Home Driving Insights
Subscribe to Driving Insights

Road trip safety tips for happy employee holidays

For drivers

The summer holiday period is arguably the most popular time of the year for Australian families to hit the road, leave the worries of the workplace behind and get some much-needed rest and relaxation. It’s also the time of the year when there’s a significant spike in road accidents and fatalities.

HR professionals have an important role to play in promoting safe driving practices away from the office during the holidays, for our organisation’s employees – and for ourselves.

With the increased number of cars on the road travelling longer distances, the statistical likelihood of an avoidable incident or accident occurring increases. Australia recorded 1,196 road deaths in the 12 month period to the end of October 2022 ­– a six percent increase on the numbers recorded for the same time last year.

Despite steady declines in the number of road fatalities in recent years, Australia’s road toll remains considerably high. In the latest OECD figures (p iv), Australia ranks 20th out of the 36 member countries with 4.2 deaths per 100,000 population. Norway heads the list with the least deaths (1.73), followed by Sweden (1.98) and Iceland (2.2). Canada ranks 24th overall, with New Zealand ranked 30th and the United States last. It’s important to note though, that overall road fatalities in OECD member nations have dropped by 34 percent since 2011.

The leading causes of road trauma in Australia are closely related to the factors that impact people’s driving performance and behaviours on long journeys. While it’s important to ensure cars are properly serviced and in safe working order before heading off, it’s also worth raising awareness among your employees and your workplaces of some important human factors that everyone should keep in mind for their next holiday road trip.


According to the Victorian Transport Accident Commission, between 16 to 20 percent of road fatalities involve driver fatigue, and 30 percent of severe single vehicle incidents in country and rural areas involve the driver being impacted by fatigue. Those are massive numbers that should not be ignored.

In 2019, a Federal study into the impact of fatigue, the Bedtime Reading Inquiry (refer to section 4.40 and 4.41), heard evidence that a person who has been awake for more than 17 hours is just as likely to be involved in a crash as a driver blowing over 0.05 in a random breath test. This means they are “twice as likely to have an incident as a driver with a zero blood alcohol reading who is not adversely impacted by fatigue”.

The study found that not having slept for 24 hours or more is the same as driving at double the legal blood alcohol content, making those drivers seven times more likely to be involved in a crash.


Speed is a major contributing factor to accidents on our nation’s roads. Research shows that even small decreases in speed can lead to a reduction in road trauma.

Data collected by the NHMRC Road Accident Research Unit at the University of Adelaide as reported by the TAC found that the chance of being involved in an accident doubles for every five kilometres per hour a vehicle travels at over 60 kilometres per hour.

Conversely, wiping five kilometres per hour off your speed will result in an overall 15 percent decrease in crashes.

Driver distraction

The final link in the road trip trauma chain is driver distraction. Compared to our knowledge on how speed and fatigue contribute to road trauma and accidents, driver distraction – given the development of mobile phone use, GPS and satellite tracking and driver tech over the last 20 years – is a relatively new addition to the list of major collision causes.

There are three factors that influence how long it takes your average driver to bring their car to a safe stop when they identify a hazard ahead on the road:

1. The time to spot the hazard
2. The time to react (brake or swerve)
3. The time and distance for the vehicle to come to a stop

Research indicates that the average driver takes around three-quarters of a second to identify a threat or hazard, and then a further three-quarters of a second to put their foot on the brakes. That’s 1.5 seconds just to realise something’s wrong, and then take action. While 1.5 seconds might not sound like much, if you’ve ever watched motorsports a second and a half in a motor vehicle is considerably more than 1.5 seconds in the pool or on the athletics track.

Using some standardised mathematical formulas taught in Australian secondary schools, we can calculate the required braking distances needed to avoid an incident or accident – roughly 45 metres for a car travelling at 60 kilometres per hour to come to a stop, and close enough to 100 metres for a car travelling at 100 kilometres per hour.

A Queensland University of Technology study supported the claim that using a mobile phone while behind the wheel significantly increases the likelihood of being involved in a serious accident due to driver distraction.

Getting your employees ready to hit the road

While we don’t need excuses to freshen up on our road safety knowledge, the holiday period is a great opportunity to remind your people of safe driving behaviours. Putting together some tips to help plan their road trip may give them reason to think about how they can ensure the safety of their family, friends, and those around them.

Here are some we’ve prepared for you:

  • Make sure any drivers are well-rested. Don’t burn the midnight oil with last-minute packing and planning – just concentrate on getting a good night’s sleep. If possible, share the driving with someone else in the car for two-hour blocks and use the stops to stretch your legs and clear the mind. If your mind wanders more often than usual, it’s time to take a break.


  • Slow down. It’s one of the main messages police and emergency services deliver during holiday peak periods. Wiping off five kilometres per hour significantly reduces the likelihood of an accident. Remind your staff that being a few minutes late getting to their destination is preferable to not getting there at all.


  • Minimise distractions as much as possible. Download the route map to your GPS or smartphone before you leave, so you don’t have to make adjustments enroute. Likewise, maybe go into your phone settings and temporarily disable your messages and alerts until you arrive at your destination. For employees with young families, having a chat with the kids about the importance of not being too rowdy, or keeping down the craziness in the backseat while the car is on the road, is a great way to instil safety consciousness in the next generation.


Manage your fatigue levels, watch your speed, and remain as distraction-free as possible while driving. This will go a long way in ensuring we all have memorable holiday road trips – for all the right reasons.

Want to know more about vehicle safety? Ask the fleet specialists today.

Driving InsightsDriving Insights

Related Articles