Lifestyle Guides

A guide for safe summer driving

couple driving in the sun

With summer fast approaching, many of us will want to make the most of the warm weather and get out onto the road. But driving in hot conditions can pose significant challenges and risks, even to the safest of drivers.

From the glare of direct sunlight to increased traffic and potential heat exhaustion, there are a number of hazards to consider when setting off in the summer.

Here’s our top tips to help you keep your cool behind the wheel, even when it’s hot.

Maintain your vehicle

Before you head off you should check your car's oil, coolant and windscreen washer fluid levels. Engines are prone to overheating during the summer and oil and coolant are essential for cooling down your engine and keeping it running when it’s being pushed to the extreme.

Also check tyre pressures and their general condition (legally the tread should be a minimum of 1.6mm). Worn or damaged tyres can dramatically increase the chances of punctures and accidents.

Finally, make sure your car's lights (headlights, rear lights, brake lights, hazard lights, registration plate lights and indicators) are all working.

Not sure how to carry out these checks? Read our maintenance guide.

man-checking-oil-in-a-car

Stay hydrated and keep cool

Take plenty of water with you before heading out on a long journey, and wear light clothing if it’s warm outside as even with air con it can get very hot in the vehicle.

Open doors and windows before you set off and allow a few extra minutes to circulate air to help cool your car down and ease discomfort. Remember to keep doors and windows locked when leaving your vehicle unattended.

Bring an extra pair of appropriate driving shoes if you’re heading to the beach, as driving barefoot or in flip flops can be dangerous.

Plan your route in advance

As traffic increases during the summer thanks to tourists and holidaymakers packing the roads, expect journey times to increase and possible traffic jams along the way.

If your journey is likely to be longer than two hours, plan a route with plenty of breaks along the way.

Consider allergies

Allergies can seriously affect your driving, so if you suffer from hay fever, check the pollen forecast and stop driving if you have any flare ups.

Certain antihistamines and hay fever tablets can not only impair your ability to drive, but could cause you to fail the driving drug test. This could see you fined up to £5,000 and have points added to your licence.

If you're taking over the counter or prescription drugs for hay fever, check the information before you drive.

Stay in the shade

Parking your car in the shade is always a good idea during extreme hot weather, but remember that the sun moves, so what's shade in the morning can be full sunlight in the afternoon.

Apart from being cooler, it can also benefit your car’s battery which contains water and acid. The water will evaporate faster than the acid in hot temperatures, leaving the lead plates bare, which can damage the battery.

It also might be worth investing in a windscreen sunshade which will keep the sun's rays away from your car’s interior.

Beware of glare

Glare from the sun can impact vision and dazzle you while driving. Reduce the effects by wearing sunglasses, using your sun visor and making sure your windscreen is clean before setting off.

Don’t drive when you’re tired

Driving when tired can be dangerous, and the warm weather can make you drowsy. Keep a bottle of water in your vehicle to keep yourself hydrated and alert.

Include several short stops over the course of your journey.

Stay alert

Driving at any time, but particularly during the summer holidays in soaring temperatures, can be tiring. Many parents head out on road trips with their children, while other drivers struggle to keep their cool.

Watch your speed and stay vigilant at all times, especially of erratic driving from other motorists. Keep focused and avoid getting distracted.

two-children-and-a-dog-in-a-car

What to do if you break down

Breaking down is frustrating no matter what time of year it is, so it’s important to be prepared. That why you need the right breakdown cover for your circumstance.

Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle, this might include a coat, torch and portable phone charger. A full list of emergency items to keep to hand can be found here

If you break down on a motorway, you can call from an emergency SOS phone and your breakdown provider can call you back on your mobile with any updates if necessary.

We understand no matter how prepared you are accidents happen, so contact us immediately if you need our help.

I'm an experienced journalist, digital editor and copywriter, now specialising in motoring. I’m editor of Automotive Blog and have worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online for household names including the BBC, GMTV, ITV and MSN. I’ve produced digital content in the financial sector for Lloyds Bank, Nationwide and the Money Advice Service. I'm married with two children and live near Bath in Somerset.

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