ROSPA offers advice on Christmas journeys

ROSPA is urging people to brush up on winter driving tips before setting out on Christmas holiday journeys over the next few days.

The safety charity’s winter driving factsheet covers a range of issues affecting drivers, including snow, ice, fog and winter sun, available on the charity’s website.

If conditions are poor, it is crucial to keep watching and listening to weather and traffic reports, and to consider postponing your journey if it is not absolutely necessary, even if this means delaying a Christmas visit. If you must go out, remember that smoother is safer when it comes to accelerating, braking and changing gear. Keep your speed down and ensure you leave enough space from the vehicle in front.

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “As well as smooth driving techniques, safer winter driving is about good preparation – making sure you’re in a fit state to drive, that your vehicle is in good condition and that you’ve planned your journey.

“It’s not just weather that can be a problem – it’s also important that drivers are aware of the danger of getting behind the wheel when they are tired. Tired drivers are much more likely to have an accident, and the crash is likely to be severe because a drowsy or sleeping driver does not usually brake or swerve before the impact.

“Despite the wintry conditions affecting much of the country, some people will be travelling long distances this Christmas. We encourage them to plan their journeys in advance. Consider the best time to drive, avoiding those times when you’re more likely to be tired or drowsy, like early mornings or after a large meal. Also, remember to plan in rest stops and allow time for adverse weather conditions.”

Drivers embarking on long trips might find RoSPA’s Safer Journey Planner helpful (seewww.rospa.com/roadsafety/info/safer_journey.pdf). Good practice is to build time into a journey which means you will be less likely to rush in order to make up for any delays.

Even though most of the country has already experienced an unusual amount of snow, it is not too late to think about whether your car is ready for winter. RoSPA’s advice includes:

Check your lights are clean and working

Keep the windscreen and windows clean and the washer bottle filled with screenwash to the correct concentration (which may be a stronger concentration during below-freezing temperatures)

Items to carry in the car include de-icing equipment (keep some outside the car too), a first aid kit (in good order) and a working torch

Think about whether you could cope if you got stuck in snow. You might want to carry a blanket, a pair of boots, a shovel, a high-visibility jacket and a mobile phone (although don’t use it when you’re driving).
And don’t forget – alcohol and driving do not mix. If you are celebrating with alcohol this Christmas, plan in advance how you will get home safely. Any amount of alcohol can impair driving ability. Be aware that you may be over the limit the morning after too – and even if you’re not over the limit, you may still be impaired. In difficult driving conditions, any impairment is magnified.

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