Rainy Day Driving

Rainy Day Driving

The wettest parts of the UK are concentrated in mountainous regions with observation sites in Snowdonia, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands all receiving more than 4 metres of rainfall in a year.

Other rainy parts of the UK include:

  • North west England – especially the Lake District in Cumbria and western facing slopes of the Pennines.

  • Western and central Wales – particularly the mountainous Snowdonia region in the north.

  • South west England – mainly the higher elevation areas of Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor.

  • Parts of Northern Ireland.

For us in the Watnall weather station region, we are likely to get 20 to 25 days rain annually that is greater than 10mm, according to the weather records. There might be 130 to 140 days rain that is greater than 1mm. https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/climate/gcrje93b8

So, in this country, it is going to be difficult to avoid those rainy days when driving.

Driving in heavy rain and flooding can be hazardous. Here are some useful hints and tips to help you prepare for a wet weather drive.

It is always advisable to consider before you set off whether your journey is essential. Of course, one has to get to work or drive the children to school and cannot really delay the time of travel.

First and foremost: Using the car lights correctly when the roads are wet will ensure you can see and be seen. When the rain does start to fall, you should turn the headlights on. Don’t just assume they already are – many cars’ instruments light up even when the headlights are turned off these days, which can be misleading. If your car has daytime running lights you still should switch the dipped headlights on, so vehicles behind you can see the red tail lights. Don’t use rear fog lights unless visibility is less than 100 yards and you cannot see any vehicles behind. Fog lights can mask the brake lights and dazzle drivers behind you

If your car has automatic headlamps, make sure these have activated – or override them manually by turning the headlamp switch to the dipped beam setting.

Slow down! It takes longer to stop or adjust in wet weather and it’s more difficult to see the road ahead/behind. The gap between vehicles should be at least doubled on wet roads, according to the Highway Code – Rule 126 – Stopping Distances. This is because tyres have less grip on the road. In wet weather the rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen so the driver should keep well back from the vehicle in front. This will increase the ability to see and plan ahead.

Be aware of the dangers of spilt fuel that will make the surface very slippery. You should also try and avoid sudden moves that might unbalance the car, such as sharp steering or braking. Doing so increases the likelihood of your car skidding.

Driving too fast through standing water could lead to tyres losing contact with the road.  If your steering suddenly feels light you could be aquaplaning. To regain grip, ease off the accelerator, do not brake and allow your speed to reduce until you gain full control of the steering again, while keeping the steering pointing in the direction of travel. (The surface water builds up under the tyre, lifting it away from the road surface. Once it loses contact with the Tarmac, you’re effectively ‘surfing’ along on top of the water, with little or no grip.)

Driving through surface water and floods

Puddles may be a couple of centimetres deep, but some can develop into deep potholes of water. There is no way of knowing until it may be too late, so avoid them if possible. Driving through these potholes could cause serious damage to your car not to mention cost an extortionate amount to repair.

Should you come across a flooded road, first think about taking another route. If not, then you need to identify how deep the flood is. If the standing water is more than six inches deep, avoid driving through it. The water is often deeper than it looks and may be moving quite fast.  Your vehicle may be swept away or become stranded. Two feet of water will float your car. If you are familiar with the road, you may be able to judge the flood in relation to the kerb. Are there other vehicles similar to yours that are safely driving through? From this, make a judgement call as to whether it is safe to travel through or not.

If you are in the slightest doubt, then turn around and don’t go through the flood. Often modern saloon cars have the air intake in the wheel arch, which may be below the water level. If your engine should take in water, it will immediately hydro lock and the engine will stop. 

If you have taken everything into consideration and decide to drive through the flood, be sure to do so slowly. The best approach is to press lightly on your clutch and add gentle pressure on your accelerator to increase your engine revs. Do so without increasing your speed, in a similar way to how you would undertake a hill start. This will prevent water from entering your exhaust. If you are in an automatic car, accelerate slightly but control the speed with your brakes. When you have passed the flood, test your brakes to make sure they are dry and working properly.

Avoid splashing pedestrians. If this is done accidentally, you could receive a fixed penalty and three points on your license for driving without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other road users. If deliberately done, it could be a public order offence, a court appearance and a fine.

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Coping with Fog

All Fogged Up

The Met. Office gives out warnings of dense fog when visibility is expected to fall below 200 metres. Severe disruption to transport occurs when the visibility falls below 50 metres. Every driver knows or has known that travelling in fog can be extremely dangerous. Every driver knows or has known that fog can drift rapidly and is often patchy. Once through the DVSA practical driving test this knowledge can drift away from some drivers’ memories like the fog itself.

Here is a reminder from the Highway Code for all of us:

The Highway Code

Rule 226

You MUST use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet). You may also use front or rear fog lights but you MUST switch them off when visibility improves.

Rule 234

Before entering fog check your mirrors then slow down. If the word ‘Fog’ is shown on a roadside signal but the road is clear, be prepared for a bank of fog or drifting patchy fog ahead. Even if it seems to be clearing, you can suddenly find yourself in thick fog.

Rule 235

When driving in fog you should

  • use your lights as required

  • keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front. Rear lights can give a false sense of security

  • be able to pull up well within the distance you can see clearly. This is particularly important on motorways and dual carriageways, as vehicles are travelling faster

  • use your windscreen wipers and demisters

  • beware of other drivers not using headlights

  • not accelerate to get away from a vehicle which is too close behind you

  • check your mirrors before you slow down. Then use your brakes so that your brake lights warn drivers behind you that you are slowing down

  • stop in the correct position at a junction with limited visibility and listen for traffic. When you are sure it is safe to emerge, do so positively and do not hesitate in a position that puts you directly in the path of approaching vehicles.

