Motoring

Are we there yet? Handy ways to keep kids happy on a long car journey

Are we there yet Helpful ways to keep kids entertained on a long car journey 2

With the summer holidays just around the corner, millions of parents will be planning holidays, activities and day breaks for all the family to enjoy. More often than not, such trips involve a long drive in the car. And as every parent knows, cars and kids can be a tiring combination for all.

This year, more of us are expected to enjoy a staycation – a holiday in Britain, rather than abroad. In the travel industry, searches and bookings for UK destinations have increased by nearly 25 per cent, following Brexit.

And ironically, more visitors from France, Germany, Holland and the US are reported to be booking breaks in the UK, as they take advantage of a fall in the value of the pound.

All of which means the roads could get congested this summer holiday season, giving families all the justification they need to invest in onboard entertainment for the children. Here are some helpful hints – from a father of three – to ensure a smooth journey.

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Road rage: How to cope with confrontation from other drivers and riders

Rage against the machine how to cope with confrontation on the road

Is road rage on the rise in Britain? Increasing numbers of incidents in the headlines suggest it might be. Often, these can be attributed to the boom in sales of dashboard and helmet cameras as video clips of confrontations are shared across social media and news outlets. But surveys have suggested that despite the UK’s roads getting safer in terms of accident rates, more people claim to have been a victim of road rage.

For the vast majority of drivers it can be a harrowing experience. Nerves are left frayed and a good day can be spoiled because another driver or road user’s temper has got the better of them.

The good news is, there are steps everyone can take to guard against road rage from others. Read on to help yourself stay safe and calm behind the wheel.

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Expert advice: How to drive and stay safe on smart motorways

smart motorways

Variable speed limits are a vital element of smart motorways

Smart motorways are possibly one of the biggest shake ups to our motorway network since the M1 opened in 1959. They use variable speed limits to manage the flow of traffic. And in some cases, by opening the hard shoulder, the government has managed to increase traffic capacity without spending billions on building new roads. However, the smart motorways do take some getting used to. Here’s what you need to know.

What is a smart motorway?

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Expert advice: How to drive in strong winds

Expert driving advice for stormy weather and high winds

As storm Doris approaches Britain, bringing snow and strong winds approaching 80mph, drivers face disruption and additional hazards on the roads. At the time of writing, the Met Office had issued an amber, weather warning for northern England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, which means people should prepare for the storm conditions, and a yellow warning for other parts of the UK.

This means there are likely to be 80mph gusts of winds, waves of up to 60ft impacting coastal areas, possible damage to trees and structures, interruption of power supplies and disruption to travel.

Such severe weather makes for challenging driving conditions, but short of staying at home, lighting a fire and pouring a cuppa, what practical steps can drivers take to stay safe when they need to get from A to B in strong winds?

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The best driving courses for mastering winter weather

The best driving courses for mastering winter weather

Winter weather isn’t only dangerous for drivers when ice lies around a bend or snow is falling from the sky. The limited daylight hours, low sun, wet leaves, standing water and submerged potholes all make for particularly difficult driving conditions.

Drivers who don’t always feel confident when faced with such challenges – and many don’t – would benefit from taking a driving course specifically aimed at dealing with winter weather.

There is a wide variety of training available, tackling everything from aquaplaning to driving on ice. Prices range from affordable refresher courses to once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Here’s how you can stay safer, and feel more confident, when driving in the most tricky of all the seasons. Continue reading

Expert advice: Defrosting cars – all you need to know

Defrosting cars

Iced up car windows are all too familiar at this time of year

Defrosting cars is something we all have to do at some point in the year. Although it sounds simple and should be relatively straightforward there are still some dos and don’ts. Here are my top tips to ensure you defrost your car and get going, even in the toughest conditions.

How to defrost your car

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Icy roads: What to look out for and how to drive on them

Icy roads

If the verge is frosty it’s quite likely the road will be icy too

Icy roads probably aren’t something we think about much. Yet for many of us driving on ice is a regular occurrence during the coldest months of the year. If you have to scrape the ice off your car in the morning, or even perhaps when you leave work in the late afternoon, there may be ice on the road. We explain how to figure out whether the road is likely to be icy and how to drive if it is.

How to spot icy roads

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Expert advice: Driving in snow – All you need to know for this winter

Driving in snow

Snow frequently causes chaos on the roads. Read on to find how to prepare

The best thing to do if there’s heavy snow is to avoid going out altogether. However, driving in snow can’t always be helped. If you do have to take to the road in snowy conditions there are some simple steps to ensure you arrive at your destination safely. And if for whatever reason you do get stuck, taking the precautions we recommend will at least help you to stay safe and comfortable.

How should you prepare for driving in snow?

You need to know which the driven wheels on your car are. Front-wheel drive is usually better than rear-wheel drive in snow; four-wheel drive offers the best solution. However, in snow, a heavy four-wheel drive SUV is still likely to struggle if it doesn’t have winter tyres on. When you head out in snow, the best advice is to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. Plan your route around main roads. These are the most likely to have been gritted and weight of traffic stands a good chance of melting all but the heaviest snow falls on carriageways.

