AmberPodcast Episode #5 Safe Family Vacation

How to plan stops during a longer route? What to do to protect luggage from moving while driving? These are some of the many questions that each of us asks ourselves before setting off on a holiday trip by car. In connection with the upcoming holiday trips, during an interview with Chief Commissioner Joanna Skrent from the Road Traffic Department of the Provincial Headquarters in Gdańsk, we raised the topic of road safety.  If you want to learn about the rules of proper transport of bicycles, traveling with a caravan, or technical preparation of the car for a longer route, listen to the fifth episode of AmberPodcast!

Anna Kordecka: Welcome to the next episode of AmberPodcast. The holiday season is just around the corner, and that means increased car travel with the family. Although safety on Polish roads is improving every year, it is still crucial to properly prepare for holiday trips. In today’s episode, we will talk about how to properly prepare for the trip, how to plan stops during the route and how to safely transport luggage and sports equipment. Our well-known guest, who will give us valuable tips on this subject, will be Chief Commissioner Joanna Skrent from the Road Traffic Department of the Provincial Headquarters in Gdańsk. Hello.

Joanna Skrent: Good morning.

AK: Let’s imagine that we are already setting off on our dreamed-of, long-awaited holiday trip. We decide to use a car, so what are the basic issues to keep in mind before setting off on a car trip?

JS: Before we go on our journey, let’s take care of three areas that are very important when it comes to traveling by vehicle. So that’s what I said a moment ago, a vehicle. This is one of the areas. The second thing is the person who will drive this vehicle. We also need to prepare properly here. The third area is planning the trip itself, checking both weather and road conditions.

AK: Let’s start with the vehicle. What technical aspects of the vehicle should be checked before setting off on a journey?

JS: Before each journey, even a short one, it is good to check what we can do ourselves, for example in a parking lot, i.e. whether the operating fluids are replenished, whether the condition of our tires is correct, whether we have any slack on the steering wheel and whether our brake is working. Of course, before each longer journey, we recommend a technical check at the vehicle’s diagnostic station, because there we can see what is not visible to the eye, we can carefully check our vehicle, for example the operation of the braking system, which I think we can all agree that it is one of the most important safety elements.

AK: And if we were to summarize the issues related to tires, are there any tips for checking the condition of tires before the trip that we can do ourselves, or where we need to go?

JS: Certainly, we can check the tire pressure perfectly, whether we have refilled air, as they say, sometimes from winter to summer air you have to change and it is actually good to check if our tires are well inflated, then we can actually see for ourselves, drive, for example, to a diagnostic station, if we are already at the check-up, but we don’t have to, we can also check at the gas station on the compressor,  What is the pressure in the tires, if there is such a need to add this air, it will make driving easier, there will be no such difference between the left or right side, for example, or front and rear in braking. In the very rolling of this vehicle, so our driving will be both more comfortable and safer.

AK: Are there any documents that should be remembered during a family trip?

JS: If we move here in our own country, then at the moment there is no obligation to have a driving license, an ID card, or a vehicle registration card. Such documents are available for a road check, for example, by police officers, but we should remember that in border areas the obligation to have a document with a photo already exists, so everything will depend on the area in which we will be moving. Also, if these are further trips somewhere outside our country, let’s also check well what documents are required there. Is an ID card enough, or is an additional document needed when crossing the border, and are additional documents in paper form required in a given country, if only because the vehicle is registered in a different country than the one we are going to.

AK: When it comes to a car first aid kit, it is not an obligatory piece of equipment, but it is still worth having such a first aid kit with you. Why is it so important and what should such a set take?

