Stay safe at the wheel | 17.07.2017

17If you happened to be on the road on the 22nd July, congratulations, you survived ‘Black Saturday’ – the most dangerous time of year to be driving on UK roads.

New research using Department of Transport data shows that the 22nd is the most dangerous for drivers, thanks to a nasty mix of school holidays just beginning, peak traffic volumes and the great summer getaway. In fact, more traffic accidents occur over July and August than any other time of the year.

So, apart from avoiding driving altogether, how can you ensure you have a safe and accident-free summer?

Stress is not your friend

You can imagine the scenario. School’s out, you’re all going on a family holiday, your car is packed to the brim with suitcases and the kids are screaming. You’re obviously going to be rattled and your attention may not fully be on the road.

In a situation like this, prevention is the best solution. That doesn’t mean you leave the kids and suitcase behind. Work out how long you’re going to be on the road for and figure out how to keep your children occupied for that length of time. Instead of them constantly asking if they’re there yet, get them to race to spot a yellow car before anyone else, to make words out of number plates you drive past or to imagine what the passengers in other cars are like – are they a writer, an academic, a lone ranger on some kind of danger-filled adventure? Let your kids’ imaginations run wild, and sure enough, the drive will pass in no time.

There are also plenty of other games, some printable, others playable on a tablet, that you can find on parenting websites.

Make sure your vehicle is in top shape

Before you set out on any journey give your vehicle a once over. Does it look okay and has anything changed since you last drove it? If you’re planning a long journey, do a more intensive check. Check your oil, your air pressure, fluids and tyre condition. Make sure you leave plenty of time to fix anything that might crop up – don’t do these checks minutes before you’re supposed to leave.

Plan ahead

If you’ve got a long journey ahead of you, especially with children, make sure you’ve scheduled in rest stops so you can recharge, go to the toilet and get a bite to eat or drink. If you’re running late, don’t be tempted to skip these. It’s important to have regular breaks so your brain can return to full attention once you’re back on the road.

Pack your car safely

We’ve all seen them, cars with suitcases piled so high you can’t even see the passengers inside and the driver definitely cannot see you. You wouldn’t drive with a blindfold on, so why block your view with suitcases?

Likewise, ensure anything you have packed is secure within your vehicle. The last thing you need is an errant handbag smacking you in the face as you do a tight left turn.

Never drive tired, drunk or under any other influence

This one goes without saying, but if you’re tired, drunk or in any way under some other mind and attention-altering influence, do not drive. You won’t just potentially harm yourself and your passengers, you’re also putting other road users at risk. If you’re any of the above, just take a break until you’re fully capable of giving the road your full (sober) attention.

Keep an eye on other drivers

You can do as much as possible to ensure you have a safe drive, but other road users may not always do the same. At all times, but especially during July and August when tempers are running high and attentions low, keep a close eye out for other drivers and what they are doing. Expect the unexpected and always keep a safe distance from the car in front of you.