The weather is getting warmer, and the summer holidays are fast approaching so it’s essential that you know how to stay safe on the roads. Hotter temperatures will present new challenges for you and your vehicle, including your engine potentially overheating and glare from the sun impacting visibility, but these can be tackled with proper preparation and maintenance.
In this article, we’ll analyse the biggest challenges with driving in summer and provide some top tips to help ensure you’re prepared for the season ahead.
Greater risk of accidents due to increased traffic
As more people tend to go on holiday over the summer period, it’s likely that you’ll experience heavier traffic on the roads. This means that you’ll need to be more alert and focused as stop-and-go traffic increases the risk of rear-end collisions.
To stay safe in these traffic conditions, you should always keep your eyes on the road, have both hands on the steering wheel and slow down if necessary. Planning your journey in advance can help you to avoid peak traffic hours and allow you to get to your destination safely.
Intense heat affects drivers and their vehicles
High temperatures can cause your engine coolant to overheat, leading to serious damage that’s costly to repair. The thermometer light on your dashboard will illuminate if your engine is overheating, but it’s also good practice to regularly check your engine coolant yourself.
The combination of high temperatures and long hours spent behind the wheel can lead to driver fatigue, impacting concentration and reaction times, therefore increasing the likelihood of an accident. To help prevent overheating, it’s important to keep yourself and your passengers cool in the summer climate. You can do this by:
- Using the air conditioning
- Parking in the shade where possible
- Having iced water in the vehicle
- Putting a sun-shield over the back windows and a windscreen shade on when parked.
Sun glare causes reduced visibility
Sun glare can be dangerous for drivers due to its potential to impair visibility and cause distractions. If glare limits your ability to see traffic signals, road signs and other vehicles, then you may be unable to react promptly, increasing the risk of a collision.
Some drivers may squint or shield their eyes as protection against sun glare, but this can divert your attention away from the road which is dangerous for both you and other road users. Instead, you should have a pair of sunglasses handy and keep your windscreens clean to reduce reflections.
Increased pedestrian and cyclist activity
Warmer weather often entices more cyclists and pedestrians onto the roads, so drivers must remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings to keep these vulnerable road users safe. The Highway Code has clear guidelines on how to interact with other road users, so it’s crucial that you understand the latest rules and follow them accordingly.
More agricultural vehicles on the roads
There are usually more agricultural vehicles on the roads during the summer months, as farmers begin to harvest their crops. These vehicles tend to be large and slow-moving which can cause challenges for other drivers who are accustomed to higher speeds. Overtaking agricultural vehicles can be risky, particularly on narrow roads or places where visibility is limited, as the potential for accidents increases.
It’s estimated that collisions between agricultural vehicles and third parties are 52% more likely to occur between May and September, highlighting the importance of driving safely around these vehicles. Keeping a safe distance, avoiding sudden manoeuvres, and using extra care when overtaking are crucial tips to remember.
Drivers distracted from hay fever symptoms
Hay fever can be a significant hazard for drivers in summer, as many of the symptoms can impair a driver’s ability to focus and react on the road. If you sneeze whilst driving at 70mph, you’ll lose your vision for 100 metres which could cause a tragic accident. If you feel like you’re about to sneeze, you should slow down and drop back from any vehicles in front.
Taking a non-drowsy medication and closing all vents and windows can help to minimise symptoms of hay fever, however, if it’s particularly bad then we recommend you get someone else to drive if possible.
Vehicle checks to undertake in summer
Understanding the different driving challenges that arise during summer is key to keeping you safe on the roads. Whilst some are unavoidable, others you can prepare for in advance. To stay safe when embarking on long journeys in summer, drivers should always remember FORCES:
F for fuel
Always ensure that you have enough fuel for your journey to prevent a costly breakdown. Driving in heavy summer traffic will use more fuel due to the start/stop conditions, so refuelling more often than usual may be necessary.
O for oil
Checking your oil level and topping it up when necessary is crucial as it can reduce the chances of overheating in traffic.
R for rubber
Over 20% of all breakdowns in the UK occur due to tyre issues, so it’s important that you check your tyres all year round. High temperatures can worsen existing issues and cause the air in your tyres to expand which could lead to a blowout.
Drivers should therefore make sure their tyres are in good condition before setting off on long journeys in the hot weather.
C for coolant
Just as your vehicle’s oil levels need to be maintained, the coolant should also be topped up on a regular basis to ensure the engine continues to run at the right temperature.
E for electrics
The electrical components in your vehicle need to be checked regularly to keep you and other road users safe. You should ensure that all your lights are working and examine your battery to ensure the terminals are clean and tight.
S for screen wash
In summer, bugs and pollen can negatively affect your view through the windscreen, so make sure you have the correct screen wash level to give you as much visibility as possible.
By checking each of these elements throughout the summer period, you’ll be less likely to experience a breakdown, limiting costs and downtime. It’s also sensible to have an emergency kit in your vehicle just in case, and this should include mobile phone chargers, a first-aid kit, jump cables, food, and water.