Top tips for safe and stress free driving this summer
Be aware if you're out and about over the next couple of months, as the Department for Transport tells us that now is the peak time for vehicle collisions.
It's amazing to think that we're at greater risk of having a vehicle collision during the summer months than at any other time of year. Naturally, we'd assume that dark evenings, inclement weather, poor visibility (the list goes on!) would be more likely to contribute to an incident, but according to the Department for Transport (DfT), this is not the case. The DfT's figures show that 27.5% more vehicle collisions occur in the summer months of July and August, than at any other time of the year.
But what are the factors contributing to these collisions? Well, as the UK's big getaway begins in earnest, our roads become increasingly packed with excited holidaymakers seeking out their favourite destinations. As seems to be standard for most families, there's always the last minute panic: Are the windows locked? Did we check the passports are in date? Are the bins out? Seldom do we give ourselves a calm departure as our cars, laden with people and luggage, set out on the roads.
Distractions are commonplace with the inevitable, "I'm bored", and, "Are we nearly there yet?” being heard only a fraction into the journey. But one essential component for a stress free holiday is often overlooked - car insurance. According to a recent report by M&S Bank, nearly a quarter of holidaymaking motorists that plan to drive into mainland Europe this summer don't know if their current insurance policy covers them. Eurotunnel say that they transported 882,358 cars during July, August and September last year, and if a similar number travel this year with a quarter of them not knowing if they are insured...wow, that's a lot of people potentially at risk. So note to self for all those heading across the channel this summer, remember to check your policy details to ensure European cover is included.
While we're on the subject of ensuring a safe and relaxing holiday, don't forget about your trusty getaway vehicle. Most modern cars work just as well in hot weather as in cold, but if you see steam and water escaping from your engine bay don't worry, according to the RAC it could just be one of these everyday occurrences:
Pools of water under your car - these are caused by condensed water from the air conditioning system
Smoke from air vents - unless the smoke is acrid, it’s just water vapour produced by the air conditioning unit that hasn’t had time to condense
Roaring from the engine bay - this is the cooling fan turning on and off
Less power - if your car seems more lethargic in summer, this is probably because the air is warmer and less dense, giving the engine a little less “oomph”
So along with adding insurance documents and car checks to your pre-holiday 'to do' list, here are a few more important things to remember when driving abroad this summer:
Become familiar with your destination's road rules as they vary between countries. For example, you may need to carry items such as spare bulbs, a first aid kit, breathalysers and high-vis jackets in your vehicle.
Don't forget about the Low Emission Zones (LEZ) which have come into force in more than 200 cities, spanning 10 countries across Europe. Most of the LEZ only affects vans and lorries but some, like those in France, Germany and Italy, affect cars too. A vignette (also referred to as a badge or sticker) is required; this needs to be attached to the inside of the windscreen to show the emissions classification of your vehicle - failure to do so could result in a fine. Make a note of your route or better still, pack a roadmap. In the event of a sat-nav malfunction, you'll be pleased you made a note / packed a roadmap so you know which direction to head in.
Remember to take snacks and drinks, and if you're planning a long drive, work out places for an overnight stay before you leave the UK.
And of course, double check that your insurance and breakdown cover extends to mainland Europe!
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