12 Days of Christmas

AA's guide to a breakdown free festive season

7 December 2007

This Christmas, the AA will help the 22 million1 British motorists expected on the nation's roads to avoid spending the festive season on the hard shoulder, with a roadside version of Christmas classic, '12 Days of Christmas', filled with top tips for merry motoring:

On the first day of Christmas....

Plan the get-away - Friday 21st December is expected to be the busiest day to travel over the Christmas and New Year period, with roads expected to get congested from 11:30am as people set off early to arrive at their destinations before dark. Thursday 27th December and Wednesday 2nd January are expected to be the busiest days for breakdowns and because the AA attended over 175,000 breakdowns2 over the Christmas period in 2006, patrols will remain on high alert, 24/7, during this year's busy period.

On the second day of Christmas....

Be sure to make the top three top ups - water, anti-freeze and oil - Also ensure that windscreen wipers are in full working order, in preparation for bad weather conditions and as winter roads kick up a lot of dirt and grit, plenty of screen wash is a must too. For motorists who want guidance on how to carry out simple car checks before they travel, the AA has a series of video podcasts featuring experienced AA patrols demonstrating simple car care procedures at www.theAApodcasts.com.

On the third day of Christmas....

Check the battery - A flat battery is one of the most common car complaints received by the AA, fuelling more than one in every 20 call outs made to the UK's largest motoring organisation in the last 12 months. Lights, heaters and windscreen wipers put high demands on the car battery so motorists should avoid running car electrics any longer than necessary - turn the heater fan down, switch the heated rear window off once windows are clear and double-check all interior and exterior lights are off when leaving the vehicle.

On the fourth day of Christmas....

Be prepared for delays and listen to local travel reports - With 60 per cent of UK drivers expected to hit the roads between 22nd December and 2nd January, it's essential to be prepared for traffic congestion by ensuring mobile phones are fully charged and fuel tanks are topped up.

On the fifth day of Christmas....

Devise a packing strategy - Adding a Santa's sack-load of Christmas presents to the usual holiday necessities can leave vehicles fit to burst. It's important that motorists don't overload their cars or obstruct their vision, both of which can increase the potential risk of an accident.

On the sixth day of Christmas....

Take a break - With nearly two-thirds3 of British motorists (63%) not taking effective breaks when travelling long distances and over 3,000 deaths and serious injuries on UK roads each year attributed to sleep deprivation, it's essential that drivers factor regular breaks into long car journeys. Print directions from AA route-planner before setting off, to avoid any unnecessary detours.

On the seventh day of Christmas....

Check all tyres for condition, pressure and depth of tread - The legal requirement for tyre tread depth is 1.6mm throughout a continuous band in the centre 3/4 of the tread and around the entire circumference but in the winter the AA recommends this should be 3mm, to ensure better grip on icy roads. A car overloaded with presents can leave tyres at risk of puncture and uneven wear, so before setting off always check that the tyre pressures are correctly adjusted in line with the car manufacturer's handbook.

On the eighth day of Christmas....

Obey the rules of the hard shoulder - Adam Ashmore, AA patrol of the year, explains: "Experiencing a breakdown can be distressing and most people prefer to sit tight in their vehicle to wait for assistance - especially when it is cold or wet outside. However, this leaves drivers and their passengers exposed to the dangers of passing traffic so it's essential to get out and away from the vehicle. And, when exiting any vehicle make sure to do it from the passenger side and wait for breakdown assistance somewhere safe."

On the ninth day of Christmas....

Try to avoid routes with planned road-works - The AA Roadwatch team is warning motorists that roadworks on the M1 junctions 6a to 10 and 30 to 32, plus M4 junction 6 and Cardiff Gate and the A1 between Colsterworth and Markham Moor could cause delays to journeys. In addition, as the January sales will cause congestion on the M5 at Cribbs Causeway, the M1 at Meadowhall and the M60 at the Trafford Centre. As always, motorists should factor in extra journey time if planning to hit the M25, especially between the M3 and M1 interchanges (junction 11-21).

On the tenth day of Christmas....

Provide in-car entertainment - Families joining the Christmas get-away can keep the frustrating 'are we nearly there yet?' question at bay, by pre-planning in-car activities. With very young children the AA advises trying to plan journeys to coincide with nap times and also parents should steer clear of fizzy drinks and junk food to keep children calm en route.

On the eleventh day of Christmas....

Compile an in-car kit - With many motorists relying on the vehicle's heating to keep them comfortable in cold temperatures, the AA advises keeping warm clothing and blankets in-car, in case of an emergency. Other essentials include refreshments in case of long delays in heavy traffic, de-icer, a torch, first aid kit, tow rope, snow shovel, a warning triangle, water repellent spray and a map in case of unexpected diversions.

On the twelfth day of Christmas....

Be a prepared passenger - When it comes to AA personal membership, the individual is the member not the vehicle, so whether behind the wheel or a back seat driver, keeping the handy AA yellow card close by will get a journey back on the right track.

For further advice on how to prepare your car for the winter months as well as more AA patrol podcasts featuring advice on anything from how to change a tyre, to the best way to load and pack your car, visit www.theaa.com/motoring_advice.

Notes to Editors

1 - ICM poll of 1,005 road users on 21st November 2007 found that 60% of motorists are planning a car journey over the Christmas period

2 - Between 20th December and 4th January

3 - ICM poll of 631 motorists 20th August 2007

 

7 December 2007