JS: We should have a first aid kit on every trip. Whether we go by train, or by car, or then we will go on trips somewhere on foot. Because it is, as we say, a first aid kit. So when something happens, we have the opportunity to provide first aid. And this applies both if something happens to us or someone traveling with us, but also if, for example, we run over a road incident. So in such a basic first aid kit, it is good to have dressing materials. These are various types of tourniquets, i.e. the so-called elastic bandages, or textile bandages, which will make it easier for us to stop some bleeding. Also the so-called sterile gauze pads, but also a triangular sling, which will protect in the event of an injury to the musculoskeletal system or in a situation where we have an injury to the hand or a head injury, this triangle sling will be very versatile. If we also think about our trip, our first aid kit should be adapted to our needs. If we know that we will need some medications, whether for example anti-diarrhoea or motion sickness, we will also supplement with such personal medications. Of course, when providing first aid, you should remember not to administer any such drugs to people you are giving first aid. We do not know exactly what is going on, whether this person has not already taken such a drug before, so here let’s limit ourselves to first aid in the form of a typical first aid, so here plasters, bandages, a triangular scarf and I encourage you to have the so-called thermal blanket as well.

AK: Now that we’ve discussed the vehicle, let’s move on to planning the route. What should the route planning itself look like? Holiday travel usually involves many hours of routes before we reach the desired destination.

JS: If we are planning a route, it is good to first get to know how it will go. We have various types of navigation or maps on the computer at our disposal and here let’s check what the travel time is. It is good to add additional time for rests to this travel time, so that we are aware that, for example, if, for example, the journey shows us 4 hours from point A to point B, we should bear in mind that we will need a short stop to use the toilet, for example, for some minor traffic jams that may occur. If we add this time to the original time given by the maps, we will also be calmer here and we will plan our time better and there will be no nerves during the trip, which probably no one wants on a holiday trip. Definitely, if there is such a possibility, we should also check if there are road works. It is on the website of the General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways, for example, that you can check whether such road repairs are planned in these main roads by this particular administrator.

AK: These are very valuable tips, it is worth remembering them, so that regular breaks in the journey become our good habit affecting our safety. Summer usually also means high temperatures. What temperature should be inside the vehicle during hot weather?

JS:  You could say in general that the temperature that suits us and makes us comfortable is good. Here, of course, when we are talking about travel, it is the driver who decides, it is his comfort that must be the greatest, because it is his attention and concentration that is most important on the road. In general, it is said that it should not be too hot or too cold, so the temperature is most often indicated around 20 degrees Celsius, but I say, you also have to adjust it to yourself. Of course, the greater the heat outside, the relief it will be for us, but we should also remember to plan stops more often in such situations. Generally, there are stops between two and three hours while driving. The period between breaks will shorten as we travel, so the longer our journey lasts, our concentration decreases more and more, so for example, the first break will be after 3 hours, and the second after 2 hours, and sometimes it may turn out that the third or fourth break will be even after an hour. Remember to take care of yourself during these breaks. Also, if we are going to travel on hot days, we can move from this air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned room, so that our body rests as much as possible.

AK: Let’s also remember to hydrate the body regularly, because our body, when it is dehydrated, significantly reduces our concentration and reaction time. And now a question that bothers many. What time of day is best to set off on a trip and how to avoid rush hours and places with heavy traffic?

JS: The answer to this question may be perverse, perhaps certainly not unambiguous because each of us travels differently. Some people prefer to drive at night because they say that at the moment, at this time there is less traffic, it is easier to move here. Others, on the other hand, are more helped by daylight, so we also have to adapt it to ourselves, to how well we travel, because sometimes even a longer journey, but during the day it will be more pleasant here with more attention, concentration, because we should also remember that after dark, our eyesight, on the other hand, works a little differently. Some people find it more difficult to judge the distance to another vehicle because we can only see the lights. The lights can be of different intensity, set differently, so the assessment of this distance may not be precise. Some people, if they travel at night, also feel tired in these morning hours between 4 and 6 a.m., so this is also a kind of danger. So let’s make the time dependent on when we travel, when we have experience in most of our lives behind the wheel and this will be like the first clue. However, in terms of avoiding any congestion, it will be more difficult here. Because even if we set off from our original town A in the morning and very early, if our journey is long, unfortunately sooner or later we will be in a place where there will be rush hour. Of course, you can plan it by looking at the routes, using, for example, not roads that run through cities, but expressways, expressways, motorways, just to avoid city centers, it is probably the best guarantee to avoid traffic jams on our journey.

AK: Thank you for this answer. This knowledge will certainly allow us to avoid unnecessary nerves during the trip. Are there any apps or tools that can be used to plan a route and track traffic conditions?

