Christmas holiday driving tips
At the risk of sounding cliché, for many, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!
It’s a time for the whole family to come together – but that can sometimes mean long drives in rain and snow, so we’ve put together some tips to make sure the winter journeys don’t put a dampener on your Christmas celebrations.
It’s a cosy Christmas Eve and all of the kids are loaded into the car, ready to do the rounds and drop off presents for the whole family. But have you considered whether or not the load is safe?
If you’re setting off to visit the grandparents, aunties, uncles, and other members of the family – you may be putting your vehicle and passengers at risk if you’ve overloaded by bringing all of the presents too.
You can find out how much your car can carry in your vehicle manual – it’s important not to exceed this for a number of reasons. Your steering and stability will be affected, tyres will become hotter and have a higher risk of blowing out, and your suspension can be damaged. Overloading puts you and others on the road at risk of an accident and can also void your insurance if the worst did happen.
Take your time
If you’re doing the rounds and visiting family members far and wide, it may be a good idea to put a plan together of who to visit first, and perhaps a time schedule too. You’ll need to allow for extra time on your journey, because its likely you’ll be sharing the road with plenty of other families doing the same thing!
It might be useful to use an online route planner like Google Maps so you can plan for any areas with particularly heavy traffic due to road works or accidents. These are updated live too, so it’s worth getting your passenger to keep an eye on it on the move. After all, no one wants to spend Christmas time sitting in long queues or getting stuck whilst doing a long drive in the dark.
Some of us would love a white Christmas, we know that! But even if it doesn’t snow, you’ll still be battling the typical English winter and will be driving in less than perfect conditions – such as ice, fog or rain.
You’ll often spend your Christmas drives with your nearest and dearest with you, so make sure you drive carefully and responsibly. Before setting off, check your tyres to ensure they are in good condition with deep tread depth – or even better, invest in winter tyres. Check your lights are working, make sure you’re stocked up on de-icer, and your coolant and antifreeze is topped up too.
Read more: Driving in heavy rain and flood water
It’s best to check the weather forecast before you set off, and avoid driving altogether if things aren’t looking good. Be sensible and only drive in bad condition when absolutely necessary.
Check your battery
We usually use our car batteries a little more in winter – we have to use our lights more often and we’re running the heater non-stop. With that being said, there probably isn’t a more crucial time to check your battery conditions than before setting off on your family Christmas travels.
You can check your car battery yourself with a multimeter – or you can have it checked at a garage, your local CarShop Service centre or a motor retailer for next to nothing. Ensuring your battery is in good condition prevents a Christmas breakdown. After all, your Christmas travels will no doubt include singsongs with the radio and charging of the whole families’ devices!
Beware the morning after
Whether you’re enjoying festivities with the family or celebrating with mates, we often indulge in alcohol a little over the Christmas period. Make sure you’re celebrating responsibly – and bear in mind you could still be over the limit the morning after.
There are multiple equations kicking around to help you calculate how long it will take your body to metabolise the alcohol you drank, and many auto shops stock breathalysers – but its best to just avoid getting behind the wheel completely the morning after the night before.
Concentrate with distractions
If your winter journey involves small kids being on board, you might already know that little ones can be slightly distracting on a long drive. Make sure you bring toys, games, food and drink along with you to keep kids distracted on long journeys.
It’s best to keep kids distracted throughout a journey so you can give your full attention to the road – if possible, get another adult or
Perhaps the most overlooked of all – remember to take a break. If you’re travelling far and wide this Christmas, with the whole family with you, driving in bad conditions and perhaps being a little distracted by little ones – remember to take a breather.
Driving for long periods, without any other affecting factors, can be seriously tiring – and when you’re fatigued, you’re at a much higher risk of causing an accident. According to the Highway Code, you should take a break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours of driving – so make sure you’re pulling in for a break and stretch your legs as often as you need to this Christmas.
You should take all the necessary precautions, whether you’re driving with family or alone. Always be prepared for the worst, and make sure you have the essentials on board should you break down in the cold winter weather.
Keep a winter breakdown kit in your car, consisting of (but not limited to):
· Extra warm clothes, coats and jackets
· Jump leads
· Food and drink
· A torch
· Portable charger
· First aid kit
Make sure your vehicle is up to scratch
Finally, just make sure your car is up to scratch – get your MOTs and services done, and if you’re looking for a new car, we recommend a 4x4 to help tackle the Christmas period.