Christmas is now here. It’s a fantastic time of the year, a time to spend more time at home with family and friends. It can also be a more dangerous time of the year for motorists and pedestrians. The weather and therefore the road conditions can start to become more treacherous, people are rushing about and may not be paying as much attention as they normally would. Rain will make roads more slippy and pedestrians are rushing about trying to stay dry. Ice and snow will make roads much more dangerous and make it difficult to stop the car quickly.
Staying off the roads is the best option, but if you do have to be out and about on the roads this month, here are the Spot On ‘12 Christmas Driving Tips’ to help you to stay safe on the roads and to keep others safe.
1. Plan Your Route
If you know you have to make a journey, you can make it much less stressful and more enjoyable if you plan the route you’ll take.
Think about the time of day you’ll drive and when will be much busier and heavier traffic conditions.
Consider the weather conditions and the fact that you may need to give yourself more time to get to your destination if the weather is poor.
Check the weather for your destination as well as places you will travel through if it’s a long journey.
Consider that it may be fine where you live but snowing where you are headed for!
If you’re going to be headed towards much worse weather, ask yourself if the drive is worth the risk.
2. Making a List (checking it twice!)
At this time of year many of us make lots of lists… a Christmas card list, a Christmas present list, a food and drinks list, a To Do list, and so on.
It is well worth considering making a different kind of list.
A Travel Checklist will keep you safe, warm, fed and more comfortable in many eventualities.
Your checklist could include items such as:
- Food (non-perishable snacks such as chocolate)
- Ice scraper
- Coat, hats, gloves
- Blanket and extra clothes
- Mobile phone and charger
- First Aid Kit
- Emergency triangle
- High visibility jacket
3. De-ice Your Car
Before driving away make sure your car is fully clear from ice and condensation.
The Highway Code states that ‘windows and windscreens MUST be kept clean and free of obstructions to vision’.
Snow and ice can also obscure your lights, so those should be cleaned as well.
The only things you should use to de-ice your car should be de-icing liquid and/or an ice scraper.
If using a de-icing spray, spray it onto the windows and windscreen of your car, starting at the top of the glass. Starting at the top allows gravity to help. The spray travels down the window, melting ice as it goes. The spray only helps you to use an ice scraper easier. You will still need to scrape the windows to clear the windows fully.
If using an ice scraper you should use broad firm strokes across the glass.
Whatever method you choose, make sure the whole of the windows are cleared. Even a small amount left on the window or windscreen can obscure your visibility and help cause an incident.
It is advised that you never use hot water to de-ice your car. There is a danger of the glass cracking so it’s just not worth saving a couple of minutes for.
4. Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!
Many of us hope for a white Christmas, but the snow does bring some chaos to the roads.
Staying off the roads when it snows is obviously the best option to take. Spend time enjoying the lovely scenery, go out and make a snowman, get active and have some fun sledging.
It can’t always be possible to stay off the roads though. You may need to get to work or go out and buy some Christmas presents.
If you are going to go out and drive when it is or has been snowing make sure your car is fully cleared of snow before driving away.
Don’t forget the roof! Although it’s not obscuring your visibility when you first drive away, at some point it can slide forwards onto your windscreen or it can fly off and hit into another vehicle or even a pedestrian.
5. Take Care in Car Parks
Car parks can get very busy at certain times, around Christmas time you can almost guarantee it.
Be safe by keeping your speed extra slow, look out for the speed limit sign and don’t exceed it.
While driving around the car park, think about what you cannot see. Parked cars, trolley parks etc can hide a hazard or a person. Small children can be especially difficult to notice. Look out for cars starting to reverse out of spaces.
People can struggle with pushing very heavy trolleys with wobbly wheels, which are full of Christmas goodies. Take care when passing by.
6. Check Your Tyres
Before any log journey check you should your tyres. They should not have any cuts or bulges in them.
The tread depth should be at least 1.6mm deep. This is all the way around the tyre and in the central three quarters of it.
Tyres start off with approximately 8mm of tread. Despite the legal requirement being 1.6mm, many motoring organisations recommend changing your tyres when they get down to 2mm.
Some people put winter tyres on their cars. If this is something you want to do, make sure you change all four tyres to maintain your cars stability.
7. Back Off!
Remember to keep a safe distance from the car in front of you. Many incidents are caused by the car behind travelling too close and being unable to stop in time to avoid driving into the car in front if it suddenly brakes without warning.
The recommended distance to leave from the car in front is a two-second gap.
To get an idea of how to measure this, watch the car in front pass by a stationary object, like a lamppost.
As it passes the lamppost say the words,
“Only a Fool, Breaks the Two Second Rule”.
You should be reaching that lamppost as you finish saying the words.
If you reach the lamppost before you have finished saying the words, you are too close and need to back off.
If the car behind is travelling too close to you, you should aim for a three or four second gap from the car in front of you. Then, if the car in front brakes suddenly, you will only need to slow down gradually and the car behind is much less likely to go into the back of you.
On wet roads the stopping distance is doubled so you’ll need to leave a four second gap, you need to be able to say ‘Only a Fool, Breaks the Two Second rule’ twice.
On icy roads the stopping distance is ten times!
8. Fog Lights
Fog lights should go on when visibility gets below 100m.
If you put them on sooner than this, or if you keep them on because you’ve forgotten to turn them off again they can dazzle other road users making it difficult for them to see clearly.
When your fog lights are on there is a warning light on the dashboard to tell you.
If the fog gets very heavy, consider pulling up somewhere safe until the fog lifts. An extra method of checking it’s safe to go is to open your driver and passenger side windows. This can help you to hear other road users when you can’t see clearly.
9. Keep Windows, Mirrors and Lights Clean
It’s nice to have a clean car but can be difficult to keep it clean throughout the winter months, especially if you drive on any rural roads.
If you can’t find the time to clean your whole car, at least clean your windows, mirrors and lights.
Dirty windows and mirrors make it very difficult to see into and through. You won’t be able to see other road users as well as you would when looking through clean windows.
Dirty lights will make your lights much less bright and other road users will not see you as well as if they were clean.
10. Top Up with Screenwash and Anti-Freeze
Check and top up your screenwash regularly.
You can buy screenwash that you need to mix with water and you can buy screenwash that’s already mixed.
Screenwash helps keep your windows clean by breaking through grease and grime better than water alone can.
Antifreeze lowers the freezing point of water. It will help prevent the water in your radiator from freezing up.
11. Fuel Up!
Make sure you have plenty of fuel when heading off on a long journey.
Keep your tank topped up above a quarter full.
Your journey can suddenly become much longer than you might expect due to road closures, diversions, accidents etc. You don’t need the additional stress of watching your fuel tank monitor get lower and lower and worrying that you’ll make it to the next petrol station.
12. Singing along to your favourite Christmas song!
Listening to and singing along to some great Christmas tunes will help make a long journey much less tedious and help keep you wide awake!
If you see a hazard ahead that needs extra attention, mute the music and give the hazard your full attention. Commentate to yourself to give the hazard your full focus. This means to say what you are seeing.
Driving for long distances, especially if the winter sun is dazzling you, or if it’s dark can make you feel drowsy.
If you start to feel drowsy at all you can help yourself by eating sweets, turning the temperature lower in the car, slightly opening your car window.
Find a safe place to stop as soon as you can. Have a rest! A coffee and a mince pie will revive you! You might benefit from a power nap!
There are our 12 Tips to Safe Driving this Christmas. We wish you all a safe and fantastic Christmas and a happy New Year.
All the Best
From Ann-Marie and the Spot On Team
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