This Easter is likely to be one of the busiest on the roads in recent years
Drivers taking holidays in the UK this summer are advised to leave home and come back on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday if their vacation period allows it. This is because 59% of AA members say they will go away by car for a long weekend in the UK this summer.
August will be the busiest month for ‘long weekenders’, with 28% of 25,810* respondents in an AA-Populus panel survey saying they will take a short motoring break next month. This compares with 25% in July and 23% in September.
The survey underlines the greater holiday flexibility enjoyed by better-off motorists with two-thirds (63%) of the professional and upper managerial socio-economic group taking a long-weekend break, compared with half (50%) of lower-income drivers.
Similarly, although 5% of AA members will drive abroad for a long weekend away, that rises to 6% among wealthier drivers. However, 4% of lower-income families will still nip across the Channel for a quick trip some time this summer.
given that cars are often heavily loaded for a long-distance family trip, more than two-thirds (68%) don’t think to increase tyre pressures as recommended
Max Holdstock, AA patrol of the year
According to newly-crowned AA Patrol of the Year Max Holdstock, this trend means that roadworks, accidents or other bottlenecks could test the resilience of cars as well as try the patience of their occupants when traffic hold-ups develop.
The same study suggests many drivers give their cars scant preparation before setting off on a journey, neglecting to make even the most basic of checks whether it’s a for a long weekend or a holiday. And according to the AA, tyre problems and overheating engines are among the most common summer dramas that can bring a family trip to a premature halt.
It found that although 89% top up the fuel tank before setting off, a fifth (21%) don’t check their tyre pressures while two-thirds (67%) don’t even bother to make a visual tyre check, such as tread depth or signs of cuts or bulges.
“Drivers load up their cars up with family, luggage and holiday paraphernalia – and then expect them to undertake a long trouble-free journey but don’t bother to make sure the car is properly prepared for the extra strain,” Max Holdstock says.
“Tyre failure is one of the most common reasons for members to call the AA for help.”
“And given that cars are often heavily loaded for a long-distance family trip, more than two-thirds (68%) don’t think to increase tyre pressures as recommended, to cope with the heavy load and prolonged motorway journeys.”
He points out that car handbooks as well as small information panels in the fuel cap cover or the driver’s door shut provide information about tyre pressure for heavy loads.
Overheating is another common roadside problem that is often the result of low coolant or a failed cooling fan. More than half (58%) said they don’t check their cooling system level and top up with the appropriate water/anti-freeze mix. “This is easy to do while checking operation of the fan is also easily done,” Max Holdstock says.
“Our study also found that a third (32%) don’t check their engine’s oil level either. Dangerously low oil can lead to serious and expensive engine damage.”
A broken-down car is not a good start to what should be a happy weekend break or holiday
Max Holdstock, AA patrol of the year
But when asked about basic under bonnet maintenance checks, 13% of drivers said they ‘haven’t got a clue’ about what to do. This rises to a third (30%) of women.
“If you plan to make long trips this summer and you don’t know what to do, most garages will provide such checks very cheaply or even free of charge. A broken-down car is not a good start to what should be a happy weekend break or holiday.”
The AA offers a simple way to remember what checks to regularly carry out: FLOWER. This stands for Fuel, Lights, Oil, Water, Electrics, Rubber and a simple guide to basic car checks.
And for those planning to cross the channel, there is up-to-date information about driving in Europe including delays caused by French farmers as well as industrial action and migrant activity at Calais.
(24 July 2015)
* AA-Populus interviewed 28,510 AA members in an online poll between 17-24 June 2015. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.