14 Summer Driving Safety Tips
UK summer time brings spells of hotter weather and more cars on the road as people travel for weekends away to enjoy the heat. This can put greater demands on your car and mean different pressures on you as a driver, so it’s important you know how to keep safe.
Discover our top 14 summer driving safety tips to make those sunny drives more enjoyable.
1. Check your engine’s coolant levels
In the summer it’s crucial that you make sure your car has enough engine coolant so that it doesn’t overheat. Doing this will ensure that the water in the radiator system doesn’t evaporate.
Major mechanical problems can occur as a result of a car engine overheating, so be sure to check it every couple of weeks. You can do this by locating the coolant reservoir (the symbol looks like a key floating in water) and ensuring the level is between the ‘min’ and ‘max’ markers on the side of the tank.
2. Keep your car’s interior cool
Coming back to a car which has been parked in direct sunlight for hours isn’t very pleasant for you or your passengers. This heat can seem unbearable while you’re driving along, to a point where you find it difficult to concentrate fully on the road ahead.
Luckily there are several ways you can cool your car’s interior before a summer drive.
- Get a sunshade for your windscreen – these can reduce your car’s interior temperature by around 15°C and tend to cost less than £5.
- Open all the windows/activate convertible roof – if you have a spare five minutes before you need to set off, you can release a lot of the heat in your car by opening all the windows or popping down the roof if you have a convertible model.
- Turn on the air conditioning (A/C) – for this one you’ll want to ignore the second option because you won’t feel the benefits of the A/C if you have all the windows open.
3. Avoid a blowout by checking your tyres
In hot weather the air in your tyres expands which can cause problems if they’re damaged. The worst-case scenario is that your tyres can’t handle the increased pressure caused by expansion and you have a blowout (where the tyre explodes).
This can be extremely dangerous, especially if you’re driving at high speeds because the car will abruptly slow down and pull strongly to the left or right (depending on where the blowout occurs).
Be sure to check your tyres for tread depth and damage before any long journey in the summer. See our car maintenance checklist to find out how to do this.
4. Stock up on fluids
It goes without saying that you dehydrate a lot quicker in hotter temperatures. When you’re enclosed in a car this can happen even more quickly, especially if the temperature inside your vehicle is higher than it is outside.
If you’re driving then it’s particularly important that you stay hydrated by stocking up your car with plenty of fluids for your journey. You’ll be able to stay more alert too if you’re fully hydrated, making driving much safer as you can respond to situations a lot quicker.
5. Take regular breaks if you’re feeling tired
Nothing says summer like long drives to enjoy sunny weekends away at campsites, tourist attractions and beauty spots. However, the hours spent on the road can soon become tiring if you don’t take enough regular breaks.
Road safety charity Brake reported that 10-20% of road crashes worldwide are caused by driver fatigue. The same report found that 4% of fatal crashes in the UK are due to tiredness behind the wheel.
We recommend that you have regular intervals of rest around every two hours on longer trips. But if you start to feel tired beforehand then you should pull in at the next service station or shop/cafe/restaurant if you’re not on the motorway.
Having caffeinated drinks and energy-rich food will help keep you going for the rest of your journey.
6. Keep your windscreen clean
Sun glare from direct sunlight can make it really difficult to see out of your front windscreen, especially if it isn’t clean. Little specks of dirt or gathered dust which you might not have noticed can obscure your vision of the road ahead and make driving very dangerous.
In fact, it’s illegal to drive when your vision is obscured, including your blindspots when looking out of the side windows. If you’re caught driving while these aren’t clean and clear to see out of, you could land a fine and three penalty points on your licence.
For this reason you should always check that you have enough washer fluid in your car’s reservoir and clean it properly.
7. Beware of tractors
A lot of farming activity goes on in the summer as crops ripen so tractors are a common sight on roads, often using them to get from one farm to another.
Usually these agricultural vehicles can only go as fast as 25mph and aren’t required to have brake/indicator lights by law unless they’re driving at night.
Always beware of tractors on high-speed roads in particular. If you plan on overtaking a tractor, follow these four steps:
- Drop back from it first to get a good enough view of the road ahead.
- Once it’s clear and you know you have enough time to overtake safely, check your mirrors and blindspot for any cars that may have decided to overtake you and the tractor sooner (this can be very dangerous and we don’t recommend that you do this, but other drivers might be impatient.)
