How to drive safely in hot weather

With lockdown restrictions being fully lifted now and hot weather on the way, it’s no surprise that many are hoping to get out on the road to enjoy some freedom.

However, with a lot of cars not being used as often during the ongoing UK lockdowns here are the Swansway Group, "things to check before getting out on the road", and how to stay safe once you’re there.

  • What you should do before a long journey
  • Preparing yourself for a long hot journey
  • Preparing your car
  • Preparing your route
  • Driving Safely in the hot weather

How should you prepare for a long hot journey?

You need to prepare yourself, your car and your route:

  • Have a good nights sleep the night before a long drive
  • Drink plenty of water on the journey
  • Take your car for a Summer health check
  • Check the route to your destination so you're not 100% reliant on Sat Nav
  • Ensure your passengers have a way of charging their smartphones and tablets

What should I do before a long journey?

We all know this summer has been the hottest for years and, if the weather forecasters are correct, we’ll be driving in oven like temperatures for a few weeks yet.

Making a few basic preparations can help make journeys more bearable – and safer - for you and your passengers and if some of them appear to be a bit basic, that’s because they are, but they’re also ones which roadside breakdown companies and motoring groups will tell you are often overlooked.

The preparations come down in three areas; you, your car, your route.

Preparing yourself

Keeping hydrated by having small but regular drinks of water isn’t just nice, it’s important in keeping you alert and focussed too. There’s no end of tests showing how our concentration and reactions degrade if we are not drinking enough so being able to get plenty of sips should be in your planning.

A study at Loughborough University in 2015 found that drivers who are only mildly dehydrated, at a level where they wouldn’t yet even think they were thirsty, were making twice as many mistakes of judgement and lacked awareness compared to those given enough to drink.

This is something the hot weather only magnifies, but also something easily remedied – keep a bottle of water to hand.  Keeping cool with the air conditioning is good, sensible even, but remember that a/c takes moisture out of the air and will dry you out even more.

If you’re off on a family outing, it sometimes easier for the driver, because they’re concentrating and have something to do, but for passengers the time can drag, especially if they’re squeezed together in the back; make sure they also have drinks and something to entertain them. Family games are great but with today’s youngsters, iPods, mobiles and anything else electronic will probably be more popular. Your car may have an adaptor with a USB port you can plug into the cigarette socket or use you may be able to use an aux cable to charge smartphones and tablets; if it has then this is a real boon on a long journey.

Preparing your car – give your car a once over.

Cars hate to be left standing still, which has been common for many vehicles during lockdown. As such, it’s a good idea to check your car over before heading out onto the road.

The most important things are ensuring your battery has enough power to start your car, checking tyres for cracks, damage or punctures, and making sure your fluids are fully topped up.

If you’re heading off on a longer than usual journey please take the time to get your car checked first. An hour on the workshop ramps at a garage can uncover a range of faults which may be starting to develop and which could develop further when the car is stressed on a long hot trip.

Tyre conditions and pressures, the alternator belt to keep the electrical systems working, the air conditioning pump and coolant, engine/gearbox oil and filter, the radiator integrity and condition of the various hoses carrying heated water to it and cooled water away…the list goes on, but I’ll only say this; if you book your car in for a summer health check and it uncovers something that could have left you stranded by the roadside, then you’ll be glad you did; remember the old proverb, `a stitch in time saves nine’…

And if the summer health check doesn’t uncover anything and gives your car a clean bill of health, well, how reassuring is that as you set off on your holiday adventure?

If you don’t rely on an expert, then give your car a DIY once-over, you can check the tyres’ condition and pressure (don’t forget the spare if there is one) and remember to check the handbook for the pressure when the tyre is hot, check the oil level and the windscreen washer bottle/wiper blades so you can clean the screen off flies and insects and road grime.

Preparing your route

It sounds an obvious question, but do you know how to get to your destination or have some idea of how long it will take? It’s usually a good idea to have some notion of the direction and duration of your journey especially when you have to build in stops.

If it is going to be a lengthy drive, a few hours or more, then all the advice says that you should plan in breaks at least every two hours. This is partly to rest your brain, partly to let you stretch your legs and just get away from the wheel for a bit.

Having a family with you makes this even more essential, because comfort breaks are needed and they too will feel better for getting out of the car. For this reason, it’s useful to know where there are service stations or something similar along the way and you can find those and plan a stop before you leave home. A modern sat nav will help you do this or you can google the trip.

Once on the road, a good Sat Nav or setting your radio for live traffic updates can alert you to long delays ahead and having an alternative route can take the stress out of the typical holiday trip. Motorways and main roads can be saturated with traffic and unable to cope with the volume and a breakdown or crash can cause delays stretching back for hours.

Knowing where you are, where you want to get to and ways around lengthy tailbacks makes life so much easier!

Preparing your car, yourself and your journey is never wasted time. The only time wasted is when you’re stranded by a breakdown or stuck in an endless queue, both of which could have been prevented.

Make the most of your air conditioning

Air conditioning in a heatwave can feel like a lifesaver, but you don’t want to find out it’s not working when you’re stuck in traffic while it’s 25 degrees outside. So before heading out, check that there’s ice cold air coming through the vents. If not, you might need to top up the gas that powers it.

Keep water in the car

This could be more important for those who don’t have air conditioning, but even if you do, having a drink of water in the car is important. The temperature inside a car can go up rapidly, so having some water will stop you getting dehydrated.

Keep in the shade

Cars have a lot of windows, and all that glass can superheat the cabin. If you’re leaving the car for any length of time, you should find somewhere shady to park, or buy a windscreen cover to keep the rays out. If you can’t find one in time, even placing a towel over the glass can help.