JS: Definitely yes. Any such tool, whether it is specialized navigation only as navigation, or it is various types of maps and map applications that also serve as navigation, then let’s use it by all means. At the same time, one remark, very important, let’s not blindly listen to the messages that are issued, because there may be an outdated map, we can forget to upload the current map. Road works may be carried out and part of the road will be closed, there will be a detour. So, situations have already happened that people who did not look at what was really happening on this road, but listened blindly to the navigation, when they said turn left, drove into water reservoirs. So here it may seem ridiculous to us that someone drove into the lake on the navigation, but in fact it happens and this is a situation when there is fatigue, lack of concentration, we hear a simple message, turn one way, turn the other, or drive straight and we just drive, not looking at the fact that, for example, the road is closed.

AK: So attention above all and the help of fellow passengers can also be quite useful during long journeys.

JS: Absolutely.

AK: Travels, especially for long ones, we plan to pack a lot of things, and as some say, we take half of the house on vacation. So, if we already take so much luggage, how do we properly place the luggage in the vehicle so that its transport does not adversely affect visibility?

JS: It is highly recommended to place all luggage in the compartment that is intended for this purpose, i.e. in our trunk. On the one hand, it is about the comfort of travel, because let’s imagine driving between suitcases and on these suitcases, so here the longer the journey, the less and less comfort this comfort will be. Also because of visibility, so that the luggage does not obstruct the visibility for the person sitting behind the wheel. So that it is not somewhere on the windshield, or at the back on the so-called shelf, covering the entire rear window, so the rear-view mirror will not really be of any use to us. Also somewhere on the sides there are some hanging things that will limit visibility. This is especially important when changing lanes. Such arrangement of luggage only in the trunk is also important due to emergency situations. When there is some sudden braking or a collision with an obstacle, be it a vehicle or, for example, a pole or a tree, such elements of our luggage that are loose in the vehicle are an additional element that can cause us injury. It will just look as if someone threw a stone at us, so be careful, even if you have some drinks for the trip, try to place them in such a way that they are held by something, whether in special organizers mounted on the seats, whether the seats themselves are sometimes in such pockets, or just in cup holders, bottle holders,  so that it simply is not loose in our vehicle.

AK: Please take this advice to heart, because proper securing of items in the car has a huge impact on our safety. How to transport bicycles and what rack and how to transport them should we choose?

JS: Here we have two groups. There are the fans of the trunks, which are placed on the roof, and the fans of those that are mounted either to the lid or to the hook itself. It will also depend on our driving comfort. Here we have to think for ourselves what kind of rack we will need and be useful for us. However, regardless of what solution we decide on, remember to attach the bikes well to make sure that they are mounted there, that they will not fall off, because it is not only about the stop itself, it may seem to us that this bike stands well in these ropes from the trunk, but when riding, remember that there is also speed. At speed, we have some gusts of air, the rush of this air, which can also cause a poorly secured bike to simply fall off the rack. Also, when riding with bicycles, remember that if we have them at the top, we have a correspondingly higher height of our vehicle, and on the other hand, if we have them at the back, here either on the hatch or on the hook, then also especially when parking backwards, remember that the rear has also been a little longer, so this is very important. It is certainly good that they are installed in such a way that they do not limit the driver’s visibility. And also in such a way that the license plate is visible. In this case, the Road Traffic Law allowed for a third license plate, which is mounted in such a special place on the trunk. When it comes to racks, which are mounted at the back of our vehicle, they also have lights just like a trailer, for example. And it is also important that when the trunk is mounted in such a way that it covers our lights, our car’s, these lights take over this role from the trunk. The point is, for example, to be visible on this road, so that it is visible when we are changing lanes or changing direction.

AK: Thank you very much. I think cyclists will be happy with this answer. And what should you keep in mind when transporting a caravan and what rules and speed limits apply to you when you travel with a caravan?

