The Seasonal Getaway

In interview for the BBC Radio 4 programme Today in 2009 Chris Rea said he wrote “Driving Home for Christmas” many years before its first recording; this was in 1978, and Rea needed to get home to Middlesbrough from Abbey Road Studios in London. His wife had come down to drive him home in her Austin Mini to save money because it was cheaper to drive than travel by train. The inspiration for the song came as they were getting stuck in heavy traffic, while the snow was falling. He started looking at the other drivers, who “all looked so miserable. Jokingly, I started singing: “We’re driving home for Christmas …”

(From Wikipedia)

Most of us travel at some stage over the festive period, and sharing the road with what can feel like the entire population can be stressful, as Chris Rea discovered.

So, here are some tips to help make your journey less stressful.

Plan your journey before you set off. Having a full understanding of your route allows the drive to be smoother and also lets you know where you can take breaks. If you’re too tired to drive then delay your journey. And if you begin to feel tired on the way, then take a rest break. A coffee and a 20-minute stop are the bare minimum to help you stay alert. In any case, your journey should be planned with breaks every 2 hours. It’s not a good idea to rely on caffeine or energy drinks alone. Caffeine based products are a temporary fix that will only allow you to stay awake for a short period of time.

Check the weather forecast. The weather, especially British weather, can be unpredictable in winter. Relying on the roads being gritted can sometimes prove to be a disappointment but main routes do tend to be treated first, so stick to them. Don’t forget to check for weather or traffic-related updates so you can allow more time to travel.

Packing the car can leave you fraught. Make a check list of everything you need and try to ensure there are no loose parcels that could turn into missiles in the event of having to brake in an emergency. Leave all your presents and electrical items out of sight. Don’t give the thieves something to be happy about this season! Carry an emergency pack with some food and drink, a fully charged mobile and basic tools such as an ice scraper, shovel and a high-visibility jacket.

Try and avoid setting off at peak times which includes early afternoon on Christmas Eve as this is when many motorists will start their journey. With Christmas Eve falling on a Monday this year, you might be able to travel on a different day. But remember, there’s a chance some filling stations will be closed over the Christmas period. Make sure you have all the fuel you need for a long journey plus a bit more in case you get held up. Top up all key fluids and check tyres, wipers and lights well before you set off.

One final thought:

If the festive party went on into the early hours of the day of travel, then make sure you are not over the limit ‘the morning after’. Don’t risk it! As a rough guide it takes the body one hour to rid itself of one unit of alcohol (a strong pint of lager or 250ml glass of wine may contain 3 units each). And the clock starts from when you finish drinking, not when you start!

If you can remember what you had, you can always get a rough calculation by CLICKING HERE but it should only be used as a guide.

It’s better to ask someone else to drive or take public transport as opposed to putting yours and other lives at risk by being on the road.

 

Virus-free. www.avg.com

 

Winter Car Washing

Image result for car wash dirtThe season of mists and sprinkling saltiness is now upon us. This time of year, mud, drizzle and the start of the road-salting season all prove a challenge to keeping the paintwork of our vehicles shiny. There are good practical reasons to keep your car looking like your pride and joy.

That layer of grime, salt, tree sap and road grease will dull the paintwork if left undisturbed.  The caked-on chemicals gradually eat into the ultra-smooth top layer, making it rougher at a microscopic level, which stops that glossy showroom sheen.  The move to eco-friendly paints used by the car manufacturers these days are low odour and the ingredients much less harmful.  However, they are also softer than their toxic predecessors and very prone to being permanently marked by bird droppings that are left on for any more than a couple of days and the build-up of dried on road spray.

A thorough wash will stop that action and even if the car gets covered in road dirt the following day, the dulling process will take time to re-start.  If you polish it as well, the new look will last even longer as the polish acts as a barrier between the paint and the dirt.  Regular washing will keep the car looking new underneath the dirt for much longer! Perhaps your car has had a ceramic-coat paint protection professionally applied to your vehicle when first registered. (A ceramic-coat paint sealant leaves an extremely durable and high-gloss finish which prevents pollutants from impacting the car’s paintwork and does make cleaning much easier.)

Image result for car washSo, you face two choices. If you really can’t stand the thought of getting a bucket and sponge out, a hand car wash near you is one of the best value things a fiver will buy these days; maybe a couple of quid more if you have an SUV. They often do an excellent and thorough job – wheels, door shuts, tyre shine and all. And, of course, there is always the local automated car wash technology which has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years.

Alternatively, the bucket-and-sponge option can be satisfying and it is very healthy exercise!  Various estimates fly around the internet, but burning about 300 calories by washing a car and anything up to 1,000 if you polish it as well, seems a common view. (Isn’t it amazing the information that is available on the internet!)   

