By Andrew Muzamhindo
HEROES holiday is upon us. Here are some travel tips for those who are lucky enough to travel during the holidays. I prefer staying at home with family and friends and then travel when it is not busy on the roads.
It works on my blood pressure to queue up for everything and anything. If I can avoid it I would rather relax at home. A number of times I have heard some people especially females say we have to go away because it is a holiday.
No you do not have to. You have to go away because you have to. But again never try and understand the fairer sex, just do as they want and you will be in good books for life.
There is no doubt that holidays are a time of great joy, but it can be a time of great peril as well.
With more people on the road than during many other times of the year, probability of accidents is too high. In order to make it to and from your destination safely and prevent road traffic injuries, here are some basic holiday driving tips.
Get your car check-up
Holiday driving can be hard on your vehicle. Your vehicle uses more fuel and other chemicals to continue running and keeping occupants cool.
Heat can be tough on tyres. During all the running around that takes place during the holidays, it is easy to forget errands like oil changes and replacing worn brake pads.
But do not make the mistake of putting these items off; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to holiday travel car safety.
My Nissan Hardbody once broke down between Harare and Masvingo all because I had not changed oil for a very long time.
Planning your journey means you are in control of most facets of the trip. You do not want a chaotic trip like from the movie Are we there yet, where there is one challenge after another.
Avoid getting into an accident related to traffic jams or impatient drivers on the road by leaving plenty of time to get to your destination.
Whether it is a trip to Cape Town or Nyanga, remember that many other people will need to get to the same places you do, and all are in a hurry.
Leaving earlier than you need to can be a sound investment in your life and health during the holidays.
Many individuals choose holidays to overindulge in alcohol, or they can be sleep-deprived due to the stress of the season. You will need to be especially watchful of other cars’ movements and drive on the defensive more than usual.
Likewise, make sure that if you are drinking alcohol at a party, or think you are too tired to drive home, designate someone to transport you.
Flashing lights are only fun in an amusement park.
There is no reason to risk a run-in with the cops. I know in Zimbabwe we now hardly have speed traps but who knows the cops might surprise you one of these days resulting in a lengthy delay or worse.
Speeding is not the only sort of traffic citation cops write, so be doubly cautious. Some practices you might take for granted at home, overtaking on the shoulders of the road, are illegal. Just because you get away with a lot of illegalities, holiday times might change that for the cops will be on the roads.
Change the oil and buy new tyres
If you are going on a cross-country trip and you are 1 000 kilometres away from your next scheduled oil change, go ahead and get it done early.
You will probably get a better deal at home than trying to have the service performed on the road. Either choice is probably better than putting it off until you get return.
Similar advice on the tyres: If they are close to the end of their useful tread life, replace them. Nothing screws up a road trip more than getting in an accident, and having good tyres improves handling and braking performance more than any other factor.
Set your tyre pressure
Most people are driving around on underinflated tyres, sacrificing a km (or in some conditions, more) per litre in fuel economy. Inflate your tyres to the pressure recommended by the manufacturer, and do it when the tyres are cold. (Air pressure can increase by several pounds per square inch as the tyres heat up.) Use a real tyre pressure gauge, not the one built into the air hose. Besides maximising fuel economy, correctly inflated tyres will improve handling and are more resistant to punctures.
Plan your route
Whether you are on GPS or not, there is a wealth of information available online about your route. There are also applications of this sort available for mobile devices, including GPS units and smart phones.
Regardless of which method you use, the information is there for the taking and can help prevent wasting time in traffic.
Create the correct ambience
By ‘create’ I mean getting the environment right for the driver and all the passengers too. Adjust your seat to the right position to make it comfortable for longer periods of time.
Fit your cell phone and/or GPS devices into hands-free dash or console mounts positioned properly so they can be easily seen. Have the entertainment items – movies, audio books, games, art supplies – most useful to the kids on hand and where they can be easily reached.
Put snacks and water bottles where the driver and passengers can easily reach them. At every stop, take a look around the cabin of the vehicle. Remove the trash and clear the crumbs to keep things fresh and tidy. If one movie has ended, pop in another and have it ready to play.
A travel medical kit
It is important to have a medical travel kit in your car. You must be able to handle minor medical emergencies yourself.
Travellers are targets for robbers. Keep an eye on in-car valuables and lock suitcases and valuables in trunks whenever possible. Or take shifts staying with packed cars where ever you park.
Be vigilant and on the lookout for anything suspicious. Please do not give lifts to people you do not know. Avoid travelling at night, we are wired to rest and sleep at night. Make sure you have enough money for emergencies so that you do not become an inconvenience to friends and family if you have a breakdown or a situation that calls for money.