Drivin' home for Christmas is many people's favorite journey of the year (and now I bet you have that song stuck in your head), and while the trip will be uneventful for the vast majority of us, there'll be those unlucky few that have to deal with unexpected issues along the way. You can reduce your chances of being caught unprepared by following our Top Five Tips for staying safe on the road this Christmas!
#4 Give Your Car A Quick Once Over
It might sound silly, but you'd be surprised the number of minor things that are simple to fix on the driveway but cause massive headaches if you're caught out mid-journey. Set aside ten minutes to do a quick spot check on the following key components:
- Tyres - Check your tyres are fully inflated and have plenty of tread. Correct tyre pressure can be found printed on a sticker usually found on one of your door sills or inside the petrol filler cap | Shop Tread Wear Indicator | Shop Tyre Pressure Gauge
- Wipers - Check your wipers are working properly and that the blades aren't worn. Clean with white spirits or replace them as necessary | Shop Wiper Blades
- Fluids - Dip your oil and make sure your washer fluid levels are ok, and top up if needed | Shop Engine Oil | Shop Screen Wash
- Lights - Check your main beams, dipped beams, brake lights and indicators and make sure they're all working | Shop Replacement Bulbs
- Brakes - Less of a driveway job unless you know what you're doing, but inspect brake pads for wear and tear and replace them if they look badly worn | Shop Brake Pads
#3 Plan Your Journey
Another obvious one, but really think about your journey and the route you're planning to take. Are you going to be using back roads that might be rendered inaccessible by icy conditions? Are you prepared for holiday traffic or accident gridlock? A bit of simple preparation can help get you there on time and in one piece!
- Check your route - As previously mentioned... check your route! Due to the possibility of icy conditions on less traveled roads you're best off staying to bigger roads/motorways where possible. If that's not an option, check your national road adviser before you set out and make sure you tell someone where you're headed. | AA Roadwatch | RAC Route Planner
- Power up - Whether you're using your phone as a SatNav, streaming music or ignoring it entirely, having a power source is vital to avoid the dreaded dead battery - especially if unexpected traffic drives up your journey time | Phone Chargers & Battery Packs
- Timing is everything - Leave early and allow plenty of time for unexpected delays. If you're doing a long journey, make sure you factor in a half hour rest stop for every four hours driving time - grab a coffee and stay hydrated to ensure you're bright and alert for the trip
- Be considerate - Remember that everyone else is trying to get home to family and friends too, so be aware of speed limits and don't be a middle lane hog!
- Fuel up - Make sure you have enough fuel for the journey and have a stop in mind if you'll need to refuel along the way. Don't assume there'll be a petrol station nearby right when you need it!
#2 Pack The Essentials
There are some things you should always have in your car, but they go from recommended to vital in the case of a breakdown or other emergency. In addition to the phone chargers and power packs mentioned above, here's our selection of vital emergency gear.
- A Car Jack and Breaker Bar are the absolute minimum for every driver on the road, as a puncture is the most likely problem you'll encounter. If you have a spare wheel you'll be back on the road in no time. If you don't...
- Tyre Weld is a great temporary fix for minor punctures (think nail or screw in the treads rather than blowout or damage to the tyre side walls)
- Stay visible to other road users with a Hi Vis Vest & Emergency Triangle
- A First Aid Kit is also vital for any cuts and scrapes you might suffer while changing your tyre!
- A Jerry Can is a must have for every car, as the one time you run empty will be the one time the closest petrol station doesn't stock these.
- Jump leads are another necessity in case the cold causes battery problems. Giving someone else a jump start is also the quickest way to feel a warm Christmas glow!
- Fuel... for you! Pack a snack and some bottled water, or something a little more hearty if you're going further afield - you might be really glad of it if you break down (gulp) and have to wait hours for help to arrive!
#1 Never Ever Drink & Drive
With almost 1,000 arrests for driving under the influence in Ireland in December 2016 alone the number one spot on this list was hardly going to be anything else, was it? It's a sad fact that many drivers still choose to put themselves and others at risk by getting behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but one of the most common ways to end up with penalty points and a fine (or worse) is hitting the road too early the morning after a boozy evening. Sunday morning is one of the busiest times for police checkpoints for this very reason, and while there are plenty of folk remedies which claim to clear the last of the alcohol out of your system, the only real cure is time. If you've somewhere to be and you're not sure if you're clear to drive you can use a Personal Breathalyser, but the results should only be treated as a very rough guide as they aren't as accurate as police testers... and "sorry, my own device said I was fine" won't hold up in court! It's always better to play it safe and limit your alcohol intake if you've a trip planned the next day, as you won't wake up regretting the drinks you didn't have! That's it from us, have a great Christmas and drive safe!