Use a proper car shampoo, NOT washing up liquid.  Fill a bucket with hot water (and wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the cold.) and don’t overdo the shampoo – too much and you’ll have lots of streaks. Wet the car body all over first, to soften the dirt, then plunge in with the sponge.  Start with the roof and end with the wheels, then rinse off, stand back and admire your work.  Use a leather or microfibre cloth to dry it – or just go for a drive for a couple of miles. Finally, get a cloth, open the doors, wipe the sills and door shut areas and enjoy the smug feeling as you look at your gleaming pride next to all the mud spattered, salt encrusted neighbours . . . until the next day, of course, when your car will be indistinguishable from the rest.  But you had some healthy exercise, the dirt isn’t eating away at the shine and anyway, you know it’s gleaming underneath the dirt.


Driving in Low Sun

While any amount of sunshine is welcomed at this time of year, the glaring low winter sun is taking no prisoners. Often the low level of the sun is much worse during the morning and evening commute and, if the traffic is moving slowly, several miles of facing into the bright sunlight, as invariably the sun is below the level of the sun visor, can put quite a strain on a driver’s eyes.

So, what can a motorist do to cope in these conditions?

Dirty windscreens make it even more difficult for drivers to see in the low sun. The heater is often on the de-mist setting, blowing traffic fumes, suspended oil and smoke onto the inside of the screen which quickly builds up a film of grime which is a major cause of glare. Clean the screen inside and out with glass cleaner at least once a week.

Image result for sun visorUse the sun visor or wear a baseball cap or wide brimmed hat. Just ensure you can still see the road ahead!

Always keep a good pair of sunglasses in the car – they really will make a big difference. Remember to remove them once the sun has set.

If you can’t see because of the sun, do the obvious thing and slow down, keeping an eye on the vehicle behind in case the following traffic can’t see you against the sun. Also, leave extra space between you and the driver ahead if you are dazzled. This will give you more time to regain full control and assess the situation.

Image result for sun behind carIf the sun is behind you, it’s in the eyes of drivers coming towards you – be aware that they might not see you or the road markings between you and them. Switching on the car’s dipped headlights will help oncoming drivers see your vehicle and judge speed and distance.

Low sun behind can dazzle you via your mirrors, so be ready to dip the mirror and remember to check over your shoulder for vehicles in your blind spot.

Low sun highlights windscreen scratches and grime which can hinder your view, so keep the washer bottle topped up with a good quality screen wash and change the wipers at the first signs of wear.

Image result for cataract vision dark examplesThere are eye conditions, such as early cataract growth, where looking towards the sunlight gives much worse vision than when looking away from it. These drivers may well be able to drive quite legally, once advised by an optometrist, but should be aware of their condition and drive with extra care or even postpone a journey until light conditions are more favourable. Perhaps that advice would help us all.

Don’t be a Space Invader

Don’t be a Space Invader’ – stay safe, stay back says Highways England.

That is the message from Highways England as it reveals the extent – and impact – of tailgating on the country’s major roads and motorways.

New figures show that one in eight of all road casualties are caused by people who drive too close to the vehicle in front, with more than 100 people killed or seriously injured each year.

While a small minority of tailgating is deliberate, most is unintentional by drivers who are simply unaware they are dangerously invading someone else’s space.

So, a safety campaign, launched 17th September, uses the well-known Space Invader video game character to alert drivers to the anti-social nature and risks of tailgating.

Highways England says good drivers leave plenty of safe space for themselves and others.

Richard Leonard, Head of Road Safety at Highways England, says:

If you get too close to the car in front, you won’t be able to react and stop in time if they suddenly brake.

Tailgating makes the driver in front feel targeted and victimised, distracting their attention from the road ahead and making them more likely to make a mistake.

It is intimidating and frightening if you’re on the receiving end. If that leads to a collision, then people in both vehicles could end up seriously injured or killed. We want everyone to travel safely, so the advice is – stay safe, stay back.”

If you wonder whether you are ‘space invading’, then remember the Highway Code, which says that drivers should allow at least a two second gap, which should be doubled on wet roads. If you are tailgated, then avoid speeding up, slowing down or staring in the rear-view mirror. Reduce the risk to yourself by driving normally, signalling clearly and allowing people to overtake.

Highways England has a dedicated webpage where drivers can find more information about tailgating and what they can do to stay safe.

Preparing for Winter

Image result for autumn driving ukIt’s that time of year. Too late for holiday advice, too early to panic about blizzards or shortage of road salt, so every motoring organisation and journal will be dusting off the “Prepare your car for winter” press release.

Check the lights, inspect the tyres, test the antifreeze… heard it all before?  Of course, you have; the same advice has been trotted out every year since the Cortina was a best seller and the Mini was a small car.

Cars change and technology moves on. Let’s assume you know how to check your lights and tyres; instead, here are a few tips to keep you and your 21st century car on the winter roads with everything working the way it should. 

SONY DSC

Washers. Yes, fill the washer reservoir with washer fluid and check the spray nozzles are clear, but don’t forget the headlamp washers. If your car has Xenon lights (also called HID), there will be high pressure washers, usually under a flap in the front bumper. These must be working, otherwise you risk dazzling other motorists when the lens gets dirty. To check them turn on the headlamps, operate the windscreen washers and get a friend to watch the lights or look for the spray which you’ll see over the front of the bonnet.

