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By Spencers Solicitors

  Jane Cooper    
  December 22, 2016

Driving home for Christmas – Are you going to be top to toe in tailbacks?

With the Christmas holidays about to start and a rather blustery forecast for the weekend on the horizon the words of Chris Rea are particularly relevant for those planning a Christmas getaway.

Weather is a significant factor when considering the reasons for accidents on our roads so here are some tips for making sure you and your vehicle are ready to deal with the trials and tribulations of winter driving:

•  Check Your Vehicle before you start your journey

•  Plan your route carefully beforehand checking for traffic news along the way

•  Allow appropriate time for the journey taking account of possible changes to the road and weather conditions

Winter Roads

Checking Your Vehicle

•  Lights – all the lights should be in working order and clean and visible to other road users

•  Screen wash – make sure the water bottle is full and use a winter mix to prevent freezing in cold weather

•  Oil – check oil levels regularly ( either side of formal services/ checks). The oil your car uses should be suitable for winter conditions.

•  Tyre tread – the AA recommends changing tyres when the tread depth reaches 3mm even though the legal limit is less at 1.6mm

•  Break down help – check you have a spare tyre which is in good condition or a puncture kit you can use. Keep a warning triangle, a first aid kit, screen-clearing equipment and a key for tyre locking nuts in the vehicle.

Planning Your Route

•  AA route planner or RAC route planner

•  Travel news apps on your mobile

•  In car navigation systems which sometimes flag delays and traffic issues along your route

•  A map! But don’t read it while driving – pull over at a safe point if you need to consider an alternative route the old fashioned way.

It is a good idea to have a current road map in your vehicle even if you normally rely upon digital guidance especially on long journeys in case of poor signals or a failure of in car navigation systems.

Allowing appropriate time for the journey

•  Consider the likely weight of traffic on the route you plan to take – it will be heavier than usual at this time of year on some routes

•  What will the weather be like along the way – consider local forecasts along your route beforehand as deteriorations in weather will add to the journey time

•  What kind of roads will you be travelling on? Smart motorways may apply reduced speed limits at busy times so don’t assume that you can travel at the normal speed limit even if the weather is good.

•  Allow time for breaks. Don’t drive when you are tired.

Other factors to consider on a long journey at this time of year include

•  Don’t let yourself be distracted-

•  If you want music playing during your journey, plan it before you leave. Avoid playing around with the controls for music etc while driving.

•  Place any mobile devices out of reach – do NOT use them while driving except in exceptional circumstances and ONLY handsfree.

•  Christmas lights this year are delightful as more and more people enter the Christmas spirit but KEEP your eyes on the road

Christmas Decorations

•  Be prepared for car trouble and make sure you have access to a recovery service including breakdown cover if possible

•  You may also want to carry a blanket and a snack bar should you need to wait for a recovery vehicle to arrive.

•  Do you need to have any medication with you in case you are stuck? For instance, diabetics should have their insulin and adequate snacks with them in the vehicle at all times.

•  Stopping distances. Stay at a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead and allow a greater distance in bad weather

•  You should drive at an appropriate speed for the road conditions and this may well be less than the speed limit

•  Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre – always check your mirrors before you indicate and change lanes or make a turn

Once you begin a journey, make sure you are then prepared for even the worst driving conditions and have a plan for what to do if you face driving rain, fog, and slippery road conditions caused by snow, sleet or ice. Some people will break their journey for bad conditions. Others will carry on but make sure you know how to drive in these conditions.

And don’t forget to park your car in a safe place where it will not obstruct other road users or pedestrians.

Finally, only drive your vehicle if it is roadworthy and with appropriate insurance. Make sure you know what to do if despite taking care you are involved in an accident by reading our earlier blog entitled "Back to Basics: What to do if you are involved in a Road Traffic Accident"

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