it’s important that we all remain hyper-aware, not only of other’s driving behaviours, but our own. Whether you’re driving an 18-wheeler on a long-haul trip or just heading to the local shops, just remember that an empty road isn’t an invitation to act like you’re on a racetrack. Think about the impact of your driving on those surrounding you and stop any dangerous habits you’ve become used to in quieter conditions.
Tip #2 – Basic Maintenance
For many of us, our cars have been sitting in the driveway for months, and long periods of inactivity can cause serious issues with your vehicle.
One of the biggest concerns for tyres is flat spotting, when the weight of the vehicle sitting in one spot causes part of your tyre to lose its grip. While two weeks of inactivity won’t affect your tyres, a month of inactivity may cause some issues, especially on older tyres. It’s vital to move your vehicle back and forth, rotate your tyres, and if you notice any flat spots, replace them immediately.
Before you head back out on the road, be sure to give your vehicle a thorough inspection. Check your oil, coolant, water and brake fluid levels. Check out your windscreen wipers, as the rubber on them can deteriorate if not used regularly, and ensure your battery is operating correctly – you don’t want to be left without charge while away from home.
You should also take advantage of this time to check that your insurance, registration and any roadside assistance programs are still valid.
For safe fleet management in business, pre-trip checklists are an easy way to ensure your entire fleet is returning to the roads safely. Removing the need for paperwork, all information and procedures are sent straight to the driver’s in-cabin device, helping them to pick up potential faults easily and relay the info back to the office in real-time.
If you are unsure, or don’t feel comfortable making sure your car is road-worthy, then take it for a professional service to ensure it’s in tip-top condition. Many local mechanics also offer a free safety check with a service – if they don’t, ask!
Tip #3 – Remove Distractions
While many of us like to think of ourselves as safe and responsible drivers, the number of fines handed out recently for mobile phone use has skyrocketed by 1500 per cent.
Whether you’re popping over to a friend’s place or on your way to meet a strict job deadline, it’s important to eliminate any and all distractions. Secure your phone in a hands-free device, and if you do need to make a phone call, pull over, switch the engine off and remove the keys before dialling.
Bear in mind that distractions behind the wheel don’t start and end with mobile phones. Keep your music down to a reasonable level to hear incoming emergency sirens, and if you need a caffeine hit, pull over and enjoy a nice coffee and healthy snack at a rest stop. Fatigue is a silent killer, keep it at bay.
Tip #4 – Prepare For Extreme Conditions
2020 has shown us that conditions on Australian roads can change dramatically in an instant. From the catastrophic bushfires in January, torrential rains and flash flooding across NSW in February to the current super-storm in Western Australia, you need to be prepared for the worst.
As we head into winter, it’s vital to be vigilant. Though you’ll only find it in Australia’s alpine regions, black ice is one of the biggest dangers to all road users. Usually occurring underneath bridges and overhanging foliage, black ice is incredibly difficult to traverse and can be hard to spot. Ensure you slow down as you approach overhanging branches, bridges, or anywhere that looks slick.
During the winter months, keep snow chains in your vehicle, as it’s a legal requirement in areas like the Snowy Mountains National Park. It’s important that you’re also aware of risks during the peak of summer, where days of extreme heat can cause asphalt to melt into a sticky, dangerous mess.
Most importantly, wet and icy roads can greatly affect your driving. Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you, gradually brake when approaching corners and slow down.
Regardless of how many years of experience you have under your belt, returning to our road will pose challenges for all of us. If we carefully consider the impact our driving has on others and take on board these simple precautionary measures, we can make sure that everyone returns to Australian roads as safely as possible.