Light level switch.  Talking of dazzling other drivers, if you don’t have Xenon lamps, you will probably have a headlamp level switch, usually numbered 0 to 4. You’re supposed to turn the switch according to how the car is loaded. Many of the complaints about dazzling headlights are because people forget to adjust the level.  0 is usually just the driver and no luggage, 4 is for a full load, but check the handbook for your car.  

Leaves. Leaves never used to hurt a car but they can now! Lift the bonnet, look in the engine bay around the area of the bonnet hinges. You’ll see a chamber on each side that collects water as it drains from the windscreen. These chambers have drain holes in the bottom to keep them dry, but leaves can block the drains. If water stays in the chambers it can leak into the car, often soaking sensitive electronic bits, leading to very expensive repairs.  Get any leaves or other debris out of the chambers and if water is present, root around until you find the drain holes and unblock them.

Image result for steamy windowsSteamy windows. Get some soapy water and kitchen roll or a clean microfibre cloth and clean the insides of all the windows.  Getting them squeaky clean will dramatically reduce the glare from the low autumn sun on morning and evening drives and it will make the windows much less likely to mist up in damp weather. It also means you’ll waste less fuel because you won’t need to turn on heated windows and air conditioning in a bid to clear them.

Cabin air filter. Today’s cars have a filter for the air entering the car through the heater. Often called the pollen filter, it can often get overlooked at a service and if it’s full of dirt, your heater will be much less efficient. Worse still, if it’s wet – which can happen if you don’t clear those leaves out of the chambers – your windows will constantly mist up as the heater pumps damp air into them.  Changing the filter is usually a simple DIY job – look in the owner’s handbook – and the filters are quite cheap and widely available online.

By Tim Shallcross, IAM RoadSmart head of technical policy

Back to School

Image result for school runThe school summer holidays are at an end and for some parents not a moment too soon.  Order and normality will resume along with the dreaded school run which starts again for another year. Derby Advanced Motorists offer the following tips to drivers on how to survive the term time road rush.

Make sure everyone is in the right seat. If you use child or booster seats, make sure they are still fit for purpose and correctly secured.

Check out Good Egg for some top tips: http://www.goodeggcarsafety.com/

Pack for success. Dependent on the age of the little one pack some healthy treats to distract them and keep them engaged, even on a short journey

Leave enough time. Setting off for school can be frustrating and rushed experience with the constant reminding you have to do about PE kit, and other important forgotten or last-minute things.  A half-eaten breakfast and badly combed hair can put both you and your child in the wrong frame of mind for the start of the day

It’s not a race. In many areas with local schools the motto is ‘20’s plenty.’ Remember that this is limit, not a target. Always help out the school crossing patrol, you will get a friendly wave and a smile

Start them while they’re young. Teach your children about road safety so they know how to behave around moving traffic. Setting a good example while in the driving seat will stay with them in preparation for when they learn to drive. Parking in a safe place and walking the last few metres will not just help with congestion; it will also allow you to teach them the right way to cross a road looking left and right (then right again for us Green Cross code users). Teaching children to use the road sensibly will save lives

Remember, traffic always picks up again after the school holidays so journeys will take longer and potentially be more stressful.  Make sure the car is fuelled up and fit and ready for stop-start traffic so you have one less thing to worry about. Due to close supervision children are normally very safe around schools but you can help by taking care. Be aware that after school they are much more likely to be playing in and around the street and safety can be the last thing on their minds after a hard day in the classroom.

From an article by Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards

The Bank Holiday Get-away

If you’re planning a bank holiday getaway then be sure to read our tips on how you can make your journey a safe and stress-free one.

We asked IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards, Richard Gladman, for some tips to help you prepare for your journey.

Richard said: “With so much planning involved in a holiday, many of us forget about the first bit – how we get to our destination.

“If your journey is a long one, take some time to plan where and when you will be taking a break – just so you can get a little rest and have some water to stay hydrated. Enjoy the journey and more importantly, enjoy the getaway.”

A little preparation goes a long way! Take some time to check your vehicle inside and out before you set off. Check the tyre pressure and fluid levels are right and make sure your car ancillaries are working properly.

Secure your luggage in your boot so it’s out of the way and doesn’t obstruct your view.

Give yourself plenty of time for the journey and check the news for any traffic updates and roadworks.
Traffic England:
http://www.trafficengland.com/
Weather Forecast:
https://www.metoffice.gov.uk

If you’re travelling during the early hours of the day or late in the evening make sure you take some rest beforehand and eat something light so you don’t feel sluggish before you leave.

If you plan on using a satnav don’t forget to programme in the destination before you leave and check it. Leave plenty of time for the journey so you don’t find yourself pushed for time.

Make sure you take regular rest breaks to split up the journey when driving on a long, boring stretch of a motorway. It’s good practise to stop at least every two hours.

(Photo courtesy www.plymouthherald.co.uk)