Temperatures across the UK have soared to 30 degrees and more this week, and as Coronavirus restrictions begin to be relaxed across the UK, more people are heading out on the road for day trips and to visit friends and family. Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart Head of Driving & Riding Standards offers his top tips to staying safe behind the wheel in the hot weather.
• Plan your journey ahead of time to ensure you know when and where to take breaks as not everywhere you may be fully open. Before you leave, make sure you check for any traffic updates or new road layouts implemented during Coronavirus lockdown that may cause a delay or require you to re-route.
• Check your car before you leave. This should include, tyre pressures, tread depth and condition, and checking fluids. Top up your oil (if needed) and check for any underlying problems before you set out on your journey. A good starting point is to do your POWDERY checks.
• Make sure you can see clearly, as glare from the sun on hot days can affect your vision:
o Clean your windscreen both inside and out to prevent any dirt magnifying the glare.
o On the outside, check for chips or cracks, replace worn wiper blades and make sure your washer bottle is kept well topped up with good quality screen wash.
o Keep a cloth or chamois handy to wipe away any dirt or dust that builds up on the inside during your journey.
o Use your sun visor – it may sound pretty obvious, but a surprising number of people forget.
o Invest in polarised sunglasses and remember to take a rest. Your eyes will strain quickly if you are squinting. Read our sunglasses tips for more information.
o If you are wearing sunglasses, bear in mind that the protection they offer will be magnified by any tinted windows and remember to keep them clean – it’s amazing how distorting a sun cream fog can be. Be ready to take them off in tunnels or shaded areas but keep them close to hand.
o Remember that when the sun is low behind you, you might be able to see just fine, but oncoming drivers might not see you. Be extra aware and consider moving slightly to the nearside to create a safety gap.
o If you are dazzled by the sun, slow down and leave extra space between yourself and the driver ahead. This will give you more time to regain full control and assess the situation.
• Stay hydrated. Keep bottles of water in your car in case of any emergencies. We recommend having plenty of water as it is essential to stay hydrated to maintain concentration and control body temperature.
• Driving in the heat can cause fatigue. Concentration starts to slip after two hours of driving. Make sure you take frequent breaks to stretch your legs. We recommend you break for at least 15 minutes every two hours or 100 miles.
• Try to park in a shaded spot. Leaving the car beneath the cover of a tree, in a garage or in an area where the sun is blocked will help keep the temperature in the car cool and bearable for when you return. If this is not possible, screen and window shades can help reduce the impact of the heat of the sun building up inside your car. Don’t leave glasses or sunglasses in the car in direct sunlight, as they can magnify the heat and cause damage.
• Create an emergency kit. Drinks, snacks, a charger for your mobile phone, and a roadmap for any last-minute detours or in case you lose connection can be useful. During the Coronavirus, you’ll also need gloves, face masks and hand gel. If you’re travelling with children, remember to bring some entertainment to make the journey less stressful.
• If travelling with your dog, don’t forget that it can only take a few minutes for it to become very distressed and start suffering from heatstroke in hot conditions. On a 32°C day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 42°C in less than 10 minutes. Don’t leave your dog in a stationary vehicle in the heat, even with window open and ensure they remain hydrated with regular breaks for exercise and refreshment. You can see our full set of driving safely with pets here.
Richard said: “Preparation is key to an enjoyable trip. A well-maintained car and a fully fit and prepared driver can make the difference between a pleasant day out to the countryside or a holiday destination and a nightmare journey to be endured. Whilst the trip may be about the destination, it is much better if the journey is enjoyable too.”