Many motorists from across the UK are planning on hitting the road this festive period to spend Christmas with their families. Social distancing guidelines for this period are top of mind, but it’s also essential to practice safe driving as the nights get darker and the weather gets colder – making driving conditions more treacherous.
Recent research has revealed some potentially dangerous misunderstandings of the rules of the road. The most worrying finding was over three quarters (77%) of drivers wrongly believing that using a triangle when broken down on the hard shoulder of a motorway it is the safest thing to do.
Nick Lloyd, Head of Road Safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) warns that this endangers the driver and their passengers. But only 9% or respondents were aware of this.
If you are unfortunate enough to break down on the motorway, park the vehicle as far away from live traffic as possible, switch on your hazard warning lights and exit the vehicle from the passenger side, away from live traffic, and stand on the other side of the barrier. Call Highways England and inform the operator that you’ve broken down and let them know your location so that breakdown recovery can be arranged, along with traffic lane closures if on a smart motorway.
Most breakdowns are avoidable and, according to Highways England, over 40 per cent of these are caused by vehicles running out of fuel, poor tyre maintenance, power loss and engine trouble. Highways England recommends checking your tyres, lights, fuel, oil and water before any major journey to minimise the risk of a breakdown.
Majority of drivers don’t take sufficient breaks on long journeys
Another potentially dangerous habit is drivers spending too much time on the road before taking a break. The survey revealed that only 38% of motorists abide by the Highway Code’s recommendation to not drive more than two hours without taking 15-minute break. In fact, an almost identical amount (37%) stop every three hours while almost a fifth (18%) wait four hours or more.
Lloyd estimates that fatigue may be a contributory factor in up to 20% of road accidents, and up to one quarter of fatal and serious accidents. “The importance of planning your journey to enable you to take a minimum break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours of driving cannot be stressed enough. It’s better to arrive 15 minutes later than risk the lives of you and your family,” he says.
Many drivers assume they are insured to share the driving when they are not
Another essential aspect of road safety is vehicle insurance cover. If you’re planning on sharing the driving to your Christmas destination, make sure you are covered – as annual insurance policies are becoming increasingly restrictive in terms of covering additional drivers.
Beyond a small sentence on the certificate of insurance, there is very little in the way of specific information for drivers to find out whether they would be covered to drive another car. The onus is increasingly being put on drivers to find and interpret their individual policy wording before getting behind the wheel of another car.
While you’re unlikely to find out if you are covered to drive other cars under your policy before buying it, what you can find is the growing number of restrictions that insurers are putting on the clause. This means that if you were to drive a friend or family member’s vehicle and had an accident, you and the vehicle owner could be left with a huge repair bill for the car, and you’d lose your No Claims Discount.
It’s not just accidents drivers need to worry about. If you are not insured to drive another car and you’re stopped by the police, you could get at least six penalty points on your licence, a possible 6-12-month disqualification from driving and an unlimited fine depending on the seriousness of the offence.
A temporary solution to a temporary situation
Temporary car insurance policies can be taken out for any duration between 1-hour to 28-days, making it ideal for holiday trips when the driving is being shared. To get the cover that best suits your needs, get a quote within 90 seconds. You can also download the Tempcover app on Google Play or iOS App Store for the best experience and most competitive prices.
Research statistics are based on the feedback from 756 UK residents aged 18-75, who hold a full or provisional UK driver’s license or EU driver’s license. The survey was conducted by Tempcover from 8 to 29 June 2020.