Tips for Christmas Driving


The Christmas break is here! And this can only mean one of three things: bad weather, family feuds and traffic chaos – bah humbug! Try to spend more time around the tree than on the road this Christmas, but if you do have to brave the cold, here’s 12 tips to see you driving safely into the new year…

1: Plan your route

This is vital and can ultimately make for a less-stressful, more-enjoyable drive. If you’re visiting an unfamiliar spot, make sure you know where you’re heading – think about things like traffic and weather conditions too!
Remember to give yourself more time. Getting from A to B can take a lot longer this time of year. If you’re worried about the harsh conditions, check out the Met Office and give them a follow @metoffice – that way, you can keep updated on the road should the weather take a turn for the worse!

In situations where the weather is exceptionally bad, ask yourself if the drive is worth the risk.
2: Make a list (check it once, check it twice)
We know this time of year is all about making lists… card lists, present lists, festive food lists, to-do lists, Santa’s naughty list and the list goes on…
This year, when sitting down to write your Christmas cards, it may be worth considering the most crucial list of all…
Before getting behind the wheel this winter, make an emergency car checklist. Prepare for every eventuality!
There’s a few things to consider bringing…

• Ice scraper
• Snow shovel
• Warm clothes and footwear (like wellies!)
• Bottled water and energy bars
• Torch and spare batteries – although wind-up torches do the job just as well!
• Mobile phone and portable charger
• Blanket or sleeping bag
• First aid kit
• Tow rope
• A hazard-warning triangle
• De-icing equipment
• Jump leads
• High-visibility jacket
• Sand or cat litter – sprinkle some underneath your tyres to build traction, should you get stuck in the snow!

3: Remember the 2-second rule

Behind the wheel, if you notice your hands turning blue, you may not feel the need to remind yourself it’s winter, but you’d be silly not to. No matter how long or short your journey this Christmas, be more vigilant on the roads.
Remind yourself of the 2-second rule between you and the car in front, and drive more slowly so you can keep a look out for obstacles along the way. Be extra alert for icy roads – it is winter after all.

4: Fuel up this festive season

Just like you, your car will need extra fuel this festive season. Keep your tank topped up above a quarter and make regular petrol pit stops! You never know when your journey could take longer than expected as road closures can crop up anywhere this time of year, leaving you to take the long way round…
Tip: Download a petrol-finder app like WhatGas or go one step further and track your expenses with an app like Fuel Monitor.
For members of the AA, their app offers breakdown recovery requests and fuel price comparisons for Silver and Gold members!
Tip: No matter how handy the latest apps are, make sure not to use them while you’re at the wheel. A nasty crash could really ruin your Christmas.

5: Be a de-icing pro!

Just follow our tips to keep your car ready for action:
1. Never use hot water to melt the ice on your car – a cracked windscreen isn’t a good look!
2. Never use metal to scrape away at the surface of your car. Instead, turn your defrosting settings up and wipe away the ice with a soft-haired brush.
3. Never take a naked flame to your lock if it’s frozen over, instead, spray a little WD40 over the area, avoiding your paintwork!
4. Finish up by removing the snow from the roof of your car. This will stop you having an avalanche five minutes down the road.

6: Learn your dashboard lights

In snowy settings, traction control stops your rear wheels leaving you in a spin. Make sure you look up in your car manual your ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) or traction-control lights so you know what they look like if they were to flash up on your dashboard.
Most modern cars are filled with sensors to monitor both how your vehicle is behaving. If a warning light comes on and stays on you should stop as soon as possible in a safe place.
Many warning lights are specific to your car so look them up in your vehicle handbook for a detailed explanation of their meaning and the appropriate action to take.

7: Consider winter tyres

Whether you choose to wear winter tyres or not this season, make sure they have a tread of at least 3mm all the way round.
If you do swap your tyres, here’s two things to keep in mind:
1) They should always be fitted as a set of four, otherwise the stability of the car could be off.
2) Some insurers need to be informed of the change in tyre so double check your insurance policy.

8: Stop, look, listen!

The Highway Code states that fog lights must be used when visibility is less than 100 metres. This is typically in heavy-fog conditions. Knowing where your fog lights are before you set off is a good idea. Don’t make the mistake of confusing fog lights with your full beam either!
Tip: If visibility is reduced, wind down your window at junctions to listen out for traffic. If visibility is really reduced, consider pulling over in a safe place until the fog has lifted.

9: Re-charge your batteries

Nothing beats warming yourself by the fire this time of year. Just remember that your car suffers from the cold too…
With battery problems the biggest reason for breaking down, it’s essential to make sure yours remains in tip-top condition. Things like running heaters and lights for long periods of time can all have an effect on a battery’s longevity. Colder temperatures can affect the output of your battery and, more importantly, its ability to accept charge.
Here are 3 ways you can avoid a flat battery this winter:
1. Test your battery regularly to see when you’re running low
2. Ask yourself how old your battery is. They rarely last longer than 5 years!
3. Short journeys your thing? Invest in an intelligent charger to keep your battery topped up without overcharging it.

10: Look forward to the new year

Weather, this time of year, can bring with it a whole load of grit and grime. If you can’t see the road ahead, it probably means it’s time to clean your windscreen.
When de-icing your car in the morning, don’t rush! If you do a bad job, it’ll mean your windscreen will be streaky for the rest of the day.
Did you know? Driving with your visibility obscured is a finable offence!
Tip: Don’t forget to clean the inside of your windscreen too!

11: Screen wash is essential

If you’re jetting off this Christmas, you’ll need to make sure your early morning airport run is as stress-free as possible. Here’s where screen wash comes in…
We all know it can be a life-saver this time of year. Normally a 50/50 (half water, half screen wash) mix will do the job to ensure you can see what’s ahead. During the winter, you can also buy pre-mixed fluid, which has anti-freeze blended in.
Check the instructions before filling up, as you may need to clear your fluid reservoir before adding it.
Tip: Keep some extra screen wash in the car when travelling for those emergency, need-to-see moments!

12: In the snow? Go with the flow…

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, remember that the reality of driving is always a bit different…
Stopping distances are 10 times longer when driving in ice and snow!
If you do find yourself in a sticky, snowy, situation remember these key points:
• If you feel like you’re starting to glide, steer into the slide. Remember to keep steering until you’ve straightened up!
• Slow and steady – especially when you’re on a hill and stopping and starting just isn’t an option.
• Pull away in second gear to get more grip. If you’re driving an automatic, check your handbook for changing your car’s mode to suit your conditions.
• Finally, don’t put your foot in it! Apply the brakes gently and, if the car starts to slide, take your foot off the brake immediately.
Well, there it is! We hope this advice helps and you have a safe and secure Christmas.

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