It’s that time of year when children are getting excited and mums are warning dads not to get carried away buying industrial quantities of fireworks that resemble a bunker buster. But while plenty of guidance is given to help everyone have a safe fireworks display at home or in public, little thought is given on how to transport fireworks safely by car.
Fireworks are extremely dangerous. The Government’s last recorded figures on injuries caused by fireworks, from 2005, showed that 990 people were hurt during a four week period around November 5.
However, there are some sensible tips and several essential steps that drivers should take to ensure that carrying fireworks in a car doesn’t result in a serious accident.
Follow these guidelines and share them across social media with friends and family, to make sure everyone is properly prepared for a fireworks party that will be memorable for all the right reasons.
Before collecting fireworks, prepare your car
You’re off to the supermarket or fireworks shop having vowed not to return until you’ve bought the biggest firework in the place. Before getting carried away, prepare your car or van accordingly.
The Government says that means removing any spare container filled with fuel such as diesel or petrol. And decorators or DIY enthusiasts: don’t forget to remove white spirit and paint thinner, blow torches, matches and any other potentially flammable materials or sources of ignition.
Transport fireworks safely in a spark-resistant box
Pre-packed boxes of fireworks should come with spark-resistant packaging, usually sealed cardboard. However, individual fireworks often won’t be packaged. To remove risk, find a large, lidded plastic container such as a household storage box. Ideally, this will be big enough to accommodate all the fireworks but sufficiently compact to be stored in the boot of your vehicle – definitely not on the back seat.
Not smoking within the vicinity of fireworks may seem obvious, but drivers with lots on their mind could forget that it’s a bad idea to light up at the wheel. To remove temptation, consider leaving your cigarettes or tobacco at home before going firework shopping. And while on the subject of the bloomin’ obvious, it’s illegal to discharge a firework from a car.
You can’t buy and transport more than 50kg of fireworks
Everybody likes to outdo the Joneses. But when it comes to showing off with a bigger, better fireworks display than the neighbours, bear in mind that it’s against the law for anyone to buy and transport more than 50kg of fireworks unless you hold a valid registration or licence.
And while you can hold a full driving licence from the age of 17, you’re not old enough to buy fireworks until you’re 18. Sorry, we don’t make the rules…
Check with your car insurance provider that fireworks don’t invalidate cover
Some motor insurers will cover drivers who have bought fireworks for use at a personal display, assuming it falls within the 50kg limit (see above). However, all insurers have their own exclusions, so if you’re unable to dig out your provider’s terms and conditions, contact them directly to ensure you have comprehensive insurance in the event of an accident.
Ferry operators and the Eurotunnel do not permit fireworks
Brittany Ferries says the Maritime Coastguard Agency strictly prohibits the carriage of fireworks on ferries. If found, they will be confiscated. Eurotunnel stresses passengers won’t be allowed to board their train if travelling with fireworks.
How dangerous could fireworks be in a car?
To answer that, watch this video clip. Colin Furze, YouTube video presenter and general madcap inventor, sets out to see what would happen if fireworks exploded in a vehicle. Within less than 40 seconds of lighting a fuse, his Ford Transit van has been turned into brightly coloured inferno with accompanying pops and bangs adding to the dramatic scenes.
Read RoSPA’s 10 point Firework Code
Made it home safe and sound? Good. Now use the Firework Code devised by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) to plan your display. Household insurers often insist that these steps are adhered to:
- Plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable
- Keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time
- Read and follow the instructions on each firework, using a torch if necessary
- Light the firework at arm’s length with a taper and stand well back
- Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks
- Never return to a firework once it has been lit
- Don’t put fireworks in pockets and never throw them
- Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators
- Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire
- Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving