Tips for driving safely in a heatwave

Tips for driving safely in a heatwave


For the most part of the UK, we’re expecting to reach 30+ degrees today and for the rest of the week. While there are many benefits to having a heatwave when you’re stuck in lockdown, there are also downsides.

If you need to go out in your vehicle, whether to the local shops or to undertake some form of physical activity nearby, it’s always worth making sure that you’re fully prepared to drive in a heatwave.

Check your car over
Hot weather is known to apply additional demand on every component of the engine, so it’s important that before any journey – long or short –you check the oil level within your vehicle and top up if required.

Additionally, under-inflated tyres run the risk of overheating and causing a blowout, which can be incredibly dangerous, so be sure to check all tyres before taking off.

Wear the correct footwear
While it is not illegal to drive wearing flip flops, research has found that wearing this type of footwear can increase braking time and increase the likelihood of an accident occurring. Why not carry your flip flops in the car and wear a more suitable pair of shoes for the duration of your journey, switching when you arrive at your destination.

Use your sun visor
Sun visors are there for a reason; to help keep the sun out of your eyes and promote full visibility when behind the wheel. If you’re shorter than your visor reaches, you can purchase sun visor extenders. A pair of sunglasses wouldn’t go amiss either, just ensure they’re not heavily tinted or damaged enough to blur your vision.

Utilise air con, if you have it
Many cars have built in air conditioning which is a saviour during a heatwave. To make the most of your air con, start driving with your air con on straight away in order to cool the car down quicker. You should also point the vents of your air con towards the roof of the car, on full blast, and with the rear windows of the car open to maximise the circulation of air, pushing the hot air out.

However, if you’re driving with someone outside of your household in your car, we would advise you the same as we are advising our instructors due to COVID-19: provide ventilation during teaching by having the windows partially down. Avoid using air conditioning if possible and if you do have to use it then do not set it to recirculate.

Keep a bottle of water to hand
Ensure you have a cold or cool bottle of water within reach while you’re driving so that you can stay fully hydrated – although please only reach for your drink when it is safe to do so.

Pay attention to your car
A heatwave can have many effects on your vehicle, and if you notice that the engine is starting to overheat be sure to pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and call for / wait for assistance. If you continue to drive when the engine is overheating, you can potentially cause irreparable damage.

Avoid driving at peak times, if you are able to
While you don’t want to be stuck in stop-start rush hour traffic during a heatwave, you will also want to avoid driving at the hottest part of the day if you can help it – most often between 3pm and 4:30pm. This is especially true for those doing long-distance driving or have a car that runs the risk of overheating.

Try to park in a shaded spot
There is nothing worse than getting into a car that feels 100 degrees; so, if you can, be sure to park your car in a shaded spot. That could be underneath the cover of a tree, behind a building that blocks the sunlight or in a parking garage. This will help to keep the temperature within the car cool and bearable for when you return.

Always carry an emergency kit in your car
It is always wise to carry an emergency kit in your car ready should you break down or need to pull over for a period of time. This kit should include plenty of water, non-perishable food items, a first aid kit and a torch, with spare batteries.

During the colder times of the year you will also want a blanket – and this too can come in handy during a heatwave to protect you from the sun’s harsh rays as you should not wait within the car if you need to pull over. Get out of the vehicle and find a safe space nearby to shelter and wait for assistance.

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