FOR many people, the Christmas holidays means packing the family into the car and taking to the road to visit relatives or that special holiday spot.
As a result, the Christmas/New period is one of the busiest times of the year on our roads.
It not only sees an increase in the number of cars but also in the number of caravans, trailers and boats travelling on the nation's highways.
If you are planning to drive this Christmas, accept the fact that there will most likely be hold-ups along the way so allow extra travelling time. It is also particularly important to be patient, especially when following caravans, boats and trailers.
Too often we see drivers taking unnecessary risks to overtake towing vehicles and putting themselves as well as other motorists at risk.
If you find yourself stuck behind a caravan, remember to stay cool, be patient and plan when you can overtake safely. A few minutes waiting until you can to safely overtake isn't long and it can be the difference between arriving at your holiday destination or not.
However, it's important to remember that consideration towards other motorists goes both ways.
If you're the one towing a caravan, boat or trailer you'll also need to be considerate to the drivers around you.
Be aware that you may be holding traffic up behind you. If traffic is banking back, you should try to find a safe place to pull over and let the traffic pass.
This will help prevent potentially risky measures being taken by those behind. It makes the roads safer and less stressful for everyone.
To ensure extended holiday travel is safe, anyone towing a caravan, trailer or boat also needs to be mindful of the basic principles of towing.
Adding a caravan or trailer changes the dynamics of your vehicle considerably and unfortunately, people can get themselves into a drama because their car isn't behaving how it normally behaves.
It is easy to forget that your car is now longer and potentially wider than it normally is.
Also much greater care is needed when overtaking. It takes much more time and distance to perform the same manoeuvre.
Longer distances must be allowed for merging, crossing intersections and braking. A bigger gap must be left ahead to allow for the reduced braking ability and for overtaking vehicles to rejoin the left lane.
The ride and handling of the combination of a vehicle and caravan or other large trailers are affected by wind, road roughness and passing vehicles to a greater extent than the vehicle alone.
Have a great time during the Christmas/New Year break but please remember to drive safely.
Russell White's experience in the driver training industry spans more than 24 years. He is widely regarded as one of Australia's leading road safety advocates. His business offers the complete range of driver training and fleet management services, visit driversafety.com.au