Stay safe as road crashes hit summer peak

Busy motorway

At 2.30pm on Saturday 21 July, you will be more likely to have a crash than on any other day in Britain this year.

Government data and insurance reports analysed by dash cam firm SmartWitness show that Saturdays in summer are the worst time for car crashes. Drivers are 1.7 times more likely to be distracted or impaired than on a regular weekday.

This high-risk environment will peak on Saturday 21 July, when traffic volumes surge as families head off on holiday. Cars will be packed with luggage and children and many drivers will be tired, rushed and distracted.

So please try to take extra care and resist any temptation to display road rage. After all, the most common cause of road collisions is driver error, not road conditions or mechanical problems.

Make sure you’re prepared

Traffic can be a nightmare when heading to popular destinations. But being involved in a collision or breaking down will make any journey much worse.

You can reduce the likelihood of experiencing any problems by making a few basic preparations.

Firstly, check your car:

  • Tyres: are your car’s tyres correctly inflated? Do they have sufficient tread, with no damage? If you have a spare, make sure that is inflated too. If you know how to change a wheel yourself you can often save time on busy days, instead of waiting for a breakdown service. But only do so if you can get safely off the road. Motorway hard shoulders are not generally a safe place.
  • Oil: check the oil level in your car. It should be between the max and min marks on the dipstick, preferably nearer to the maximum mark. If your car is one of many modern models that routinely uses oil, take a bottle of oil with you in the boot. When you’re doing longer journeys, topups can be required more often than usual.
  • Water: check the level of coolant in the radiator expansion tank. It should be between the max and min marks when the engine is cold and the car is parked on a level surface. If it’s slightly low, you can top it up with tap water or distilled water. If it’s very low, you may want to check for a leak or some more serious problem.
  • Lights: although it’s summer, check all your lights are working and replace any failed bulbs.
  • Windscreen wash: the bugs are bad at this time of year, so make sure your screenwash tank is topped up with plenty of screenwash solution.

Fuel: make sure you set off with a full tank of fuel. You don’t want to have to pay rip-off motorway prices for petrol because you forgot to fill up at home. (Use our petrol prices page to find the cheapest fuel near you)

Sat nav/maps: most of us use a sat nav or smartphone navigation app these days, but these can go wrong, get lost or break. Having an old-fashioned paper road atlas in your car costs very little and can be a godsend if you’re lost. It also enables you to get a feel for the overall route before you set off on a journey, which is difficult to do on the small screen of a sat nav.

Driving abroad? Make sure you’re legal

If you’re heading abroad, it’s important to make sure that you’re carrying all of the items required by law in all of the countries you will be driving through (not just your destination). For example, most European countries require you to carry a warning triangle and reflective yellow vests for each person in the vehicle. Some countries even require you to have two warning triangles!

The best guide to European driving requirements that I know of is provided by the AA: https://www.theaa.com/european-breakdown-cover/driving-in-europe

I strongly recommend checking the country requirements before you leave the UK.

Insurance: Speaking from personal experience, it’s also important to check what level of insurance cover you have for driving outside the UK. Even if you have comprehensive cover for UK motoring, you may find that your policy only provides basic third party cover when you’re in Europe. This means that if you have a collision that’s your fault, your insurance company will not pay anything towards repairing or recovering your car.

Breakdown: On a related note, I believe it’s worth buying European breakdown cover. Very few of us are competent mechanics and even if you are, you’re unlikely to have all the tools and spare parts you might need. Services such as AA European breakdown can prevent your holiday from being wrecked by a minor breakdown.

For more tips, check our our guide to breakdown cover and our tips on what to do if you breakdown.

Finally, have a great holiday! Happy holidays from all of us here at SimpleMotoring.co.uk.

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