Driving home for Christmas: top tips for safe holiday driving

The festive season is one of joy and wonder – unless you’re stuck out on the hard shoulder. There are many potential hazards when driving at Christmas, with difficult road conditions and a slew of extra drivers on the road. Here are our top tips to ensure that you’re fully prepared and able to avoid any unexpected mishaps.

Preparing your car

Make sure that your car is serviced regularly, and before winter really starts to bite, book in for a winter health check to ensure the essentials (like your fluid levels, tyre tread depths and battery power) are up to scratch. It’s also worth stocking up with a full tank of fuel, as adverse weather and increased traffic volume can slow things down at the most inopportune times.

Drivers are often required to travel in unfamiliar ways at Christmas: people who are used to a 10-minute daily solo commute drive now have to go for hours with a car full of people and gifts. A trial run with a loaded car is a sure-fire way to assess any potential problems before they can delay you from your Christmas lunch.

Driving in adverse weather

Planning is crucial to stress-free driving at Christmas. Make sure to listen out for weather updates for your destination as well as your starting point, as this will enable you to stock up on extra provisions should they be required.

There are a number of simple steps that you can take to help make the journey safer, such as:

  • Reducing your speed in line with weather conditions as well as speed limits
  • Increasing your stopping distance allowance by up to 10 times on icy roads
  • Using dipped headlights at all times to ensure adequate visibility
  • Telling friends and relatives where you are going and when you plan to arrive
  • Carrying sunglasses in case of dazzle from icy surfaces

There’s also a whole host of emergency kit that can make a breakdown much less of a misery in any season, however there are some extras for winter that are an absolute must. Make sure your car contains:

  • A fully charged mobile phone (preferably with a portable or car charger)
  • A wind-up or fully charged torch
  • Antifreeze and de-icer
  • Digging equipment and a spare piece of carpet (in case your car gets stuck in snow)
  • A full spare fuel container
  • Extra layers (blankets or thick clothes)
  • High energy drinks and snacks

Driving on congested roads

Planning is also vital to avoid traffic jams. Stay tuned to local radio or BBC for live traffic and travel news, and have a contingency plan worked out in advance should your primary route become blocked.

If travelling with another driver then think about sharing the shifts behind the wheel, as traffic will not only prolong journey times, it will also sap your energy faster. If this isn’t a possibility, plan some spots on route that you can stop, rest and re-hydrate. An extra person or rest stop also gives the kids some extra distractions to help you keep focused on the road.

The combination of congested roads and adverse weather can often cause drivers to become irate, making the journey less safe for passengers and other road users. As tempting as it is to get wound up, try to remember the positive reasons that are inspiring everyone to travel and be calm and courteous for a better driving experience for all road users.

Traffic hotspots at Christmas

  • M1, A1 and A1(M) northbound
  • M4 westbound to Wales and Heathrow
  • M3, A303 and M5 westbound to the West Country
  • M23 to Gatwick and the M11 to Stansted
  • M62 across the Pennines
  • A1079 between Hull and York

Things to avoid

Here’s some of the things that you should be avoiding at all costs while driving at Christmas:

  • Mobile phones – Ideal in an emergency situation but a major distraction in others; keep it out of reach and either give it to a passenger or pull over if you must make a call.
  • Christmas spirits – The festive season is a minefield of indulgence. However, if you’ve had a drink any time that day (or a heavy session the night before), getting behind the wheel is not worth the risk – always have a designated driver assigned instead.
  • Fatigue – Whether driving at night to avoid traffic or simply shattered from the festive frivolity, have a power nap or switch drivers if you’re starting to flag.

If you want to book in for a winter health check, or want more expert advice on how to prepare for the winter weather, why not stop by at your local Perrys dealership today?