Check your car Basic checks before you set out can save a world of pain if your car breaks down during the journey. As a minimum, check the engine oil, coolant and screen-wash levels are correct. Additionally, check the car’s tyres for tread and pressure – and don’t forget to make sure you have enough fuel too. Running out of fuel is one of the most common causes of breakdown on the UK’s motorway network.
Check ahead If the weather’s good and it’s a weekend, bank holiday or the ‘summer season’, then check an online route planner or a mobile phone app for traffic updates. You might also be able to pick up the latest travel news on local radio. Even on an ordinary weekday it’s still worth checking for updates in case of accidents or unexpected closures. You can get a summary of current traffic conditions in England on the Highways England website. Roads and motorways in Scotland are the responsibility of Transport Scotland, while those in Wales are looked after by the Welsh Assembly Government.
Remember, rule 149 of the Highway Code states that you MUST NOT use a hand-held mobile phone or similar device when you’re driving. Make sure that you check the travel news before you leave, or use the live traffic function if you own a sat-nav with traffic update features.
Go your own way Some stretches of road – such as the A47, which leads to the Norfolk coast, or the A39, which heads toward the seaside in the south west – are notorious for heavy, slow-moving traffic. Plan an alternative route to your destination if you can.
Strategic timing Avoid travelling back on a Sunday evening before a school term starts. And if you’re on holiday, but everyone else is toiling away at work, then plan your trips to avoid rush hour.
Drink In general you should always look to stop in a safe place before you eat and drink. Avoid getting over-tired or dehydrated; take frequent breaks from driving to rest, drink and eat. These breaks won’t add much to your journey time, but they’ll help to keep up your concentration levels while you’re driving.
Keep ‘em happy If you’re travelling with children, pack toys and games that will keep them occupied and reduce the chances of them distracting your attention from the road.
Stay sharp Keeping a regular supply of cool air circulating inside the car will help you stay comfortable and alert.
Beware of the glare Driving in summer can mean bright sun and tired eyes. Keep your windscreen clean, use your sun visor and wear sunglasses if it helps.