With our roads becoming ever more crowded and the cost of insurance on the up, everybody wants to avoid that shunt – whether it’s a motorway pile-up or a reversing slip-up in a car park.
Here are 10 simple measures that could help you avoid having to make an insurance claim. And they could even save your life.
1) Start fresh and stay fresh
Whether it’s a regular daily commute or a long journey, make sure you aren’t tired behind the wheel. For long journeys in particular, make sure you’ve had your full complement of rest before you set out. If you’re driving with someone else, share the driving and make frequent stops to break up the journey. As soon as you feel weariness coming on, plan your next stop or driver change.
2) Get trained
Learner drivers put huge effort into getting their full licence, and everyone feels chuffed to bits when they pass the basic driving test. But most of us ignore opportunities to improve our road-craft from that day onwards. However, advanced driving isn’t just for the police – courses from organisations like the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), ROSPA and others will help you read the road more effectively, anticipate hazards and reduce your risk of being involved in an accident
3) Maintain your car
Make sure your car is maintained properly. This doesn’t just apply to getting it serviced; routine maintenance will mean you should spot worn tyres or an empty washer bottle (preventing you from washing the screen), which could prevent you having an accident. See our servicing and maintenance advice.
4) See and be seen
Use your dipped headlights when it’s dim or dusky, or in heavy rain. Being seen against a grey background is as important as seeing where you’re headed.
5) Sensible shoes
You may need to wear dress shoes, high heels or maybe wellies. But don’t let those fancy shoes or galoshes compromise your driving. A set of flat, comfortable shoes, kept in the car, will ensure you can operate the pedals without hindrance.
6) Travelling with children?
If you are travelling with children, make sure they are securely strapped into their seats and that the seats are properly installed in the car before you set off. The distraction or worry that they might not be safe in a crash could cause a crash itself. If possible, travel with another adult in the car – they can worry about the children while you concentrate on driving.
7) Choose Stability Control
When choosing your car, make sure you specify Electronic Stability Control (ESC) if it isn’t a standard-fit item. This hidden saviour is a godsend; at that moment of crisis, say when you encounter an unexpected hazard in the road, it can prevent you losing control of the vehicle. You may not even notice its effect, but if it activates the chances are you’d have lost control of the car.
8) Travel at night
Travelling at night can reduce the risk of accidents in two ways. Firstly, and most obviously, night-time traffic levels are very much lower than during the day, reducing the chances of vehicle collisions. Secondly, when it’s dark, you can see oncoming vehicles’ headlights from far further away and even from around corners; in daylight you would not see them coming so soon. Travelling at night with children can be less distracting, as they’re more inclined to sleep through the journey.
9) Check your tyre pressures regularly
This won’t just save you money (the drag generated by under-inflated tyres means you’ll use more fuel), but it could prevent you having an accident. Over- or under-inflated tyres will upset the car’s handling and may make controlling it more difficult. Increased internal friction within the carcass of an under-inflated tyre means it is likely to overheat, potentially causing a blow-out and an accident.
10) The morning after the night before
If you’ve been out celebrating, make sure you adhere to the drink-drive rules. In 2007, more than 2,200 deaths and serious injuries were caused by drink-driving. In the UK, the legal limit is 80mg of alcohol for every 100ml of blood in your body. According to the NHS, this means men should drink no more than four units of alcohol before driving, and women should drink no more than three units. Any amount of alcohol affects your judgment and your ability to drive safely. The guide says there’s no quick way of sobering up; it’s a myth that drinking coffee or a cold shower can help. Time is the only thing that gets the alcohol out of your body.
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