Road trips are just around the corner – or anywhere else on your map. Call it a holiday or a staycation, Brits are ready for an adventure.
Searches for ‘UK road trip’ are soaring – twice as many of us were searching in April 2021 than 2020 – and VisitBritain has forecasted a 51% boost in domestic spending in 2021, hitting £51.4 billion.
To help you make the most of your grand tour, we’ve taken a look at the more serious side of road trips – the key safety and car-care measures to think about before you buckle up.
Plan your road trip route
Road trips are all about the journey, so – unless you’re going full Jack Kerouac – plan your route and your stops.
Avoid delays by checking traffic news before you head out, as well as looking at traffic on a site like Google Maps – roads are highlighted to show any congestion (green is good, amber means it’s running slow, and red is best avoided).
Avoid service station crowds and enjoy something a bit different by planning your stops – look out for towns and villages en route where you can stop for a coffee. The Highway Code suggests stopping for at least 15 minutes every two hours.
There’s a serious side, too. Around 10 to 20% of crashes are caused by driver fatigue, according to car safety charity Brake.
If you’re in for the long haul, split your journey with an overnight stop. Although it’s not applicable to private drivers, the 10-hour maximum for people driving for work is a good limit to follow.
Pack the essentials
A tin of hard-boiled sweets only goes so far for a road trip, so pack these essentials so you’re braced for any surprises:
• All-weather clothing and footwear
• Road maps for places where GPS signal may be patchy
• Car documents
• A first aid kit
It can be tempting to pack everything except the kitchen sink, but don’t push it too far. Your car must not exceed its gross weight – that’s the weight of the car and everything in it.
Pick a playlist
Music makes a road trip. It can shape the atmosphere – it might be the Beach Boys for when you roll down to the seaside or Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain as you reach for top gear.
But DJ with caution. Some research has found songs with a tempo above 120bpm can encourage erratic driving. Go steady for a calmer drive.
It’s also worth bearing in mind it’s now illegal to hold a mobile phone while driving for any reason, even if you are sitting in traffic.
Check your tyres
Tyres are among the most safety-critical pieces of equipment on your car. Driving a car that is in a dangerous condition could land you in hot water, with fines up to £2,500 and points on your licence.
Checks should include:
• Tread depth – the minimum threshold in the UK is 1.6mm, but some experts say 3mm is a safer level. Try inserting a 20p coin into the grooves of your tyres – if you can’t see the coin’s outer band, your tyres are within the legal limit.
• Pressures – check the pressure for each tyre. Manufacturers often suggest a higher pressure for long journeys and/or more weight.
• Condition – check your tyres for any cracks or chips, or any uneven wear.
It’s also worth making sure your spare tyre, if you have one, is in good condition.
Open the bonnet
Check the levels for:
• Engine oil – when the engine is cold and the car’s on a level surface, pull the dipstick out, wipe it clean, put it back in and then out again. If your car needs a top-up, check the manual to buy the right type.
• Washer fluid – vital for keeping your windscreen clear.
• Other consumables – check all other liquids – such as engine coolant and brake fluid – to make sure they’re between the minimum and maximum levels.
If you aren’t sure where these measurements can be taken in your car, check the vehicle handbook.
Simple things like making sure your windows, mirrors and windscreen are clean can make all the difference when you’re due to be away for several days.
Check your paperwork
There have been some major changes to driving rules during the pandemic – and if you’ve been driving less, these could easily slip your mind.
During lockdown, there was a MOT holiday, meaning you didn’t have to renew your car’s MOT. However, this has come to an end.
If your car is more than three years old, double check it has a valid MOT before you set off. Failing to do so could land you with a £1,000 fine and it may even invalidate your insurance.
Likewise, if your driving licence expired between 1 February and 31 December 2020, it was automatically extended for 11 months – a period which may now have ended.
By taking care of your car before your trip, you can enjoy the adventure. Read more on the Zuto blog for more ideas and advice.