- Indicate to tell cars behind that you’re overtaking, pull out and accelerate enough to get you clear of the tractor (with enough room to pull in safely, about a car’s length).
- Once you’re clear of the tractor and it’s safe to pull back in, check your passenger-side mirror and blindspot to be sure you can pull in safely and then do so in good time.
8. If you have hay fever, get someone else to drive
People with hay fever (around 10 million people in the UK, according to the NHS) understand the bugbear that the hotter, pollen-bearing air of summer brings.
Severe cold-like symptoms including watery eyes, a runny nose and coughing/sneezing fits makes driving safely nigh on impossible. Even if at the start of your journey you feel okay to drive, you should take precautions if you know there’s a couple of hours or more behind the wheel ahead.
So, we recommend that if you have hay fever that you should get someone else to drive, if possible.
If you’re only driving a short distance and there’s no-one else who can drive you, these tips will help reduce the chances of you experiencing symptoms while out on the road.
- If you’re taking hay fever medication, make sure that it doesn’t cause you to become drowsy while driving.
- Stock up on tissues and make sure you can safely access them.
- Clean the inside of your car regularly to rid it of dust.
- Wear sunglasses so you can block out bright sunlight.
9. Be mindful of where you park
Busier roads in the summer can mean that cars flock to places of natural beauty and tourist attractions, limiting the number of parking spaces available.
This doesn’t mean that you should ignore the parking rules and stick your car wherever there’s space for it. For example, passing places or areas where there’s a gateway aren’t suitable for parking as these are often entry points for farmers to get onto fields.
If you’re struggling to find anywhere to park, pull over in a safe place and either use Google maps or a parking space finder app such as JustPark to receive quick navigation to nearby parking.
10. Apply sun cream
While it’s difficult to get sunburnt driving on a hot summer’s day, the sun’s UV rays coming through your windows and windscreen can cause damage to your skin if you’re not protected.
Before starting any journey in your car where you’re going to be exposed to bright sunlight, be sure to apply sun cream to vulnerable areas that aren’t covered. This way you can fight the risks of aging skin and even more severe conditions such as skin cancer.
11. Avoid distractions
There’s a reason the sun makes us feel good. Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight releases endorphins (the ‘feel-good’ hormones), so driving around each day can seem a lot less of a chore than it usually does on a dreary day.
This ‘buzz’ behind the wheel can often make you want to play music loud and enjoy the ride with your passengers, which isn’t a problem unless it causes you to become distracted while driving.
Any lapse in concentration (e.g. taking your eyes off the road to talk to your friends or even having music playing deafeningly loud) can be detrimental to the safety of everyone in the car and other road users.
If you’re finding it hard to focus on driving and being aware of what’s around you, it’s important that you make others who may be distracting you aware of this so that something can be done about it. Otherwise, if it’s just you in your car but the radio’s a little louder than it needs to be, knock it down a couple of pegs.
12. Allow plenty of travel time
Travel time is bound to be a lot longer when it’s summertime and the children are off school, with more cars on the road than normal.
Research conducted by the RAC found that 9 million additional cars joined the road over the first few days of the school summer holidays in 2018. A trend which doesn’t go unnoticed year on year in the UK.
Giving yourself plenty of time to get to your destination will mean that you’re less likely to get frustrated behind the wheel, even if you do hit some traffic. Ideally, giving yourself an extra hour for longer journeys will ensure you make headway earlier which can reduce stress levels and make driving much safer.
13. Keep sunglasses in the car
It’s always a good idea to keep a spare pair of sunglasses in your car when driving in the summer. This will prevent glare from the sunshine coming in through the windscreen and, if you have hayfever, it will also reduce irritation from pollen grains getting into your eyes by acting as a barrier.
14. Don’t be tempted to drink and drive
A spell of nice weather can make it very tempting to want an alcoholic beverage, especially if you plan to have a nice picnic break somewhere or enjoy a sit-down meal in between travelling.
You should avoid having any form of alcohol if you’re driving, as even one or two will affect your ability to drive. This includes a decline in your visual functions, altered mood, loss of judgement and difficulty performing two tasks at the same time.
It’s better to wait until you reach your destination and no longer need to drive that day before having a drink. Otherwise, you should arrange for a partner or family member who isn’t drinking to drive if the temptation is too much.
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If you need some more driving safety tips, check out our other road safety guides for information on staying safe behind the wheel.