As the Bank Holiday period approaches, thoughts of pleasant days out with family or friends is often accompanied by images of traffic jams, contra-flows and miles of stationary traffic. Now that we’ve spoiled your bank holiday fantasies, let us make it up to you.
Here’s our ten top tips that will help you get to your weekend wonderland safe and sound.
Tip 1: Don’t drive distracted
Driver distraction is one of the major causes of road traffic accidents. We don’t want to be a killjoy, but overly loud music can affect reaction times. Research has shown that drivers can take up to 20% longer to perform physical and mental tasks when listening to loud music. So you might want to turn that Justin Bieber album down a tad. Satellite navigation aids are also fast becoming a major cause of driver distraction. Some drivers blindly follow instructions rather than anticipating the road ahead. Our top tip: What you see takes priority over what the sat nav says. If the road looks wrong, don’t take it – even if Homer Simpson himself that told you that Dunkin’ Donuts is in the middle of that farmer’s field.
Tip 2: Keep your distance
As our roads become increasingly congested – a sad fact that will be reinforced this forthcoming holiday period – just remember, you can’t crash into space! The more space you keep around you, both front and rear, the less chance you will have of a collision. Here’s an alarming fact from the Institute of Advanced Motorists: A sneezing driver can travel as far as 50ft with their eyes closed. Maintaining adequate distance provides a safety buffer should the unexpected occur.
Tip 3: Only a fool breaks the two second rule
During dry weather conditions, you should maintain at least two seconds-worth of distance between you and the vehicle in front. When visibility is low such as during light fog, light rain or night-time driving, you should double the distance to the car in front to a minimum of four seconds, and in severe weather conditions such as snow and ice (typical UK bank holiday weather), then double the distance again.
Tip 4: More haste less speed
In busy congested conditions or in built-up areas, give yourself time. There’s no need to speed and you won’t get there any quicker. Don’t treat speed limits as a target and ensure you are constantly taking road and traffic conditions into account. Also, chill out. That rage racer that simply has to beat you to the lights is heading somewhere fast. And it’s not the office. Don’t be tempted to join them.
Tip 5: Look ahead and anticipate
Widen your radar. Then widen it again. Don’t just look at the vehicle in front and in your mirror to observe what is going on immediately around. Anticipate what is happening ahead of you by looking at the furthest point along the road as well as observing the behaviours of those around you. Remember, the average driver reacts to an expected event in 0.7 of a second – but up to three times longer when the event is unexpected or the driver is distracted.
Tip 6: Watch out for road markings
Road markings and signs are essential to every driver’s safety. Road improvements typically hint at past collision history. In such areas, be alert to what might have caused the hazard in the first place, so keep your distance and slow down. As a general rule of thumb, the more signs and road markings the greater the chance of danger. On the open road, the presence of street lights will indicate a junction or roundabout coming up – clearly an area of greater danger. Every roundabout in the UK is lit by street lights at night – a fact not everyone will be aware of.
Tip 7: Switch off your mobile phone!
It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving or while stopped with the engine running – unless it’s in hands-free mode. If you break this law, even if you are otherwise driving safely, you could face a fine of £100 and three penalty points on your licence. While it’s an offence to be seen holding a mobile phone, regardless of whether driving has been affected or not, this is not the case for phones in hands-free mode. However, if you are seen not to be in control of a vehicle whilst using a phone in hands-free mode – such as desperately trying to convince your digital assistant not to send that ‘Love you snookums’ text to your boss – you can be prosecuted for that offence.
Tip 8: Eyesight – get it checked!
Ideally, you should take an eye test with an optician every two years, or immediately if you suspect you have a problem with your eyesight. Don’t let vanity get in the way. If you need prescription lenses for driving, you must wear them whenever you drive and, for summer driving, ensure your sunglasses have prescription lenses, too.
Tip 9: Don’t drive tired
Driving when tired is a significant contributory factor in road crashes and you should plan your journey so you have time to take breaks. As a guideline, you should take a break of at least 15 minutes whenever you have driven continuously for two hours, or less than this if you begin to experience fatigue whilst driving. Simply turning up your Justin Bieber will just make things worse (on so many levels). Short, frequent, breaks should be taken when you’re fatigued. It’s always best to go for a walk to get some fresh air and stretch your muscles. A tea, coffee, or other caffeinated drink would be a wise perk-me-up.
Tip 10: Vehicle condition checks are crucial
And finally – the most obvious tip of all, but arguably the most important. Ensuring that your vehicle is serviced regularly in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations will help to avoid breakdowns and accidents caused by vehicle faults. You should also check the following regularly, and before every long journey:
- All fluid levels including oil and water
- Tyre tread depth and pressures
- Headlights and indicators
Take extra care with tyres. The legal limit for minimum tread depth on tyres is 1.6mm. If a tyre has any sidewall damage it should be replaced immediately. Worn or damaged tyres are not only dangerous, they are illegal –with a fine of up to £2,500 plus three penalty points per tyre. Lastly, if you have any illuminated warning lights – don’t even consider a journey, unless it’s to the nearest garage.
So there you have it, our top tips for safe driving this bank holiday period. We hope we haven’t spoiled the thought for you.