Now that the summer holidays are approaching and many of us are about to hit the UK roads and motorways, it’s worth thinking about how we can keep ourselves, and our children, safe whilst we drive. Travelling by car safely this summer is easier if you follow these tips.
We all know that our cars must have a current MOT and be adequately insured. Even though we no longer need to display a tax disc, the police are able to track untaxed vehicles on the road.
Fuel, oil and water levels need to be topped up before we set off and our tyres checked and inflated to the correct pressure. It’s best to top your fuel up before you hit the motorway to avoid any price hikes on fuel which frequently seem to hit the unorganised driver.
It is a good idea to carry a well-stocked first aid kit in the boot, as well as some bottled water and some (non-meltable) snacks.
Is your breakdown cover up to date and do you have the relevant contact numbers already entered in your phone in case you get stranded on the M25?
Travelling with little ones means we need to make sure we are up to speed with the rules and regulations about child car seats and ensure everyone is wearing their seat-belt.
If your kids suffer from car sickness, it’s also worth taking a bowl, cloths and some soapy water, plus a change (or two!) of clothes for them. You can bet that the day you don’t have these things is the day you’ll need them.
Before you go, check your SatNav is in good working order and is charged. We recently found that ours wouldn’t charge in-car and the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry cut out at a critical moment going around a roundabout. Taking a good old-fashioned OS Map is a good back-up.
Make sure that you drive within the National Speed Limit for the road you are on – not only with this keep your licence point free but it will help you keep your petrol consumption down.
If you have had a lot to drink the night before, remember that you may still be over the limit the next morning. Some prescription medications may also leave you drowsy and nowhere near as alert as you need to be.
Tiredness kills so make sure that you have regular, scheduled breaks, particularly when travelling with little ones, for toilet breaks, food and, in my case, coffee! You might want to pack sandwiches though because the cost of feeding a family at the UK motorway service stations is often high.
It’s also useful to carry a picnic rug or blanket to sit on, or for the kids to snooze under.
You’ll want to take a selection of CDs for the kids. Some kids are able to play on iPads and read in the back of the car but we’ve found this increases the risk of travel sickness. Luckily we’ve finally outgrown the CBeebies classics so we don’t sail down to Devon to the dulcet tones of Mr Tumble any more.
If you find driving a bit of a nerve-wracking experience, Kwik-fit has an excellent guide entitled “Keep Calm And Drive On” to help you feel more confident on the road.
Chris Gilbert, a former Metropolitan Police driving inspector who taught Princes William and Harry to drive advises us to “drive more consciously” so that we anticipate situations rather than react.
I don’t know about you but it can be tricky to drive consciously when you have two kids arguing in the back, the SatNav cuts out and the Husband is trying to give you conflicting directions.
But we should be as alert as we can to what is going on around us, rather than faffing about changing radio stations or trying to unearth the last Werther’s Original from the glove compartment because Ieuan hates mints.
Another excellent piece of advice is to make sure there is an adequate gap between you and the car in front.
The advice is that you should keep at least a two-second gap between yourself and the car in front. You can count it from a road sign as the car ahead passes it.
Tailgating is probably one of the biggest annoyances experienced by drivers and I have found that women driving their kids seem to attract more than their fair share of tailgaters for some reason.
Other regularly mentioned annoyances from other motorists include:-
– leaving rear fog lights on when there’s no fog and it’s just raining
– driving everywhere with their lights on full beam and dazzling approaching drivers at night
– drivers who don’t put their lights on when it’s dark and tipping down with rain
– drivers who abruptly change lanes at the last possible moment at motorway exits – sometimes leaving it too late and crossing the hatched area
– drivers who drive while using a hand-held mobile phone – incredibly this is still a frequent sight, as is drivers trying to text with one hand on the wheel.
Wherever you’re off this year, make travelling by car safely easier by following these tips.