Summer driving safety. Stay safe, stay legal! 

Isn’t it nice now the evenings are lighter, the weekends are warmer and all of a sudden there’s a lot more to do and see. You may have some weekends away that you’re looking forward to or you may be taking the children out for the day. There’s likely to be more traffic on the roads especially in the summer holidays so with this in mind, we have highlighted some important safety tips for when you’re out and about.

How safe is your outfit?

Footwear

We’ve all experienced the intense heat when opening a car on a hot day and this might make us want to ditch the heavy but sensible trainers for cooling flip flops or sandals and some people may even think about driving barefoot! Although driving wearing flip flops is not illegal, your choice of footwear must not affect your ability to control your car. Rule 97 of The Highway Code states: ‘You should ensure that clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner’. Although it may be more comfortable to wear lighter footwear such as flip flops, it may not provide you with enough grip on the pedals and could affect the safety of you and others. Therefore, if you feel you do not have full control of your car with the shoes you are wearing, it would be wise to swap them and avoid the risk.

Sunglasses

Sunglasses and driving in nice weather often go hand in hand, especially when the sun is low in the sky mostly first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. However, some styles of sunglasses could land you with a hefty fine and points on your license. The Highway Code states that:

  • Day time driving - ‘if you are dazzled by bright sunlight, slow down and if necessary, stop.’
  • Night driving - ‘At night or in poor visibility do not to use tinted, glasses, lenses or visors if they restrict your vision’.

If a driver ignores these rules and drives dazzled by sunlight or not able to see due to the darkness of their glasses, it could be classed as careless driving which is an on the spot fine of £100 and three points. Therefore, checking that your sunglasses are suitable is essential before setting off on your journey.

So there are wo things you need to think about when selecting sunglasses for driving:

1. How dark is the tint in your sunglasses?

2. How much light do the sunglasses allow in

Tinted lenses have different grades depending on the tint density and all sunglasses should include a label with a category number. The category number represents the filter. 

As well as knowing the different levels of tints that sunglasses have, it’s important to know the difference between fixed and variable lenses.

Fixed

Fixed tint lenses stay the same even when light conditions change. Sunglasses with polarised lenses tend to have the fixed tint lenses which can help to reduce any glare.

Variable

Variable tint lenses can also be known as photochromic lenses which unlike fixed lenses, change when reacting with different light. These lenses are not suitable for driving, as car windscreens filter out UV light which means the lenses reaction will be affected. If you have prescription glasses and are unsure as to whether you can drive wearing your glasses, its best to check with your opticians for advice.

Overall it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that they have clear vision on the road so it’s worth checking if your sunglasses are suitable. Here are some things to remember:

  • Check whether you need prescription glasses. If you do, you may need certain lenses for sunglasses too!
  • Be aware of the different tints and lenses that are available
  • Understand that not all general sunglasses are suitable for driving

Can I use my phone as a Sat Nav?

Now you have your clothing sorted, it’s time to plan your journey. If you’re planning to go to a new town or city, the last thing you want is to get lost, so you may need your Sat Nav to get you there. Now the big question… is it illegal to use my mobile phone as a Sat Nav? Although it has been illegal to drive while using a hand held mobile phone since December 2003, the tougher penalties that were introduced in May 2018 could see drivers breaking the law unknowingly. If drivers are caught holding or touching their mobile phone while driving, they will receive six penalty points and a fine of £200. This applies for drivers that are sat in traffic too, so under no circumstances should a phone be touched while driving. If you need to use your phone for a Sat Nav, you should follow these two simple steps:

1. Ensure you have a secure phone holder – You will need to be able to hear or see instructions so a phone holder will allow you to do this. These can be purchased to fit on the dashboard and won’t affect your vision of the windscreen.

2. Programme your route- A good tip is to ensure you programme your route before setting off and ensure you’re happy with it. Also, be wary that your phone may advise you of a quicker route while on the roads. If this is the case, either ignore the message or pull over in a safe place, switch your car’s engine off and then use your phone. Alternatively, you may be able to put your phone in driving mode so you don’t get distracted on the roads.

Is carrying a roof or bike rack safe?

If you are going on a UK break, you may be looking to take your bikes or a roof rack if the room in your boot is limited. If so here are some safety points to consider:

Follow the instructions

If you have purchased a roof rack, the best thing to do is follow the instructions that came with it. These instructions should include advice on where to attach the rack. It may also give you information on weight restrictions, as you do not want to overload.

Keep heavy items inside

If you are planning to take a music speaker, golf clubs or anything that will add weight, its best to keep these inside your car, rather than on top of it. However, it’s also worth remembering that your car will have a maximum weight limit so consider this when packing.

Think about your tyres

If you’re planning to take extra weight with you on your travels, you need to ensure that your tyre pressure is sufficient. You can find the information on your tyre pressure in your car’s handbook or on the tyres themselves.

Stop and check

If you’re travelling for hours on end, you’re most likely going to have regular breaks. When you come to stop for a break, it may be worth checking your bike or roof rack to ensure nothing has come loose. If it seems to be moving more than when you set off, simply tighten the rack before heading off again.

Wide load

If you have attached your bikes to the back off your car, you may notice that they stick out at either side. This is worth remembering when driving through small villages and country lanes and ensure you allow yourself extra space when passing stationary cars.

Keep your number plate visible

When attaching anything to the back of your car, it’s vital that your number plate is kept clear at all times so it is readable. If your bike rack is blocking your number plate, you must re-position it so that your number plate can be seen. Drivers can be fined up to £1,000 if they drive with incorrectly displayed number plates.

What’s the rules on carrying pets in a car?

There’s nothing better than being able to take your dog away on holiday, not only does it encourage you to get out on long walks but it also removes the hassle of having to organise care for your dog while you’re away. If you’ve not travelled with your pet before you may have concerns over the security of you and your pet while driving, however with the right equipment and planning, your trip can be an enjoyable and safe one. Follow these steps below:

Fasten up

Rule 57 of The Highway Code states ‘when in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars. You can purchase a harness online which clips to your dog’s collar and the seatbelt holder which will keep your dog restrained. Alternatively, if your boot is big enough, you could look to take a cage.

Give them the break

Humans need regular breaks so the same rule should apply to dogs. If you’ve been travelling for a while, take a break and let your dog stretch its legs. This will prevent your dog from getting restless during the journey.

For more information on travelling with pets, visit our blog here.

Is it illegal to eat and drink at the wheel?

Driving with one hand on the wheel is not illegal but rule 160 of The Highway Code advises driving with both hands on the wheel where possible as this will help you to remain in full control of the vehicles at all times. Therefore, driving with food or a drink in your hand may affect your control of the vehicle. If food and drink causes a driver to be distracted, it can be classed as ‘careless driving’ which could cost a driver three points and a £100 fine. We recommend taking regular breaks to stop for food. This way you’ll actually give yourself time to enjoy a well-deserved break.

Can I smoke while driving?

In October 2015, it was made illegal to smoke at the wheel while carrying under 18’s in the car, so if you are taking the children away on holiday, smoking should be avoided at all times while driving. If you need to smoke, take a break!

Will I get stopped for having headphones in while driving?

Most of us love listening to some summer tunes while driving, and usually a radio, CD or auxiliary cable will be used. However, if you have an older car you may not have such luxuries and will need to resort to headphones. Although is it not illegal to drive with headphones in, it is not advised as it could fall under driving offences such as driving without due care and attention which could cost you three points and £100 fine! You may also find yourself holding up emergency vehicles because you haven’t heard the sirens or the risk of a collision may be increased as you may not hear other cars around you.

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