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Peace On Earth – And The Roads, Specifically

Temperatures are soaring as we prepare for the Christmas and New Year holiday season. A lot of us are looking at the cliched images of snow and holly berries, and listening to so-called Christmas music that should really be called “winter music” with a certain level of cynicism and irony. Driving home for Christmas – whether it’s interstate or across town – can be a bit stressful as we get all hot and bothered. There’s a lot to do and a heap of places to go, and we’ve got to haul the kids around with us now that the schools are out for summer.

Before we blow a gasket (metaphorically and emotionally – not inside your car engine), maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and remember the reason for the season. Time for a bit of peace on the roads and goodwill towards our fellow motorists (and our passengers and ourselves). One way that you can do this is being a little bit kinder to everybody – and your car as well.

Be kind to your car, yourself and your passengers by making sure that you’ve topped up all the fluids that you’re supposed to (water, oil, etc.). If you can, book your car in for a service if it’s time or if you’ve noticed things getting a bit wonky. There are few things worse than having the car die on you during the holiday season when you’re miles from your planned destination and the mechanic’s garage is closed (been there, done that – at least it happened in a sizeable town and we found a nice place to stay the night and discovered a neat little café). However, bear in mind that your mechanic is probably worked off his or her feet at the moment because everybody’s trying to get their vehicle ready and the mechanic wants to go on holiday too. Book early and don’t leave it until the last minute!

Be kind to your passengers, especially if they’re children. It’s not realistic to expect kids to sit for hours on end doing nothing, especially when it’s hot. Make sure that your air con is working properly so people don’t get too hot during the journey. Staying well hydrated also helps prevent headaches, and cold water goes down a treat. Freeze a drink bottle overnight before your trip and it will slowly melt as the day goes by, staying deliciously cold. Keeping hydrated has the inevitable results, so make sure that you make frequent stops for the loo.  Stick to water – it’s healthier, doesn’t make the seats sticky if they’re spilt and doesn’t leave you with sugar-amped kids getting fractious in the car seats.

If you’re going on a longer trip with children, then it can be a good idea to have a few special treats and toys that can be produced for the first time at the start of the trip. Make sure that you have a playlist (or CD or…) for everybody so the adults don’t go mad listening to twitty children’s tunes and the children don’t get bored with your Bruce Springsteen. As long periods in the car make for great bonding time, I don’t recommend kitting kids up with headphones and electronic devices; take the time to interact while you’ve got it. Don’t forget a few old-fashioned car games!

No matter what age of passenger you’ve got with you or even if you’re travelling alone, make sure you stop frequently to stretch your legs and get a bit of fresh air. This helps you stay alert, which is kinder to everybody else on the road, as you’ll be a better driver for it. It’s also kinder to your back and your overall health – go for a little walk as well as using the loo and/or filling up with fuel.  Allow time for this and take your time. Enjoy the trip rather than merely focussing on getting to your destination.

While on the topic of health, it’ a good idea to pre-plan travel snacks and food. The sort of thing you pick up in most places tends to be stuffed with all the things you’re not supposed to eat (trans fat, sugar, additives). You can generate a lot of plastic waste as well, and spend a truckload while you’re at it. The good news is that fruit is in season, so it’s healthy and cheap. Maybe make a few sandwiches or take the doings for them in the esky.

Remember to be kind to your fellow motorists. Everybody is in a hurry, everybody is hot and everybody is a bit stressed with all the things they need to do. This means that you don’t need to always rush and cut in. Let people into the stream of traffic at intersections and on the way out of the car park. If we all did this, the roads would really be a more peaceful place. I’ve written on being a polite driver elsewhere – bear these tips in mind and don’t be that rude driver everybody hates.

Last but definitely not least, although it’s the season when we all indulge a little bit more, the rules about not drinking and driving still apply. Don’t ruin someone’s holiday by causing accidents, injuries or deaths. It’s just not worth the risk and if you’ve already spent a bit on pressies and food, then you don’t want to add a fine from the cops into it as well. There are loads of nice non-alcoholic cocktails and drinks out there, and it’s a lot more socially acceptable not to drink alcohol at parties.  Given the season, a Virgin Mary (like a Bloody Mary but minus the hard stuff) is rather appropriate… Appoint a sober driver or plan to stay overnight if you want a tipple.

Whatever you’re doing over this Christmas, wherever and however you’re celebrating, we hope that you have a great one and that you stay safe on the roads. See you in 2020!

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