It’s fantastic to get some hot sunny weather in the summer months, but it can cause
difficulties for drivers. You can be more prepared for long hot journeys by:
- Checking your tyre pressures. Make sure you check them when they’re cool, so
before starting your journey.
- Checking the level of your engine coolant. A minimum / maximum marker is
displayed on your tank and the level should be between those 2 markers. Keep a
bottle of water in the boot of your vehicle just in case you need to replenish the
levels on your journey.
- Checking you have sufficient fluid in your windscreen washer reservoir to wipe away
dust and insects from your windscreen.
- Having enough water and snacks for the journey. You don’t know if there will be
traffic hold ups and your journey is going to take much longer than anticipated.
- Planning regular rest breaks. Long journeys in hot weather can be monotonous and
- Listening to Traffic Information to avoid known hold ups that will occur on hot days.
Overheated engines in long traffic queues are the most frequent causes of
breakdowns in hot weather.
Dealing With The Sun’s Glare
Driving into the sun is sometimes unavoidable, but the incredible brightness can cause a
temporary blindness which is obviously dangerous as you cannot clearly see what’s
happening around you. Dazzle from the sun is the cause of nearly three thousand traffic
incidents every year, according to the AA (Automobile Association).
To deal with the glare you should firstly slow right down. Select the same kind of speed as if
you are driving in heavy rain or in fog. Drive at a speed in which you can stop in the distance
you can see to be clear; the less you can see ahead of you the slower you must be driving.
Aim to leave a bigger gap than normal between you and the car in front. As it’s so difficult to
see what is going on around you there’s a greater risk of collision if the car in front has to
Take extra care to look at the very edges of the road to watch out for cyclists and
motorcyclists. They are very vulnerable and much harder to see, especially if the road is
sunny and shady.
The normal separation gap between you and the cart in front should be two seconds so
that, if the car in front needs to brake heavily you have enough time to slow down and avoid
a collision. If the car behind you is too close to you, aim to leave an even bigger gap
between you and the car in front.
How To Assess A Two Second Gap
Watch the car in front of you pass a stationary object, like a lamppost for example
As the car passes the lamppost say the words,
“Only a Fool Breaks the Two Second Rule”
If you reach the stationary object as you finish the saying, you are exactly two seconds
behind the vehicle.
If you are driving away from the sun’s glare, have a look at the drivers of the oncoming
vehicles. Are they squinting and struggling to see? Are they approaching hazards that they
may not be able to clearly see? Being aware of how other drivers are struggling to see can
help you keep safe.
Sunglasses will help to deal with the glare from the sun. Keep a pair in the car at all times
and keep them in a place where you can get hold of them easily. Winter sun can also cause
temporary blindness, so sunglasses can be useful all year round.
A very obvious way to help yourself deal with the glare from the sun is to use the visor
that’s fitted in your car. It can be pulled down and it can be unclipped and pushed to one
side to help prevent glare from the side window.
If you’re struggling to see the road clearly focus on the road markings and/or the left edge
of the road to help guide you.
Keep your windscreen clean and streak free. It can be extremely difficult to see clearly
through a dirty or streaky windscreen when the sun hits it. Use the windscreen washer and
wipers to clean a dusty windscreen and use a window polishing cloth with water to clean
the insides of the windows.
Make sure you keep your washer fluid topped up with water with an added solution. This
will help to clean the dust off your windscreen as well as the bugs that are quite sticky and
harder to wipe away. Keep extra water and solution on your boot in case you run out.
It’s very important to stay hydrated when driving in hot weather. The Food Standards
Agency suggests that adults should drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day. This may be
much more in hot weather.
Driving dehydrated can have the same impact on driving as being over the drink driving
limit, according to a Loughborough University study. They found that, while on a driving
simulator, driver faults created were doubled. That is the same result that would be
expected if you’re over the drink driving limit.
To help keep yourself and others safe, aim to drink a glass of water before starting a journey
and have regular drink breaks throughout the journey. Although it’s not illegal to drink
water while driving, it’s not advised and will be taken into account if you’re involved in an
According to Gov.Uk, up to one fifth of accidents on motorways and other monotonous
types of roads may be caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel. 18-30 year olds males
are more likely to fall asleep when driving late at night. Driving early in the morning, after
socialising or after eating a large meal can lead to excessive tiredness as well.
In addition to these factors, driving in the summer with the heat and glare of the sun can
make you start to feel very drowsy. The important thing to remember is that all drivers who
fall asleep at the wheel have a degree of warning. They have ignored that warning!
If you do start to feel drowsy don’t fight it and continue your journey, the risk of dozing off
and causing a serious accident is much too great.
Some signs that tell you that you’re getting too tired to drive are:
- Heavy eyelids
- Drifting from your lane while driving
If you recognise any of these signs while you’re driving you must find a safe place to stop
and rest as soon as you can. You must not stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway; drive
on until you reach a motorway services or another safe place.
If you can’t stop straight away, aim to make the temperature inside the car as cool as you
can. Open the car windows and put the Air Conditioning on if you have it. Putting the radio
on can be a distraction that will help you to stay awake as well. These tips are not instead of
a rest break, they are simply to help you stay safe for a few minutes until you reach a safe
place to stop.
Once you have parked in a safe place, have a 20-minute nap, or however long you think you
need. Remember that you’ll be drowsy for 10-15 minutes or so after you wake up so don’t
attempt to drive again straight away. Drink some caffeine and have a snack to wake you up
and help you stay alert before continuing with your journey.
The Road Surface
During long periods of hot weather the tarmac roads can become soft. This makes them
more dangerous to drive on and you are more likely to skid. Skidding is caused by asking too
much from the car when accelerating, braking or steering so take extra care when
approaching hazards and drive around bends in the road with more caution.
Leaving Dogs In The Car
Never leave your dog in a car on a warm day, it can be extremely distressing and dangerous
for them. Leaving the windows open is not enough as the car can quite quickly become as
hot as an oven.
Animals can die from heatstroke in as little time as 15 minutes, according to PeTA (People
for Ethical Treatment of Animals). They can display signs such as:
- Thick saliva
- Heavy panting
- Lack of appetite
- Rapid heartbeat
- Lack of coordination
If you feel your dog is suffering apply cool wet towels to the stomach, chest and paws but
be careful not to overcool the animal with ice or very cold water.
Remember that pavements get extremely hot and can cause burns and blistering to animal’s
paws, and the sun can reflect onto their bodies increasing the risk of heatstroke.
If you do have your dog in the car with you on a hot day you can keep it comfortable by
stopping regularly to provide water to drink and keeping the car temperature cool.
Enjoy the hot weather when we get it and use the above tips to keep yourself and others
safe and comfortable.
Do you have any tips to share? Let me know in the comments below.