graphic of car driving during the summer
Ryan Darby

Ryan Darby

Ryan takes the lead on all things 'wordy'. With a sports media background, a true passion for cars, and a LOT of driving experience under his belt, he'll make sure you have all the information you need, when you need it.

The ten things you should keep in mind when heading out on the road this summer

After what was possibly the longest and wettest winter on record – don’t quote us on that, we’re not meteorologists – the warmer days are finally upon us and the sun is beaming down like it never left. 

But don’t let the sunshine go straight to your head. Driving can become so habitual we forget to take stock of the season and the weather, especially when it’s not rained for days and storms are a distant memory. However, driving in the summer brings its own set of potentially dangerous circumstances. 

It can be very different to drive in the heat compared to the drizzle that has plagued us for the last six months, especially if that trip is taking you further afield than your local beach, park, lake, loch or nature reserve. 

Before you hop in the car and head out to make the most of the good days, soak in our ten top tips for summer driving to keep you, and everyone around you, safer in the sun.

air con in car

1. Cool the car before you begin your journey

Whether you’re driving twenty minutes down the road or you’re off on a cross-country adventure, there are ways for you to cool your car down before you head off.

Depending on how much space you have, open all the windows and as many doors as possible to release some of the hot air from the cabin, before turning on the air con to the coldest setting.

Keep your windows open until you’re happy with the inside temperature, before closing them and blasting the air con to recirculate the current cold air and keep the heat out.

If you’re leasing an electric car, this is where you get to feel a bit smug. Nearly every EV has the ability to ‘precondition’ the interior before you get in, whether that’s heating the car in the dead of winter, or cooling the interior down in summer. Some can only do this when the vehicle is plugged into a charger, but it’s an easy way to make sure it doesn’t feel like you’re actually climbing into the sun when you open the car door.

Drinking in the sun

2. Plan alternative travel if you’re drinking alcohol

This might sound obvious, but if you’re planning on heading off to enjoy a day-long jolly, or want to make the most of the long, balmy summer evenings in a beer garden, you need to make sure you’ve thought about how to get home.

For drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the limit is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, 35 micrograms (mcg) per 100ml of breath, or 107mg per 100ml of urine.

The laws are stricter in Scotland, where the limit is 22mcg per 100ml of breath, 50mg per 100ml of blood and 67mg per 100ml of urine.

How this translates into units of alcohol can vary from person to person based on sex, height, weight and a whole host of other factors, so to be completely safe, it’s best practice to avoid driving after drinking completely.

According to the NHS, your heart rates speeds up after drinking just 1-2 units, while reaction times can be considerably slower after drinking 8-9 units.

Man holding a bottle of water

3. Stay hydrated

While you should be staying hydrated all year around, it’s even more important to watch your fluid intake during the hot summer months. In high temperatures, our bodies need more water than we’d normally take in.

Make sure you’re always carrying a water bottle on board, even if you’re only hoppi ing 20 minutes down the road. You never know what might happen, and you don’t want to end up stuck in traffic in a hot car for hours without any liquids. And if you’re heading off on a longer journey, schedule in regular breaks so you have time to stop, stretch your legs and have a drink.

The Highway Code states that you should take a 15-minute break every two hours, but you should always take more if you feel it necessary. If you’re not a fan of the regular old service station, there are plenty of alternative stops you can take to make the journey more interesting.

cars driving on busy road

4. Be considerate of other road users

The UK is full of incredible holiday destinations (we’re lucky enough to enjoy Devon year-round, and we love being able to share our county with holidaymakers in the summer), and families are likely to flock to them in their droves over the next few months.

As locals, we do have the luxury of knowing our nearby roads like the back of our hands. But tourists likely don’t have that same wealth of knowledge, and might need more time to safely navigate their way, especially when winding country lanes and signs that have been battered by the elements are involved.

Sunny days also mean that more people are likely to be out cycling and walking, so you’ll need to be extra vigilant while you’re out and about, and make sure you’re always checking your blind spot.

Stick to the speed limit and be extra considerate of other road users, especially in hotter temperatures, where it can be easier to get flustered or agitated.

Dog in car while driving

5. Never leave your dog in the car

You might only be nipping into the shop to pick up a pint of milk, but you should never leave your dog alone in a locked car during high heats.

Especially if we have a heatwave or two this year. 

Even if you leave windows open, temperatures inside a car can rise at an alarming rate. If you see a distressed dog inside a car, you should alert the police. Forcing entry into a car could be classed as criminal damage, so you should refrain from doing so and let the police alert animal welfare.

However, if you opt for a Tesla lease, you can keep your fluffy friend safe in the sun with Tesla’s Dog Mode. This is a setting that lets you set the temperature in the cabin, and the car will maintain it until your return. It’ll also display a message on the car’s large infotainment screen, letting people know your pet is safe and showing the interior temperature.

allergie pills prescription

6. Remember it’s hay fever season

Allergies like hay fever abound in the warmer months because of the higher temperatures. With pollen floating all around, you might be popping the hay fever tablets like they’re going out of fashion to prevent itchy eyes and sneezing. 

However, some prescription allergy medications can have unwanted side effects like drowsiness.

Always check the labels of anything you’re taking, and take stock of how you’re feeling before you get behind the wheel.

Rainbow in counrty side field

7. Don’t rule out bad weather

As much as we’d love the hot weather to continue for longer than a day, we live in the UK – heavy rain or a storm is inevitable at some point, even during the summer months.

Just as you would over the winter, make sure your tyres have sufficient tread and your windscreen wipers are fully functional in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.

man standing next to car

8. Increased risk of breakdown

There can be an increased risk of breakdowns when driving in the summer.

Not only are you likely to be driving further, with the good weather making all of us want to get out and about and enjoy the best of our fair isle, which could mean unwanted problems due to the change in usage, but high temperatures can also affect your car.

Hot weather can quickly worsen existing damage to tyres, so you’ll want to keep an eye on their condition and pressure before heading off on any long journeys. And make sure your coolant and oil levels meet the necessary requirements to keep the engine at a suitable temperature to prevent overheating.

This is something that is often overlooked all year, but getting caught in an unexpected traffic jam can quickly diminish your fuel levels, especially with the air con on full blast.

Car on dry land

9. Be mindful of the driving conditions

Extremely high temperatures can cause road surfaces to soften and become slippery, so we need to slow down in extreme heat to accommodate this. Equally, when rain follows a period of prolonged heat we need to be aware of increased levels of standing water.

Dazzling sunshine can also be more frequent in summer, so sunglasses are an essential accessory to keep in your car, on top of your head and in your pocket or your bag at all times (you can never have too many pairs). 

They’re not always sufficient in improving visibility, and you must always pull over safely if you become dazzled. 

Sunglasses on the beach

10. Be prepared!

Hot weather is, by virtue of its nature, hot.

Don’t hop in your car and gaily drive off without first being prepared. Make sure your car is stocked with all the essentials, including extra snacks and water, suncream and sunglasses, and even something to keep the kids entertained if you find yourself stuck in traffic. 

Which is almost inevitable in the summer, with crowds gathering in popular tourist spots.

If you find your route getting crowded and your temper fraying, it’s always better to pull off and spend some time in a service station or small town than risk getting frustrated and over hot, which can lead to worse driving. 

Stay safe – and cool – this summer. 

Get prepped for those long drives this summer with these 12 car essentials.