How to stay safe when driving home for Christmas

23 December 2016
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Motorists planning to drive home for Christmas should check their vehicles and insurance first, to help ensure they have a safe journey.

According to the RAC, Christmas Eve will be the busiest day on the roads with 3.8 million journeys planned.

It adds that both today (23 December) and Christmas Day are expected to see similar levels of traffic, totalling some 3.5 million separate journeys on each day.

 

RAC Traffic Watch spokesman Rod Dennis says: “The fact we have a lengthy ‘pre-Christmas stretch’ this year is not to say there won’t at times be heavy traffic on the road network through the week, perhaps peaking on the 23rd when many workers finish for Christmas and leisure and commuter traffic take to the roads together.

“But we’re hopeful things won’t be quite as pressured on our motorways and major A-roads this year as they have been before.”

However, the RAC says the cost of visiting family and friends by car has gone up by more than £6 since last year. It currently costs an average of £63.44 to fill the tank of a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra, up over £6 on the 2015 cost.

 

Carry out a winter check on your vehicle

But it’s not just making sure you’ve got enough petrol for long journeys. Doug Strachan, of charity Age UK, says older drivers in particular are also concerned about breakdowns.

He says: “Our own research found that for a third (33%) of the UK’s later life drivers, breaking down and having to call for assistance is the factor they are most concerned about when driving. Winter weather can be unpredictable, so all drivers planning to travel over the festive period should take the necessary precautions to reduce the chance of any mishaps.”

Age UK recommends carrying out the following checks before setting off:

  • Check tyre tread and pressure - deeper tread depth, such as 3mm, will give you better grip and be beneficial in icy, snowy or wet conditions.
  • Clean your lights and check they are working properly - dirt can prevent lights from giving full glow.
  • Check and top up your oil, water, screenwash and antifreeze levels.

 

If you are unsure on any of the above, consider asking a reputable garage to carry out vital winter checks before you travel.

You should also:

  • Make sure you have full visibility from the driver’s seat, and ensure items such as ice on the windscreen or presents do not obstruct your view.
  • Check your car insurance is up to date and that you have breakdown cover in place.
  • Check the most up to date weather forecast before you set off.
  • Always carry a warm coat, blankets, gloves, snacks and water in your car before starting any long journeys.
  • Check that your mobile phone is fully charged before leaving.
  • Ensure you have a scraper and de-icer in the car.
  • If the weather conditions take a turn for the worse and are causing concern, think carefully as to whether your journey is essential or if public transport may be a safer option.

 

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