How do you prepare your car for snow?

You need to have a car that is in the best possible shape to face up to the tough conditions. See how to conduct your own winter checks here. You don’t know if you’re going to get stuck and if you do, how long you’re going to be immobile for. Make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel: if you need to spend the night in the car, it’s good to have the option to run the engine every now and again to warm yourself up (ensure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow first). And make sure you’ve got a full reservoir of screen wash, diluted so that it won’t freeze in sub-zero temperatures.

What kit should you carry in the car?

Most importantly make sure you’ve got a mobile phone with plenty of battery life in it. You should also have a blanket or warm clothes, a bottle of water and some snacks in case you get stuck in the car. Depending on where and how far you’re driving, you should be carrying a warm coat and some sturdy walking boots.

As far as kit for the car goes, a reflective jacket will ensure you’re visible and hopefully make it safer if you have to dig your car out or work on it at the roadside. A shovel is a handy thing to have for digging a car out of the snow. If it’s really freezing, a de-icer spray will help clear hard ice that may have formed beneath the layer of snow on your windows. A tow rope is simple to carry and could be indispensable in an emergency. And jump leads could be useful if your battery dies or you have to help another driver with a flat battery.

Kit check list

  • Mobile phone plus charger
  • Blanket and warm clothes
  • Water and snacks
  • Sturdy boots and a warm coat
  • Reflective jacket
  • Shovel
  • Tow rope
  • Jump leads
  • De-icer spray and scraper

What must you do before driving in snow?

Visibility is key. Clear snow off all the windows and lights. You should also clear snow off the bonnet as it’ll blow back at the windscreen when you drive. And brush snow off the roof. This could either fall over the windscreen and temporarily blind you when you brake, or fly off into the windscreen of the car behind if you accelerate hard. Ensure the windows inside are free from condensation before driving.

How do you set off on snow?

Whatever manoeuvre you’re trying in the snow, less is more. If you’re trying to pull away, ramping up the revs will simply cause the wheels to spin and the car to dig in deeper. Put the car in first, or if it’s got a big engine second, use a normal amount of revs and feed in the clutch gently, slipping it so that the driving wheels take their power slowly and progressively.

How do you slow down on snow?

Remember that even a small car like a Ford Fiesta weighs around a tonne. And the heavier something is, the more distance it takes to stop. If you’re driving on snow or an icy road, anticipation is the name of the game; the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) says it takes 30m to stop from 30mph in snow, compared to 12m in normal conditions. Look as far ahead as possible and if you think you’ll have to slow down, for another car or a corner, start applying the brakes very gently as you shift down through the gears.

What happens if you get into a skid?

If you go into a corner too quickly, your car might start to skid. If the car refuses to turn with the wheels (understeer), don’t brake or accelerate. Change down and wait for the front wheels to grip. If the rear swings round (oversteer), again don’t brake or accelerate but turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid. This should prevent the car from spinning round. But ideally, you won’t be piling into a corner quickly enough for either of these things to happen. As I said before, when you’re driving in snow, less really is more, especially when it comes to safety.

Breakdown causesNeil Wilson is Green Flag’s head of rescue claims and motor claims response

Clocks going back: Tips for driving at dusk and after dark this autumn

Clocks going back driving at dusk

One minute the sun’s out, the next it’s nearly dark. The joys of driving in autumn and winter

There’s one good thing about the clocks going back: that extra hour in bed. But payback for most of us is that it also signals months of spending more time at the wheel when it’s either dusk or dark. Allied to colder, damper weather making conditions difficult it’s one of the most difficult times of year to be driving.

A study of seasonal patterns over eight years concluded that there were 10 per cent more collisions killing or injuring a pedestrian in the four weeks after the clocks go back compared to the four weeks before they change.

To help keep drivers safe, we’ve asked driver training experts IAM Roadsmart for added tips on driving in poor light conditions. The Institute of Advanced Motorists’ head of driving standards, Richard Gladman, said: “Per mile driven the risk of a crash is actually higher at night despite the quieter roads. Getting used to driving at night can take time so take it easy until the old skills come back and you can start to enjoy the new challenges.”

Look out!

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Expert tips: how to stay safe driving in the rain

Expert tips: how to stay safe when driving in the rain

It’s been a great summer with long, warm days that have been as appreciated by drivers as they have by those putting up a deckchair or firing up the barbeque. However, the autumn weather is bringing rain to Britain, which makes for more difficult driving conditions.

Despite modern cars brimming with electronic systems that can help prevent an accident, all experts agree that it’s important drivers adjust their driving style to allow for the challenges that wet roads present man and machine. We asked Daffyd Williams, a professional driving instructor and driving team manager at Mercedes-Benz World, for his expert tips on staying safe when driving in the rain.

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