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Know your limits: tips for driving on Christmas Day


As the festive season swiftly approaches, families are finalising plans for their Christmas get-togethers, holiday travel and other Christmas season celebrations.

With interstate borders opening for a lot of the country, many Australians will be hitting the roads to visit loved ones they haven’t seen in months or taking a long-awaited holiday.

To ensure safety for you and those travelling with you, it’s important to have a plan. Read on for our top safety tips for driving on Christmas Day and throughout the festive season.

Driving on Christmas Day

Since peaking in 2017, the number of road fatalities during the Christmas holiday period has been decreasing, according to the Department of Transport. While this decrease means people are taking road safety more seriously, 30 people still lost their lives during the twelve day Christmas period of 2020.

So what can you do to play your part in keeping you and your loved ones safe on the roads?

Christmas driving safety tips

We all know that speeding, distractions, fatigue and alcohol are common causes for car accidents, but you also need to consider the increased risk of driving through unfamiliar areas. Keep these safety tips in mind should you be getting behind the wheel this Christmas.

Map out your trip and rest breaks

  • Plan your journey ahead of time if driving an unfamiliar route.
  • Take a note of amenities like restaurants, bathrooms and parks so you can plan your rest and refreshment stops.
  • If you’re doing a long distance drive, aim to take breaks every two hours, or take turns driving to ensure you can remain alert and refreshed.
  • Driving through regional areas may impact your mobile network coverage so think ahead in terms of your route, fuel, roadworthiness of your vehicle, refreshment requirements etc.

Be realistic about your travel time deadline

Driving during the Christmas season means there are likely to be more vehicles on the road to attend Christmas celebrations, begin holidays or finish their shopping. This will generally lead to traffic congestion, longer journey times and unfortunately an increase in road rage.

Ensure you account for these delays by allowing extra travel time which will help to minimise stress and keep you safer on the road.

Make sure your vehicle is roadworthy, registered and in good working order

If your car is due for a visit to the mechanic, have it serviced before taking any long journeys. A breakdown could see you miss Christmas celebrations, or worse — cause a car accident.

If you have vehicle difficulties while on the road (e.g. a flat tyre), turn on your hazard lights and pull over to a safe location off the road.

Before exiting the vehicle and taking any action, ensure you can move around outside the car safely.

Secure all luggage safely

If you have luggage or camping equipment strapped to your car, ensure it is secured safely and in place before you embark on your journey. The same applies if you’re carrying a heavy load in your car or on the back of your ute. Packing the weight evenly will prevent uneven weight distribution affecting your car or trailer’s handling.

If you’re towing a trailer, check that your car is capable of safely towing the trailer’s weight and that it’s hitched properly.

A trailer or loose item can cause a serious accident if it disconnects or falls off your vehicle. The driver responsible could face criminal charges, as well as having to pay compensation for any damages or injuries caused. If the driver was carrying a load which exceeds their vehicle’s maximum tow or downball weight, their insurance may be voided.

Drive to the conditions

Just because there is an assigned speed limit, doesn’t mean that driving that speed is always safe. Particularly in heavier holiday traffic, make sure you:

  • Read the road conditions, adjusting your speed and increasing the distance between you and the vehicle in front as necessary.
  • Drive to the weather conditions – especially if there has been heavy rain and flooding as is common during the summer storm season.

If you’re driving on country roads use extra caution, especially when overtaking other vehicles. Higher speed limits on rural roads combined with hazards like wildlife, potholes or farming vehicles increase the risk of accidents, so ensure you’re alert and prepared.

Drink driving during Christmas

Beer, wine and cocktails are usually flowing over the Christmas period, but make sure you’re not driving if you plan on drinking. Around 1 in 4 Australian drivers killed on the road have a blood alcohol level exceeding the legal limit. If you’re going to drink, plan ahead and consider:

  • How alcohol affects you and how much is safe for you to drink (especially at your work Christmas party!)
  • Staying the night at your family or friend’s place;
  • Using public transport, rideshare services or taxis;
  • Plan your ride home with a designated driver in the group.

Involved in a Christmas car accident? Shine Lawyers can help

If you’ve been in a road accident over the summer holidays, our expert motor vehicle accident lawyers can help you make a compensation claim. A legal claim could help you access specialist medical treatment, as well as compensate you for lost earnings. You may also be eligible for benefits through your superannuation — our lawyers will provide tailored advice on a no win, no fee basis to help you access all of your entitlements.

Get in touch today for an obligation-free consultation to discuss your legal options.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: December 1, 2021.

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