The schools are breaking up for summer, the caravans are being packed and, hopefully, you’ve had your Summer Car Health check done (you can get a free one at Halfords) and now you’re getting ready to hit the road.
Car safety checks should include (at the very least) tyre tread and pressure (don’t forget those caravan tyres!); engine oil, coolant and screen wash levels; and, it may sound obvious, but don’t forget your fuel. Surprisingly, running out of fuel is still one of the most common causes of breakdown on the UK’s motorways.
There are other factors to bear in mind when motoring in summer holiday time:
Avoiding traffic jams
Preparation is the key here. Don’t follow the crowds on busy motorways and A roads, go on your own leisurely way. Plan an alternative route to your destination, where you can.
Be strategic about your timing. If you’re travelling during the working week, avoid rush hour and travelling back on a Sunday evening (especially before term time starts).
Check an online route planner or a mobile phone app for traffic news and pick up the latest travel bulletins on local radio for updates of any accidents or unexpected road closures. You can get a summary of current traffic conditions in England on the Highways England website, in Scotland on Transport Scotland and in Wales on the Welsh Assembly Government.
Using mobile phones
Remember, you must not use a hand-held mobile phone or similar device when you’re driving. Make sure that you’ve checked the travel news before you leave and use the live traffic function if you own a sat nav with traffic update features.
Having enough to drink
Stay hydrated to help keep your concentration levels up while you’re driving. Avoid fatigue and getting dehydrated by taking frequent breaks, just a few minutes will make a big difference and won’t drastically affect overall journey times. Water is the best hydrator but it’s Red Bull that’s the biggest selling beverage on our motorway network!
Kids on board
Don’t let the kids distract you. Keep them happy by packing toys and games. Check out the indoor games and toys in the Kids Zone at Halfords.
Stay comfortable and alert by keeping a regular supply of cool air circulating inside the car.
Beware of glare. Summer driving can mean tired eyes and dazzle from bright sun. Keep your windscreen clean, get scratches and chips repaired, use your sun visor, and wear non light reactive sunglasses.
Hay fever can prove dangerous for drivers – if you sneeze at 70mph you can lose your vision for as much as 100 metres! One in three drivers admits to being distracted by hay fever and two million drivers are thought to have had an accident, near miss or loss of control of their vehicle, as a direct result of hay fever. So, if you’re a sufferer, it’s important to follow these tips:
- Make sure any medication you’re taking doesn’t cause drowsiness
- Close windows and air vents to reduce pollen grains in the car
- Clean mats and carpets regularly to reduce dust
- Keep tissues handy
- Wear sunglasses to block out bright sunlight
If your hay fever is particularly bad, try to get someone else to drive if you can.
Being stuck behind a slow moving tractor can be irritating, but bear in mind that the driver may have a soundproofed cab or be wearing ear protectors so may not be able to hear your approaching car.
Be aware that tractors are only required to have brake or indicator lights when driving at night, so they may stop or turn suddenly without warning in daylight hours.
- To keep plenty of distance behind a tractor
- That a tractor may be longer than it appears – there could be a loader on the front
- Before overtaking, make sure you have plenty of room to get past
Roads repaired with tar and loose chippings are a common sight in the summer. Take it easy, keep your distance from the car in front and stick to the temporary speed limit because chippings can cause cracked headlamps and windscreens, as well as damage paintwork.
If you or your passengers smoke in the car, don’t throw lit cigarettes out of the window when they’re finished with. Roadside grass can become bone dry in hot weather and a smouldering cigarette could be enough to ignite a fire.
Other summer hazards
- Slow down if you come across a spillage – if you hit a bale of straw at speed you’ll damage your car
- Don’t park in a gateway or passing place – they are access points for farmers’ fields
- Drive extra carefully after rain, which can turn dry mud into a skid pan
When you hit the beach or swimming pool, don’t lose your car keys in the sand (easily done) or ruin your remote control with water by accidentally taking the fob for a swim.
Keep your keys safe and dry, and check your handbook – on most cars, there’s an alternative way to open the doors that you can use if the remote stops working.
Be prepared, be safe, be aware and have a great summer!