By Mike Atkinson | Drive producer and public relations officer

Easter sees many families heading out of the city and to popular country locations such as Margaret River, Esperance and up north to some of WA’s warmer destinations such as Exmouth and Shark Bay.

You’ve packed your belongings, booked your accommodation and have thoroughly checked your itinerary out to make sure you don’t miss out on all the cool points of interests on your trip but have you made sure your car can make the journey?

To help you out, especially those who are not used to venturing out of the metro area, we’ve come up with a list of 5 things you need to do before departing.

1.Safety check your car

Driving long distance is different to zipping around the metro area and it goes without saying that Perthies have to cover long distances. It’s important that you make sure it can handle the trip first. Make sure you do all of the following:

Check the tyres — Your tyres might seem fine, but you should always check them, especially if it’s been awhile. It’s particularly important for long trips that they have enough pressure and tread. If you’re not sure how to do this yourself, you can always take it to a local tyre shop.

Get your wheels aligned — Not only can unaligned tyres cause unnecessary wear and cost you in the long run, they’re unsafe. It’s important to be able to drive in a straight line, especially on unfamiliar roads. Pro Tip: If you drive on unsealed roads during your trip, get your wheels aligned again once you get back. Rough roads will do a number on them.

Get it serviced — Whether you’re someone who regularly does this or someone who may slack off a little bit, you should always get a service before a long trip. Make sure you flag your plans with the mechanic so they can be extra sure that everything is in the best shape for the open road.

Check the battery — You want to make sure that it’s full of charge and that the terminals are clean.

Top Up Your Fluids — This includes the water, oil, coolants, brakes, power steering, and transmission.

2. Know the laws of the land

Most of you will know that it’s double demerits in WA for Easter weekend, which means that from midnight on Thursday 13 April – Monday 17 April (inclusive) you’ll be pinged for double points if you’re pulled over for the following:-

  • Drink or drug driving
  • Speeding
  • Failing to wear a seatbelt and child restraint
  • Running a red light
  • Illegal use of a mobile phone while driving

There may be increased traffic on popular roads as well. Best bet is to keep an eye out on 98five’s traffic alert page or Main Roads WA’s Twitter page for more information. Here are a few fast facts to get to grips with.

  • It’s illegal to throw things out of your car window, even if its biodegradable, like a banana peel. It’s deemed dangerous and still counts as littering.
  • It’s legal to drive barefoot, but you can still be investigated if an accident occurs.
  • As crazy as it sounds, it’s illegal to toot your horn and wave goodbye to someone. Yep, those friendly gestures actually count as an improper use of a horn and limb protrusion.
  • Did you know that technically speaking you’re not allowed to use your high beam -– even to flash other drivers about police checks – if you’re within 200m of other vehicles.

3. Prep your car

Planning ahead is great, but it can’t prevent everything. You never know when a breakdown or emergency may happen, so it’s best to be prepared.

Firstly, get your paperwork in order. You want to ensure that you’re fully covered in case something happens during the trip. Make sure that your license, registration and insurance are all up to date, and that you bring them with you. If you’re traveling in an SUV or 4WB, you may want to look into getting temporary cover for towing allowances.

If you’re renting a ride, read the policy thoroughly so you know what you’re covered for and what your rights are.

If you don’t have it already, consider roadside assistance such as RAC WA or AAMI.

Once everything has been sorted, don’t forget to bring all of that paperwork with you, just in case.

It’s also essential to pack your car with the following:

  • Spare tyre — Make sure that it’s in good condition too. It could also help to keep a tyre changing kit as well as Tyre inflators and sealers. If you’re unsure on how to change a tyre, we can help.
  • Jumper cables Tyres aren’t the only things that can go flat. That feeling when you turn the key and your car just won’t jump to life is the worst. If you find a friendly passing motorist, jumper cables can you back in action. Be sure to know what you’re doing first though. Alternatively, you can solo a jump start with a self-starting battery.
  • LED Flares and Reflective Triangles — These are imperative for driving at night. You need people to be able to see you if you’re on the side of the road
  • Car Tool Kit — A toolkit specifically designed for your car.
  • Water and coolant — In case your engine overheats.
  • Phone Charger — Stay charged and connected in case of emergency
  • First Aid Kit — Perfect for minor injuries.
  • Torch — With batteries!

4. Plan Your Route

Route Planning is essential for more reasons than you may think.

In addition to enabling you to let the people back home know where you’ll be and when — it could also impact on your personal safety. Fatigue is one of the biggest killers on the road, so you should plan your route and driving time accordingly.

Schedule in plenty of rest breaks, and consider taking recovery days in between particularly long and grueling bouts of driving.

There are a few apps that can help with both navigation and route planning — such as Google Maps and Waze. If you’re taking a less structured approach to the trip, Glympse may also be a good choice for you. It lets you share your real-time ETA and location with your loved ones and has calendar integration, so people know that you’re safe.

On that note, if you’re planning on going way off track and venturing into camping or bushwalking territory — check in with the local police command and get yourself a beacon. It’s great to get off the grid for awhile, but not so much that you risk your safety.

In case your phone or navigational system stops working, it’s always best to have a paper map on hand. Keep a comprehensive road or travel map of Australia with you just in case.

5. Prep yourself

As important as it is to take care of your car before a long trip, you also need to make sure you’re ready.

Make sure you get a good nights sleep whenever you’re planning a long drive. And not just before you leave home. Like we said above, fatigue can be a killer. Don’t over exert yourself in the evening and expect to be able to on the road properly the next day.

If you’re driving with other people, make sure they’re all rested too. It may also help to plan a schedule for when you make stops and switch drivers. Be sure to swap every two hours.

If you have injuries, even seemingly minor ones, get them checked out before the trip. They could get exacerbated by the repetitive driving tasks. This is also why it’s important to stop, rest and stretch your legs so you’re not cooped up in the same position for hours on end.

In summary, enjoy your Easter break and stay safe on the roads.