camper van driving next to beach graphic
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 COVID-19 restrictions have eased, and the sun has come out to celebrate with us. The warmer weather brings with it long days on the beach, balmy evenings spent in beer gardens, and plenty of BBQs.

With less people choosing to go abroad this year, there will undoubtedly be a surge in the number of people on our roads as people enjoy a staycation. Whether you’re heading down to enjoy the sandy beaches and good surf of the Devon and Cornwall coast, or heading north to the lakes or the lochs, there’s a trip for everyone.

But summer driving brings with it a whole new bag of tricks. Driving in the heat can be a very different experience to driving in our normal drizzly weather, especially if that trip is taking you cross-country.

We’ve collated our top 10 best tips for summer driving to keep you, and everyone else around you, safer in the sun.

air con in car

1) Cool the car before you begin your journey

If you have a long journey ahead, there are ways for you to cool your car down before you head off.

Space providing, open your windows and as many doors as possible to release some of the hot air from the cabin before turning on the air conditioning to the coldest setting if your car has it.

Keep your windows open until you’re happy with the temperature inside before switching your air conditioning to recirculate the current cold air and closing your windows.

Drinking in the sun

2) Plan alternative travel if you are consuming alcohol

This may sound like an obvious one, but if you are planning to consume alcohol at any point then you should plan alternative means for travel to ensure you do not get behind the wheel. Drink driving is illegal and the resulting charges and potential accidents can be severe.  

For drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the limit is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath or 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine.

The laws are stricter in Scotland, where the limit is; 22 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath, 50 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood and 67 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine.

How this translates into units of alcohol can vary from person to person, so to be safe, you should avoid driving after drinking alcohol completely.

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

Man holding a bottle of water

3) Stay hydrated

In high temperatures, there has never been a more important time to stay hydrated. In the hot heat, our bodies require more fluid than we would traditionally intake.

If you’re travelling over longer distances, carry a bottle of water on board but also schedule regular breaks to ensure you have plenty of opportunities to stop 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.

There's a wealth of farm shops up and down the country that make for a pleasant pit stop, and you could even take a break to stretch your legs at places like Stonehenge.

cars driving on busy road

4) Be considerate of holidaymakers

The staycation has never been more popular. Though England has hit Step 4 and the majority of restrictions have been lifted, international travel is still tricky. Luckily, the UK is full of incredible holiday destinations, and families are likely to flock to them in their droves.

As locals, we have the luxury of knowing our nearby roads like the back of our hands. Others may not and could require more time to safely navigate their way to the location as they familarise themselves with a new way of driving.

You must 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.

Sunglasses on the beach

5) Remember your sunglasses

Those trusty sunnies have never been so important. With the temperatures rising, there is an increased risk of glare from the brighter sky.

It would be a good idea to keep a pair of sunglasses in your car. It is legal to wear sunglasses while driving if they do not hinder your vision or make the road ahead appear too dark. Not all sunglasses will be suitable for driving, so always check before you set off on your journey.

Dog in car while driving

6) Never leave your dog in the car

You might only be nipping into the shop to pick up a pint of milk on the way home, but you should never leave your dog (or sleeping passengers for that matter) alone in a locked car during high heats.

Even if windows are left open, temperatures can rise inside a car 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 always refrain from doing so as the police will alert animal welfare.

allergie pills prescription

7) Be prepared for allergies

Allergies like hay fever can be more profound during the summer because of the higher temperatures. Depending on what you suffer from, some of the prescription tablets that you might be taking could have side effects like drowsiness. 

If you do have to do some driving of any distance, always check the labels of anything you take to combat allergies.

Car on dry land

8) Dry land at increased risk of ignition

It is not illegal to smoke in your car, providing your passengers are over the age of 18.

Passengers should avoid disposing of cigarette ends out of the window, especially when driving past dry land during the summer months. The heat is likely to make grass banks drier, increasing the risk of ignition. 

Rainbow in counrty side field

9) Don’t rule out adverse weather conditions

As much as we want the sun to keep shining beyond this heat wave, we must remember, this is the United Kingdom - we are rarely far away from rain showers.

Just as you would in normal conditions, ensure that your tyres have sufficient tread and your windscreen wipers are fully functional in case the weather turns for the worst.

man standing next to car

10) Increased chance of breakdown

There can be an increased risk of breakdowns when driving in the summer months. Traditionally, your typical driving lengths are shorter during the winter months, so a sudden change in usage could spark some unwanted problems.

Ensure that your coolant and oil levels meet the necessary requirements to keep the engine at a suitable temperature to prevent overheating.

Be aware that your tyres will be under greater stress in hotter temperatures, therefore increasing the risk of punctures. One last rule…remember to always check your tyre pressure before setting off.

By following these tips, you will be taking good measures to keep yourself and your passengers safe throughout the summer. The last year has been tricky for so many of us, and the warmer weather is a good chance to shake off some of the difficulties of 2020 and look forward to a brighter end to 2021.

The beautiful summer weather allows us to enjoy the roads in some of the best conditions, so we must do so safely.

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