With the festive season well and truly upon us, many of us will be taking to the roads over the coming weeks to visit friends and family up and down the country. With winter driving conditions, an increase in traffic on the roads and the temptation of a party tipple before getting behind the wheel, it is important that we all take steps to make sure we stay safe on the roads this Christmas.
Prepare your car for winter driving
We rely on our cars all year round to get us from A to B and it is particularly important to make sure that they are in good working order during the winter. Here are some handy hints to make sure your car is ready for the demands of the festive season.
1. Give your car a winter service
Check your lights, wipers, anti-freeze, oil, brake pads and tyres before you head out onto the roads.
2. Take out breakdown cover
Only 17% of insurance policies include breakdown cover as standard. You may be covered if you have a service plan for your car or you can take one out from a standalone provider.
3. Let the engine warm up thoroughly before you drive off
The cold weather can make metal brittle meaning things can break more easily, so leave a little extra time to let your engine warm up.
4. Make sure you have plenty of fuel in the tank before you start a journey
Petrol stations may close early over Christmas and you don’t want to get stuck anywhere. So be prepared and fill up when you can.
5. Take care when defrosting your car
Using hot water to defrost your car could cause any windscreen cracks to get bigger so it is best to use de-icer or a scraper or even put a cover on the windscreen overnight. Also make sure you stay with your car at all times if you are leaving the engine on to defrost and heat up your car. Opportunist thieves will waste no time in driving away if they see your car unattended with the keys in the ignition.
6. Keep a breakdown kit in your car
You never know when or where you may break down so it is important to be prepared. Make sure you have a torch, blanket, warm jumper, shovel, first aid kit, jump leads, portable mobile phone charger, high-vis jacket, reflective sign and, of course, some chocolate and other snacks in your car just in case something goes wrong.
Top tips for driving safely this Christmas
Once your car is ready to go, it’s important that you make sure you are careful on the roads. Here are some great tips to help.
1. Plan your journey
When setting off to see friends or family, it is important that you plan your journey before you leave. Allow extra time for your journey and check both the weather forecast and travel updates. It is also useful to work out where you can stop for a rest on the way. You may want to use your phone as a satnav but make sure you programme the route before you set off or you will run the risk of being fined for using your mobile while driving.
2. Don’t get behind the wheel when tired
The festive period is always busy and stressful and can easily wear you down, so if you are tired, do not get in the car and drive a long distance.
3. Don’t go driving in the snow
If you think it is going to start snowing, head home early and if it starts to snow while you are on the roads, pull over and stop driving until conditions improve.
4. Drive sensibly on the roads
There will be a greater police presence on the roads during the festive period so make sure you maintain high driving standards – as you would usually of course!
5. Take care in built up areas
Busy places such as town centres and shopping centres are likely to be busy as Christmas Day approaches, so make sure you are careful while driving around and getting out of parking spaces.
6. Be observant of other drivers’ behaviour
While you may be a safe and sensible, the same does not apply to everyone who will be out on the roads. If a car is moving irrationally and changing speed a lot, give them plenty of room.
7. Watch out for black ice
Black ice is hard to stop but it can be incredibly dangerous. While out on the roads, adjust your speed to suit the conditions, steer gently and do not accelerate or brake quickly.
8. Take care on gritted roads
When the roads are icy, the gritting machines will be out laying grit on the roads. However, you still need to be careful as the salt crystals mean that less of the tyre is in contact with the road surface so grip is still less than it would usually be.
Drink, drugs and driving do not mix
Everyone enjoys having a few drinks at Christmas, but while it may be fun at the time, it could also have serious consequences if you decide to drive your car after drinking alcohol.
Every year the police launch their Christmas drink- and drug-driving campaign and this year is no exception. Last year, police across the UK stopped more than 100,000 vehicles over Christmas and New Year with 5,698 breath tests either being positive, failed or refused.
While you may wake up the next morning feeling sober, that does not always mean you will be ok to drive. Many people are caught drink driving the morning after the night before. This is because there is no way to work out the amount of alcohol in your blood stream, and this depends on the following factors:
- Your weight, age, sex and metabolism (the rate your body uses energy)
- The type and amount of alcohol you have consumed
- What you’ve eaten recently
- Your stress levels at the time
However, there are two simple things that you can do which will make sure you don’t get caught over the limit this Christmas:
Don’t drive if you want to have a drink
Make sure you have a designated driver, use public transport or book a taxi if you know you’re going out for a few drinks and will need to get home afterwards.
Don’t drink if you need to drive
If you can’t avoid driving this Christmas make sure you don’t have a drink before getting in your car, being especially careful if you need to drive somewhere early in the morning.
If you do get caught drink-driving you will face a driving ban of at least 12 months and a fine of up to £5,000 depending on the seriousness of your offence. For the most serious drink-driving offences you could also be sent to prison.
Drug driving is illegal too
Alongside drink-driving you can also be arrested for drug-driving too. In 2015, new drug laws came into force across England and Wales setting legal driving limits for 17 illegal and prescription drugs. If caught driving while under the influence of drugs, you face a minimum 12-month driving ban, up to six months in prison an unlimited fine and a criminal record.
Everyone wants to have a fun and enjoyable Christmas with friends and family but it’s important to consider that your actions can have serious consequences. If you‘re not sure if you’re safe to drive, don’t – it’s not worth the risk!
We hope our tips and advice around staying safe on the roads this Christmas is useful. From all the team at FPS, however you’re spending your festive break, we do hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!