It’s around three weeks to the start of the festive season and many of us will be, in the words of Chris Rea, ‘Driving Home For Christmas’. Forget for now the joy of being together as a family or with friends over the Christmas period and consider how many people will be unprepared for a journey that can be several hundred miles long.
At other times of year this may have less of an impact but several factors mean that the lack of preparedness can be dangerous. From poor weather, stress about the cost of Christmas and being with family for long periods and rising alcohol levels as we all get into the Christmas spirit, it’s worth taking a step back for now and thinking carefully about how to get home safely for Christmas.
Check Your Car
Basics that should be checked before any long journey often get missed at busy times but it’s vital you check the following:
Check the Weather
- Tyre quality and pressure – remember in poor conditions it pays to lower the pressure in the tyre for extra grip but balance that with extra load being carried.
- Many car repair centres do a free brake check – again vital, especially if conditions are going to be wet or icy.
- Make sure you have de-icer and that you’ve topped up the cooling system with anti-freeze – remember to avoid getting it on your paintwork! Don’t forget the windscreen washer bottle – screenwash in it too(not just water as it's liable to freeze), and check the wiper blades!
- Carry a blanket, torch and if possible a shovel, camping shops often sell fold up ones that don’t take up much space.
- Keep some sweets or snacks in the car as well as some water – even in cold weather you need to drink.
- Check that all your lights are working properly including hazard warning lights and in giving the car a final wash, pay particular attention to the lenses. If driving in slushy or rainy conditions, you should clean them off from time to time during your journey for optimum visibility.
- Being prepared for different driving conditions is essential. We all hope for a sunny, dry day to drive on but winter sun is often at a low angle making visibility difficult. Most journeys home are likely to be in the late afternoon or evening when it’s dark and with poor weather conditions, you should allow extra time on your journey. If delayed, one of the worst things to do is too speed up on the remainder of the journey to make up time – it’s an accident waiting to happen.
- Don’t forget to check traffic reports too. Better to have a few more hours at home than to be stuck in a queue.
- Don’t drive soon after an office party – many who are caught for drink driving have been to lunchtime parties and then thought they were clear for the evening. Alcohol, particularly large amounts can stay in the bloodstream for a day, so if in doubt, wait or use a self-testing kit to make sure.
- Don’t drive if feeling tired or unwell. If this happens during your journey and you’re alone, stop somewhere safe to get some air and maybe a coffee and some carbohydrates. If driving with friends or family, take it in turns to drive and as soon as fatigue hits, swap over.
A stressful last day trying to get everything done for when the office closes can leave you tired and edgy. Take a few hours rest and do something relaxing if you can. Start planning your journey now, get all the checks done on your car over the next few weeks and you’ll have a stress free start to a Happy Christmas!