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Top 10: Christmas driving dangers

20 Dec 2012 at 09:34

Using your car over the Christmas period presents many challenges. It could be the weather, leaving your car laid up for a while – testing its reliability when you come to use it – or busy traffic with drivers not focusing 100% on the road.

Here are our top 10 Christmas driving dangers to look out for over the festive holiday:

  1. The weather is unpredictable around wintertime. Even if the roads have been gritted, a blizzard can cover them in snow again in an instant, meaning dramatically reduced grip and increased braking distances.

    If it starts to snow heavily, head back home or try and find a safe place to stop until conditions improve. The alternative – being stuck – is much worse…
  1. If your car has rarely been driven over the Christmas holidays when you next come to use your vehicle, remember that some mechanical sympathy can go a long way.

    Let the engine warm up thoroughly so as not to cause any damage, and be gentle with the car and where you take it. The cold can make metal brittle, meaning things break more easily.
  1. There’s potential for fuel stations to shut earlier over the festive break, so if you’re heading on a long journey, make sure you fill up at a sensible time before you set off.

    Running out of fuel won’t help you or your car – especially if temperatures start to drop.
  1. We should all drive to the letter of the law, but with our minds sometimes elsewhere on other Christmas tasks, bad habits can set in.

    With more police on the roads over Christmas – and road conditions generally worse – be especially careful to ensure your driving standards are maintained to the highest level.
  1. This goes hand-in-hand with extra care and focus in built-up areas. Pedestrians revelling in the festive spirit could be more unpredictable, and with braking distances potentially increased due to rain, snow, ice, or even grit salt used to thaw it out, you might not be able to stop in time to avoid them.

    Keep an eye on your speed and adjust it according to the environment.
  1. Despite a greater police presence on the roads, drink-driving rates inevitably increase around Christmas time.

    If the car in front is weaving or making sudden irrational movements and the driver displays inconsistent speed control, give them plenty of room. They could be intoxicated…
  1. One of the foremost dangers of driving over Christmas can be black ice. You won’t know it’s there until your car is sliding out of control, so remember to adjust your speed to the road and the conditions – use your car’s outside temperature gauge as a guide if it has one.

    Don’t forget: steer gently with no sharp acceleration or braking if you do encounter any ice.
  1. While grit salt can help thaw out frozen water on the road, it can present a problem in itself. Once temperatures have risen or ice and snow is melted, it can be like driving on ball bearings in areas with a heavy grit concentration.

    The salt crystals mean less of the tyre touches the ground, reducing grip – so bear this in mind when driving through these areas.
  1. It might not relate to driving but it’s a very real car-based hazard over Christmas – with people giving and receiving presents when visiting family, don’t be tempted to leave any gifts or expensive electrical items on show in your parked vehicle.

    Opportunist thieves are aware that cars could be laden with expensive items around this time of year especially.
  1. On the run up to and immediately after Christmas, car parks get very busy with last minute shoppers and those looking for bargains in the sales. That means many cars moving at once and plenty of hazards lurking in your blind spot.

    Take a good look around your vehicle before you get into it and move off, as well as making constant observations when manoeuvring – it could help avoid a costly low speed bump.
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