How can I stay safe behind the wheel this Christmas?

People are often spending a lot more time behind the wheel during the festive season.

Winter weather Nov 25th
Winter weather Nov 25th

People tend to spend a little more time than usual behind the wheel when travelling over the festive period. Be it trips to see family, meeting up with friends or taking a short break away, Christmas might see you taking your car out and about more than you might do during the rest of the year.

But is there anything you need to bear in mind when driving over Christmas and is there anything you need to look out for?

Some pre-flight checks

Electric car tyres
Drivers should check their car’s tyres before a long journey. (Hyundai)

Before you head off in your car this Christmas, it might be a good idea to do a few simple checks to make sure that your car is ship-shape. Check your tyres for any cuts or grazes in the sidewalls and, while you’re there, make sure that they’re inflated to the right pressures. You’ll be able to find the right pressures in your car’s handbook, behind the fuel filler door or inside the driver’s door shuts.

Plus, ensure that your car has the correct amount of oil, coolant and windscreen washer fluid. The last thing you want to do is to be worrying about this mid-journey.

Think about timings

Driving home for Christmas
The roads are often busier at Christmas time. (PA)

Understandably, the roads are often a lot busier over the festive period as more people travel. It means that key areas can quickly get snarled up, adding a considerable delay to a journey. It’s why it might be a good idea to re-think your departure times.

Earlier in the morning is often quieter, as is later at night. So if you want a smooth journey, consider setting off at a slightly different time than usual.

Take extra time in poor conditions

Winter weather Jan 28th 2015
Drivers should take extra care in poor weather conditions. (PA)

Though it’s the postcard image that the UK is draped in snow over Christmas, for the vast majority of years the festive period means colder temperatures and driving rain.

If you need to travel through poor conditions, then make sure that you take your time and don’t push yourself to drive in weather you don’t feel comfortable about. Remember, if you’re tired, then always stop and have a rest – don’t try and push through.

Make sure your presents aren’t open to prying eyes

Don’t leave Christmas presents unattended in a car. (Saab)

If you’re travelling in the run-up to Christmas, then you might be driving with presents and gifts in the boot. However, these can act as easy pickings to opportunistic thieves, particularly as they’re wrapped up and can catch the eye.

So if you do need to leave them in the car, make sure that they’re covered and, if you can, put them in the boot and put the load cover in place. However, to be on the safe side, always remove gifts and store them inside when you can.

Don’t overload

Don’t overload your car’s boot. (Volkswagen)

If you’re travelling with the family then you might be motoring with a car that is full to the brim. However, if you’ve got a lot of luggage with you, then you incur the risk of overloading your vehicle – something that can result in a fine or penalty points if you’re stopped by the police.

Driving an overloaded car can really affect its handling while increasing stopping distances. The authorities will be looking out for a car which has a rear end that is closer to the ground or nearing the rear tyres. You can double-check that you’re within the legal limits by checking your car’s Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). This is the figure which, if exceeded, would be classed as ‘overloaded’. Before you load up, weigh or estimate the weight of the goods you’ll be loading to ensure that you’re not going over that GVW figure.

Watch out the morning after

Drivers are urged not to consume alcohol before getting behind the wheel. (PA)

A lot of people enjoy a tipple at Christmas. However, just because it’s the festive season doesn’t mean that drink-drive rules go out of the window. If you’ve been drinking the night before then you may not be in a fit state to drive the next morning. If there’s any doubt, then don’t get behind the wheel.

The best way to avoid any confusion is to avoid alcohol entirely if you’re planning on driving the next day.

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