Rule 236

You MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves.

Ah yes, we remember it well!

Some more advice from the Met. Office for road users when travelling in fog:

  • Avoid travel if possible

  • Drive carefully with dipped headlights, full-beam lights reflect off the fog causing a ‘white wall’ effect

  • Keep an eye on your speed, fog can give the illusion of moving in slow motion

  • Watch out for freezing fog which is made of water droplets that freeze on contact with objects such as the pavement, road, car, etc. It can quickly form a layer of ice.

How do the Met. Office forecast fog?

It can be very tricky to forecast fog. Fog forms when moisture in the air is cooled to its ‘dew point’. This is the temperature at which air will condense from water vapour into water droplets. This is the same effect you get when warm moist air comes into contact with a cold bathroom mirror. While vapour is relatively transparent, water droplets reflect light and therefore reduce visibility. When driving in fog one is actually driving in a cloud at ground level.

Fog usually occurs in the late autumn and winter months, when conditions tend to be colder, and nights are longer. This type of fog forms as a result of clear skies and light winds. The land cools overnight and this reduces the ability of the air to hold moisture, allowing condensation and fog to occur. The fog will often disperse after sunrise, but in some circumstances can last well into the afternoon, and even persist for days on end. This is most likely during January and February, and can cause severe disruption at airports, as well as on roads and for other types of transport.

Coastal fog is a regular occurrence along the eastern coast of the UK and is most common during Spring and Summer when warm air moves over the cool surface of the North Sea towards the coast. Many a day trip to Skegness has been ruined . . . “The weather was great when we set out from Derby this morning!”

 Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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Snowing me, snowing you

Snowing me, snowing you … there is something we CAN do!

IAM RoadSmart brings you expert advice on driving in snow from its Head of Driving and Riding Standards, Richard Gladman.

The best advice is to avoid travelling in extreme weather. If no one is moving, you just add to the problem – so listen to travel advice.

If you do have to travel in bad weather, plan your journey thoroughly. Think about where you are going and what it will be like all the way along the journey. If you can, avoid travelling on less-used roads or country lanes as these are less likely to be gritted.

Before setting off, clear all your windows and mirrors fully. Clear off snow piled on the roof of your car and the bonnet too, as it can fall and blow on to the windscreen. Don’t leave anything obscured.

Start your car gently from stationary and avoid high revs. If road conditions are extremely icy and you drive a manual car, you should move off in a higher gear rather than first gear. You should stay in a higher gear to avoid wheel spin.

It’s important you get your speed right when travelling in snow. Never drive too fast that you risk losing control, and don’t drive so slowly that you risk losing momentum for getting up a slope.

Increase your following distance from the vehicle in front of you. It may take up to 10 times as long to stop on snow or ice build this into your following distance – this will give you more time to slow down using engine braking which is less likely to induce a skid.

Make sure you slow down sufficiently before reaching a bend so you have enough time to react to any hazards that appear as you go around it – and so you do not skid as well. You should have finished slowing down before you start to turn the steering wheel.

If you break down or have to pull over on a motorway or dual carriageway, you should leave your vehicle and stand to the safe side of it – ideally well over the armco to the nearside of the road, but not in front of it, when waiting for help.

Richard said: “Many of the problems associated with travel during snow could be avoided if people planned in advance. People routinely travel with only the minimum of safety equipment, without realising their journey could be a lot longer than expected. At the very least you should have a shovel, torch, blanket, jump-leads and tow rope. You should ensure your mobile phone is fully charged, and the number of your recovery organisation is saved into it. A bottle of water and a snack may also prove useful and don’t set out without knowing the locations of petrol stations on your way. This all might sound obvious, but too many of us forget to do any of this. Don’t be one of the ill-prepared, and listen to the weather forecast for the whole length of a winter journey to help you prepare for it.”

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The Designated Driver – Super Star

We know that being the designated driver can feel like a sacrifice. And at this time of the year, when the drinks are flowing, sometimes from dawn ‘till midnight, staying sober isn’t always the most popular option. But getting your colleagues, friends and family home safely is one of the most important things you’ll do this festive season.

Derby Advanced Motorists can’t stress this enough, but please try to develop a ‘none for the road’ mentality. Bubbly will be flowing throughout this season and you may think that one couldn’t hurt, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

Very often people just want their transport arranged and don’t mind who drives as long as it’s not them! In which case it might be worth pre-arranging a cab or minibus – don’t leave it too late as these things are best booked and paid for in advance. Research shows that women are much better at this, so gentlemen take at leaf out of their book and plan ahead!

What about public transport? For many people taking a journey on public transport is the best option, especially if there are only one or two of you going in the same direction. But if you are in a larger group then a taxi might even work out cheaper per person.

Remember if you are the Designated Driver it’s best to have no alcohol at all, even one drink will affect the way you drive without you being aware of it. Your passengers should value you as their designated driver and not try to encourage you to have ‘just one to be sociable.’ You are the one who could be saving them from a driving ban. You are the one who will get them home safely.

Here are a couple of tips:

  1. Make sure your friends are not so tipsy that they are no longer controllable in your car. The last thing you need is a drunk friend giving you driving advice. Having someone behaving badly in a vehicle can be dangerous, and, if a passenger is proving too much of a distraction, you should pull over and stop as soon as it is safe to do so.

  2. Agree a leaving time with your friends and ask them to cover the parking charges (technically you may invalidate your insurance if you take any ‘petrol money’).

Being the Designated Driver can have its benefits, some places offer free soft drinks on a buy one get one free basis, so check out this website to see if any of your local haunts are included.

https://www.cocacola.co.uk/en/coca-cola/designateddriver/

There are more than 10 pubs in the Derby area offering free soft drinks to the Designated Driver.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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