Driving over Xmas - Facts, figures and fairy tales
For most of us, Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. After all, we get to spend time with our loved ones, indulge in delicious food and unwrap stacks of gifts.
But when it comes to travel, Christmas can also be one of the busiest times of the year. Millions of us take to the roads during December, whether we’re visiting friends and family, going shopping or heading out to the office Christmas party. That’s probably why Father Christmas chooses to travel on a flying sleigh.
If you’re planning to make a car journey over the festive season, your top priority might be making sure that you’ve remembered the overnight bags, gifts and that Christmas pudding you offered to make.
But there are a few other important things to consider when driving during the winter months. Read on to find out how to stay safe on the roads this Christmas with our winter driving tips.
Dealing with a breakdown on your way to a festive celebration is a sure-fire way to put a dampener on your Christmas spirit. For peace of mind, make sure you have reliable, valid roadside assistance cover in place before you set off. That way, if the worst should happen, you’ll be able to phone for help to get you moving again.
As with any long journey, if you’re going on a Christmas road trip, don’t forget to carry out some basic car maintenance checks. The key areas to check are tyre pressures, tyre tread depth, oil, windscreen wipers, washer fluid, lights and antifreeze.
By law, you’ll need to have a suitable car seat for any passenger under the age of 12 (or less than 135cm tall). You can buy seats in a range of different sizes, however not all seats will fit in every car, so it’s a good idea to do your research.
This one is pretty straightforward – don’t do it. 4,761 drivers ended up with a conviction for drink-driving in December 2018. Consequences for drink-driving vary from driving bans and hefty fines to prison time.
In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, the drink-drive limit is 80mg per 100ml of blood – it’s lower in Scotland at 50mg per 100ml of blood. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s okay to have ‘just the one’. No matter what anyone tells you, it’s not possible to predict how long it will take your body to process alcohol or when you’ll be safe to drive by – this will depend on many different factors, and it will vary day by day.
So, if you’re planning to enjoy an alcoholic drink (or two, or three) at a Christmas party or festive celebration, leave your car at home. Instead, plan how you’re going to get home in advance – book a taxi, agree on a designated sober driver or arrange for a friend or relative to pick you up.
Otherwise, stick to the alcohol-free beers or mocktails instead.
Poor weather conditions
Rain, ice, fog, snow, not to mention driving in the dark after the clocks go back – winter driving can be challenging. When driving on icy roads, stopping distances can be as much as 10 times longer than if you were driving in dry conditions, so you’ll need to take extra care. If you decide to fit winter tyres on your vehicle, check with your insurer whether your insurance policy needs updating, as some insurers class winter tyres as a modification.
If the weather outside really is frightful, avoid driving at all if you can. If you have no option but to drive, make sure you have de-icer, an ice-scraper and emergency supplies (see below), as well as a fully-charged mobile phone for use in an emergency. Before setting off, allow yourself enough time to clear all of the snow, ice and condensation from your windscreen and windows. If you are driving in the snow and there is some on the roof of the vehicle, make sure you clear this too.
Drive slowly, especially when going around corners or if visibility ahead is very poor. Remember, fog can form in patches, so it’s best to remain at a consistently low speed, even if the fog appears to have cleared. Use your dipped headlights and fog lights and leave plenty of distance between your car and the one in front to ensure adequate stopping distance if they have to brake suddenly.
If your social calendar is jam-packed with Christmas events, you might find yourself burning the candle at both ends. But driving when you’re tired can be dangerous or even fatal. According to road safety charity Brake, almost 17% of crashes on major roads, which result in either injury or death can be directly attributed to fatigue.
If you’ve got a long-distance journey planned, do everything you can to ensure you sleep well the night before. Once you’re on your way, stop for a 20-minute rest break every two hours. If you feel tired before your next scheduled stop, pull over to a safe place for a rest. If possible, try to share the driving with a partner or friend – just make sure you have valid insurance in place for each driver.
You may have heard that it’s illegal not to have a stash of emergency supplies in your car. But while this is a myth, it’s actually a great idea. Keep a blanket and extra clothing layers, water, food, torch, first-aid kit, spade, warning triangle and hi-vis vest in the boot of your car to ensure you’re prepared for all eventualities this winter.
Take the stress out of driving this festive season by getting organised today. Give your family the gift of a happy, safe Christmas with our Christmas driving tips – plan your long-distance route, carry out car maintenance checks, follow our bad weather driving tips and pick up some car-friendly activities to keep the kids entertained on long journeys.
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