It’s therefore worth taking some precautions in advance when you know you’re going to be driving through a tunnel on a journey. There are also several procedures to keep in mind to protect you and others if you or another driver suffers a car problem while within a tunnel.
The Chief Examiner for the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), Peter Rodger, comments: "Though you may see a tunnel as just another stretch of road, there are specific precautions that you must be aware of and implement when using one."
Here are some useful tips for keeping yourself and others safe when driving through tunnels.Before even entering a tunnel, you should check your car’s fuel gauge in plenty of time, to avoid the risk of running out while in a tunnel.
Also before entering, turn on the traffic information station if you can. If you’re driving abroad, some larger European road tunnels have their own dedicated radio station as well as electronic signs.
If it’s sunny outside and your wearing sunglasses, take them off before you enter a tunnel otherwise they’ll hinder your eyesight in the dim light of a tunnel.
While driving in the tunnel have your car’s dipped headlights turned on. Don’t use the full beam because this should not be necessary and it will dazzle other motorists.
Maintain a safe, legal speed while driving through the tunnel and leave plenty of room between yourself and the car in front and watch out for brake lights.
Keep an eye out for the location of any emergency pedestrian exits within the tunnel. At the same time of course don’t allow these to take your eyes off what’s ahead on the road for too long. In two-way tunnels, keep well to the nearside kerb.
If you are unfortunate enough to have your car break down while you’re in the tunnel then don’t panic. Instead switch on your hazard lights as soon as you realise there’s a problem. Try to coast your car to a breakdown lay-by. If none are available in the tunnel you’re in, stop as close to the nearside kerb as possible.
When you’re vehicle is stopped in the safest manner possible, turn off the engine but leave the key in the ignition so it can be moved again. Remove yourself and any passengers out of the car and make sure everyone is in a safe place, preferably on the pedestrian walkway if there is one.
If you have a reflective jacket, then put it on while you’re out of your broken down vehicle. This is also recommended if you breakdown on the motorway. Make your way over to the nearest emergency phone.
When driving through a tunnel the scenario that you might come across another vehicle on fire is possible. If this happens then only try and extinguish the fire if somebody is in danger because of it. In all other circumstances leave the tunnel as quickly as you can – even if that means leaving your vehicle and walking out the tunnel.
Peter Rodger from IAM explains: "Remember, if there is a fire or an accident, don’t wait to act — fire and smoke can be fatal. Leave the vehicle and walk to a safe place. Save your life and not your car."