As Spring comes around, the days get longer and the weather (hopefully) improves, it’s time to move out onto the motorway as the nation embarks on its favourite spring activity – the day trip!
While we begin to venture out after our self-enforced winter hibernation, there are a few things that we should consider. Here are Swansway Group’s top spring driving tips:
Maintain Your Motor
As well as remembering to pack the picnic, you should also be taking steps to look after your motor to help keep you, your family and your car safe on the roads during the spring months.
First and foremost, give your car a good spring clean – how appropriate! The bodywork will have been attacked by road salt and mud over the winter months, which if not removed can cause rust. Pay particular attention to wheel arches and the underside of the car where all the mucky stuff likes to hide.
Once your car is spick and span, get a professional to give it the once over. They’ll ensure that your tyres have enough tread to provide grip on the often wet spring roads, that there are no leaks, your windscreen wipers and lights are working effectively, and all fluid levels are topped up.
Read The Roads
Your car might be ready to go – but are you? Have you thought about all of the challenges on the roads that come with the change in seasons?
Roads are busier for a start. Everyone wants to enjoy the longer days, and with so many bank holidays and school breaks lined up, we certainly have the time to enjoy them. So, even if you’re a regular traveller on the roads and motorways, you’ll have to be aware of the extra traffic. Check and double check your blind spots, and take more care when passing, merging or turning.
Slow-moving vehicles such as tractors and caravans are likely to make more of an appearance as the farmers go into overdrive and the holiday season kicks in, while two-wheeled traffic – motorcycles and bicycles – will also decide to brave the warmer weather. Add to this the fact that most cars heading out on a day trip or holiday are likely to be packed with passengers and luggage, possibly restricting the driver’s view, and you really will need your wits about you!
Be aware of road users who might be travelling on foot too. Walking and horseriding are very popular pastimes so pedestrians and horses will become increasingly common on minor roads – many of which don’t have proper pavements.
Watch The Weather
Of course, it’s not just the extra traffic that we need to take into account during the spring months. Weather will remain unpredictable with frosty snaps still a possibility, so keep your antifreeze and screenwash topped up.
In wet weather, be sure to keep your distance from the car in front and make use of lights and fog lights. Make sure you turn your lights off when the typical spring shower has passed, and when the sun comes out, pop on a pair of sunglasses (we all love an excuse to pose) and use your car’s sun visor. Though the warmth and brightness is much needed after the winter months, low sun can cause hazardous conditions if you can’t see where you’re going!
If the rain continues and you encounter flooded roads, beware! Don’t attempt to drive through water if it’s more than 10cm deep or you can’t see the bottom. The strength of flowing water can be deceptive and it’s really not worth the risk. If you do get stuck, wait in your car and call for help.
Test your brakes immediately after driving through water. It takes just an eggcup-full of water to ruin a car’s engine and less to wreak havoc with your brakes. Remember, on wet roads, if your steering feels light and your car starts to aquaplane, ease off the gas and slow down gradually rather than brake hard.
If at any time you feel that the road or weather is too dangerous, pull over and wait for the rain (hail or snow) to pass. You’ll be cosy and safe in your car and it’s far better to arrive at your destination later than planned than risk driving in hazardous conditions.
Spot The Signs
Spring is also the time when road repairs and maintenance programmes get back into full swing, so stay aware of signs and diversions as well as the possibility of workmen in the road. Always plan your journey in advance – AA Roadwatch is a good place to find out whether your car trip is likely to be a pain or a pleasure.
Better driving conditions make us braver on the roads and more inclined to embark on long excursions. Remember to take turns behind the wheel and make regular pit stops to avoid tiredness so that you reach your journey’s end safely. If you’re making a particularly long trip, think about breaking it up with an overnight stop somewhere along the way.
One last tip: if you’re thinking of taking your car for a long run this spring, especially if it hasn’t been very active over the winter months, don’t forget to take it for a test run to make sure that everything is in working order. It’s really not worth disappointing a car full of excited passengers!