For many people, Christmas means driving, whether it’s long distance to visit friends or relatives, or locally to drop off cards and presents. A combination of crowded roads, tired, stressed drivers, and poor weather conditions can make this a dangerous time of year to be on the roads. Take extra precautions so that everyone can arrive at their destination safely and on time.
The motor trade takes a Christmas break too, so if you need your car serviced or repaired, do it ahead of the festive season. Petrol stations can also reduce their hours around this time of year. Top up your tank in plenty of time to avoid getting caught out.
To avoid stress, allow plenty of time for your journey. Consider setting off early in the morning, before the rush, and make sure in advance that your vehicle is fit to travel.
Both new and used cars can suffer from a flat battery if they haven’t been driven for a while, especially if the weather is cold, so check the day before you need to travel that your car will start, and consider taking it for a drive to ensure the battery is charged.
Check your tyre pressure and top up your car’s fluids, including the windscreen wiper fluid. This time of year, use a wiper fluid that contains antifreeze.
If the car windows are steamed up or frosted over, clear them all completely before setting off by demisting the car or using an ice scraper. Clean smeary windscreens to avoid being dazzled by low sun in the morning and evening. Snow on the roof? Knock it off now, rather than have it fall off while you drive and perhaps block another motorist’s windscreen.
Driving in winter weather can be hazardous. Fog and falling snow reduce visibility, and roads may be icy, particularly in the countryside. Black ice forms when temperatures are around freezing point, and is just about impossible to spot.
If you do lose control of your car on ice or snow, avoid braking or accelerating harshly, and correct the skid by steering in the same direction. In poor weather, be especially careful to leave a big enough gap between your vehicle and the one in front. Don’t be afraid to change your plans if the weather worsens. Sometimes turning around and heading home, putting your journey off until the next day, or even cancelling it altogether, is the sensible option.
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It’s a good idea to carry emergency supplies in your car, in case you end up stranded. Take a warm coat with you even if you are planning to go straight indoors at your destination, and consider packing a blanket, as well as food and water.
Just because you’re too sensible to drink and drive doesn’t mean everyone else is, so take extra care around other motorists if their behaviour seems erratic. Watch out, too, for pedestrians who may be too merry to be cautious.
If you do have a drink in the evening, remember that alcohol can still be in your system the next morning, even if you feel fine. Single use breathalysers are cheap, and can reassure you that you’re safe to drive. Prescription and over the counter medicine can also affect your driving.
Taking extra care over the festive season can prevent stress, accidents, and claims on your insurance policy.