Jul 05

‘Sally Traffic’s’ tips for happy family motoring

Reading Time: 5 mins

BBC Radio 2’s ‘Sally Traffic’ (Sally Boazman that is) is a keen Moneymagpie and she has sent us her top tips for safe and savvy motoring with the family during the summer holidays. So if you’re going away in the car with the kids this summer, Sally’s ideas for safe and happy motoring are just what you need.

As more of us decide to stay in the UK for our holidays, now known as “staycations”, we will be using our cars far more – and perhaps travelling very long distances. This can cause stress, strife, rows – you name it. The best way to avoid these unwanted traumas is to be prepared.

If you just take a small amount of time to plan things out, it’s amazing how much difference it can make to your journey.  Of course you can never plan to the point where no problems will occur – but the more you do plan, the more likely you’ll arrive in shape, not bent out of shape.

Prepare the car

Always make sure the car is ready for the off;

  1. It’s not particularly necessary to have a full car service before you go away, but if the vehicle hasn’t been serviced for a while, or one is due soon, it’s worth getting it done to prevent any major catastrophes – who knows if your Big End is about to go?
  2. Make sure the water is full, particularly if the weather is hot, and your screen wiper fluid is full and soapy. Have spare water in the boot in case there’s a heat problem, and you’re away from a garage.
  3. Check the oil is full.
  4. Check the tyres; this is really important, particularly if you’re carrying a lot of extra weight in the form of bikes, canoes, luggage, etc. I often report on “Blow outs” – when a tyre bursts at high speed,which can result in terrible accidents. So make sure the pressures are right, the tyres are all good and your spare is suitable for use should you need it.

Check you’re covered

  1. No matter how much you prepare and plan, something unexpected can always go wrong – so make sure you have suitable breakdown insurance. It may be an added expense but it can prove to be a life saver! Car insurance policies and bank accounts often include breakdown insurance, so make sure you check your existing policies.
  2. If you don’t have breakdown insurance already, take a look online, as there are loads of online discounts to be had. Green Insurance are offering a 18% discount and Green Flag offer roadside assistance from £20. Take a look at our article on Breakdown cover here to find out what type of cover you need and where you can get the best deal.
  3. It might be tempting to go for the simplest and therefore cheapest cover, but you might want to consider adding Recovery to your policy as well if you’re travelling a long way – as if you get stranded halfway, many companies will take you, the vehicle and other passengers to your chosen destination.
  4. With many policies, you will have the option to cover just yourself, or another person as well. Adding someone else ovbiously means added expense. With Green Flag, however, it is the car that is covered, not the driver. So no matter who is driving the car, they are covered.
  5. Make sure your car insurance policy is up to date. This might sound really simple, but if you’ve made any modifications to the car since taking the policy out, or any other changes, then you may not be covered if your insurance company don’t know about it and you have an accident on your journey.
  6. If someone else other than you is planning to drive the car at any point on the journey, make sure they are insured. It might be worthwhile putting your partner or friend on the policy as a named driver in case you feel ill or become too tired during the journey.
  7. Take a look at our article here on temporary car insurance – this could be an option for you if you’re driving someone else’s car. Some prices start at just £2.99 per day!

Have the best journey

  1. PLAN! PLAN! PLAN! If I could give you one tip, never ever travel on a Friday afternoon; research shows that there are more cars on the road then than on any other afternoon, leading to more accidents, and making jams even worse.  I report more congestion on a Friday afternoon than any other day, so never spontaneously get into your car on a Friday at 3 o’clock and think you’ll set off for a relaxing journey – it won’t happen. If you really can’t travel on any other day, then prepare yourself for very long queues, particularly if you’re heading for popular areas such as Cornwall, Scarborough or  Blackpool  – and you can be stuck on the M25 for hours.
  2. In contrast, Friday morning is one of the quietest times to travel until around 2pm, when the great getaway begins. But even if you have to leave at 5am – I’d recommend Friday morning for a journey of any length.
  3. However, never start a journey if you’re tired – make sure you’re wide awake and refreshed; government statistics show that one in five accidents happen when someone falls asleep at the wheel, amounting to around 300 people a year being killed.  The worst times for drivers falling asleep are between the hours of midnight and 6am, and between two and four in the afternoon.
  4. Make sure you know where you’re going!  I know it sounds obvious, but sort out a route before you leave, and get it stuck in your head. You should also have a back-up in case your first choice becomes blocked.  Sat navs are great for taking you around a blockage, so just change the route “type” if you get stuck. If you don’t already have one, Halfords have a diverse range and some great deals. If you do get lost – pull over and look at the map – note to men: I promise it doesn’t make you look stupid!
  5. Make a note of places to stop; if you’ve got kids, in particular, they need a place to run around and let off steam. The Highway Code recommends that you stop every 2 hours – but some kids might need even more breaks so make it part of the holiday – even stay overnight if you’re travelling miles – kids will see it all as part of a big adventure!
  6. Be aware that August is widely regarded as being the busiest month on motorways across the country.
  7. When returning from a break, remember that Sunday evenings are incredibly busy, because everyone is coming home at once.  It’s particularly busy between the hours of 3pm and 8pm. Avoid if you can!

The essential kit

  1. It’s tempting to take a mass of stuff for amusement, but I would simply advise taking plenty of water, sweets (wine-gums are great) and not much else.  If you make enough stops, you can eat properly, and use bathrooms.  I would always advise against taking hot drinks in the car, because, well, accidents can happen and you can get scalded.
  2. Always keep books in the car listing hotels, B&B’s, guest houses, camp sites, caravan parks, whatever you like – but have a book.  Weather conditions, emergencies, car breakdowns – all of this can happen, and it’s great to have that kind of information at your fingertips.
  3. Make sure you have a few worst case scenario items – a torch is always useful, and a basic first aid kit. Of course you should also make sure that you have your breakdown equipment on-board – your accident triangle for instance, and a reflective jacket or sash is handy too.

Keep the family happy

  1. As far as amusing the kids goes, a story on CD is a great idea, particularly if the adults like it too – or songs that the whole family knows. Check out Amazon’s partner site for positively loads of childrens audio books.
  2. A lovely duvet will help to make them feel sleepy and secure.
  3. Let them have their favourite toys with them and time-honoured games can also be helpful. Toys R Us has a good selection of travel games for just £4.99 each. Amazon also has a whole bunch of games and activities for the kids – such as the addictive and impossible Rubik’s Cube for £4.25 with free postage and packing.
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