JS: First of all, if we are going to travel with a caravan, we must remember that this vehicle is driven completely differently. If this is our first trip with a caravan, it is good to try, of course in a safe and permitted place, how the vehicle behaves, how it looks when going around a curve on the road.  Let’s try to turn left, right, see to what extent we have to drive our vehicle differently. We should also remember that when overtaking, it is often the case that the trailer can get a gust of wind, there may be such a phenomenon of attraction to the vehicle that we are going to overtake. So remember about the appropriate distances. You also have to remember that there are some restrictions when driving with a caravan, so first of all, when it comes to the category of driving license. Here, if we have category B, such a driving license entitles us to drive a light trailer, i.e. a trailer whose weight, permissible total weight, does not exceed 750 kg. This is what it is all about for our vehicle, which is up to 3.5 tons, for category B, to cope with the weight of this trailer. If it happens that this caravan will be heavier, because sometimes it is also the case that here this category B will allow us. There are exceptional cases, here it is good to familiarize yourself with the regulations, because everything is listed there, in general it is so that this trailer can be slightly heavier than these 750 kg, but it cannot be heavier than the vehicle that will pull it and this is more or less, colloquially speaking and shortening these calculations by about a third,  The vehicle must be heavier than the trailer. Let’s remember that with these heavier trailers, the B driving license category will not be enough and it will be category B plus E. That is, a normal course, a normal driving test, and here we will be able to according to these B categories, i.e. a vehicle up to 3.5 tons, while a trailer heavier than the light one will also be able to be up to 3.5 tons. Of course, we are talking about the permissible total weight, so here is the first limitation when it comes to entitlements in general. So this should be checked. The second thing is the issue of speed, as you have already mentioned. We will no longer travel with a trailer as much as we do alone, with a vehicle, because we are subject to a certain speed limit. This seems clear, but if there is an increase in speed in this built-up area, then we, in the case of towing a trailer, will not be able to do so, the increase will apply, so we have a speed of 50 km per hour all the time. The second thing is that it is outside the built-up area. Here the speed is also a little lower than that of the passenger vehicles themselves, 70 km per hour, due to the fact that the trailer behaves a little differently, while on expressways, on expressways, on motorways it will be 80 km per hour, so here we must talk about these restrictions and, first of all, I would like to point out that they are not carried out as if maliciously,  For these people to travel slower, just for safety reasons, due to the fact that the trailer is driven completely differently, it can happen, it can even overturn at higher speeds.

AK: And now a question for all cat lovers, dog lovers and owners of other animals. How to properly transport animals in a vehicle?

JS: First of all, we should make sure that our animal does not accidentally limit our visibility, e.g. does not get scared, does not jump on our lap, on our head, because this can really lead to a serious road accident, so we highly recommend transporting animals in special containers that are for transport. At the moment, those that are present on the market even have special guides for seat belts, so that this container does not stand on its own, because in a situation where there is a collision, our pet can also suffer. Of course, in a situation where we have larger animals, there are two solutions. We can, if we have, for example, a station wagon or an off-road vehicle, we have a suitable cargo compartment for this. We can install such a transport cage, just like animals are transported, even sports animals for competitions. Here we are talking about dog or dog sled races. Our pet will also be safe in this pen, but there are special belts available on the market that hold our four-legged friends so that they also have their own seat belts in the vehicle.

AK: The comfort of the pet is of course, but above all, you should remember about the safety of the pet and other travelers. I’m also interested in the topic of traveling in an electric car, which is slightly different from traveling in a traditional combustion car. If we were to describe these differences in a few words, what do electric car owners have to prepare for and what can they count on?

JS: With electric cars, first of all, we have to remember what range we have when the battery is charged, so we check how much power we have and when setting off on a journey, let’s plan where there are opportunities to recharge the vehicle, so here we also plan the stops more precisely. So that we can also combine it with rest and see if we have the opportunity to charge our car if we are going on a longer journey. Of course, just like with an internal combustion car, any kind of strong maneuvers, strong, sharp driving will cause the power of our vehicle and the range of our vehicle to decrease.

AK: Thank you for today’s meeting and a lot of valuable comments on safe travel, and I wish you, dear listeners, safe travels and a peaceful rest, and see you in the next episodes of AmberPodcast.


17+24 km: Traffic runs on two lanes in the direction of  Gdańsk and one lane in the direction of Łódź.

For more information