Driving on the wide-open roads of Australian highways is hard enough as it is. You’ve got to be alert and aware of any obvious hazards on the road like dead wildlife, living wildlife tempted to run across your path, morning and afternoon sun, wet roads, and many, many more. But you also need to be aware of the hidden hazards that are lurking on our roads. Emergency services are often greeted with an all too familiar scene of car wreckages that could have been avoided if these hazards were missed. Keeping up-to-date with your safety awareness on the road with online courses and hazard perception tests is a great way to keep yourself and your passengers/other road users safe during their journeys.
Although it is a common hazard that many drivers are aware of, wildlife hazards are often hidden from plain sight. At dusk and dawn wildlife can be hiding in the nearby bushes and suddenly cross the road without you even noticing. They are quick, but unfortunately not quick enough. Hitting an animal can cause a lot of damage to your vehicle, yourself and passengers, as well as the animal itself. In addition to live animals, deceased ones that are left on the road are also hidden hazards. When you are following other vehicles along the road, hazards can be hidden and you may find yourself hitting one if you are tailgating behind. Swerving to miss can also cause crashes, so it is best to keep your distances behind other cars and stay alert when travelling.
If you do encounter an animal on the road, try to avoid swerving, especially when you are going 100km/h, so you don’t place anyone else in danger. Put on your brakes, sound your horn, and flash the lights. It’s a major hazard, and any driver on Australian roads should be cautious of the fact.
Wet roads after a dry spell
The smell of rain after a long dry spell is music to many ears. But wet roads should be approached with caution. During dry spells, road surfaces gather grease, grime, oil, and other contaminants, which create a layer on the surface due to the sun. When it rains, the road becomes slimy and slippery so your tyres have a harder time creating traction and gripping the surface. The hazard is invisible to the eye, but you will be certain to notice it if you are going at great speed in the wet.
In addition to this, you may find that your tyres have worn over time or lost pressure also making the task of driving in the rain a major hazard. Adjust your speed to your circumstances and stay safe on the road.
If it’s flooded, forget it. If the pools of water aren’t a dead giveaway, then maybe the hidden hazard is what is lurking in them. Flooded roads mean that you have no idea how deep the water is, nor what has been swallowed into the pool. There could be debris, potholes, and unstable road. You’re also unaware of how fast the current is, which could physically lift your vehicle off the road and be swept away. Surprisingly enough, it only takes 15cm of water to move a Toyota Yaris, and 45cm for a Nissan Patrol 4WD. Truly, no one is safe driving in flooded waters, and it is best to find an alternative root before danger strikes.
Sun & glare
Australian sun is notorious for being hot and bothersome. Driving in both the mornings and afternoons can prove challenging, especially for those that are on their commute to and from work. The sun and glare can block your vision and cause a multitude of hazards. When you are in heavy traffic, it is recommended that you keep your distance, use your sun visor & sunglasses, and pull over if your vision is too impaired from the light. It’s far better to be late than blinded from the sun.
Driving in Australia often means that there are long stretches of road with no entertainment. Highway driving can worsen your fatigue, especially after quite a distance already travelled. With towns scattered along highways every 100km, you will be greeted by stretches of paddocks and if you don’t have passengers, no one to talk to. This type of driving can get very tiring and you should follow the recommended 15-minute rest every two hours. The Department of Transport and Main Roads found that almost one in seven fatalities were a result of fatigue related crashes in Queensland from 2004 to 2010. So, driving when tired isn’t something to brush off. Identify the signs and avoid the driver fatigue hazard completely. Remember to Drive, Revive, Survive.
Although we recommend hitting the open road and discovering this beautiful country the right way, you must be aware of hidden hazards and stay alert at all times. Don’t turn a great adventure into a horrible tale. Check the conditions and your vehicle before you take off and remember to have a good time.
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