Summer 'getaway' travel advice

The majority of drivers are inadequately prepared

Summer ‘getaway’ traffic to build from Friday lunchtime (19 July) as schools start to finish

Summer ‘getaway’ traffic to build from Friday lunchtime (19 July) as schools start to finish

With the UK’s transport infrastructure feeling the heat – melting tarmac and warping rails – AA research shows that the majority of drivers are inadequately prepared for the summer getaway.

An AA-Populus survey* of 23,450 AA members found that more than half (57%) of drivers don’t check the coolant level before a long car journey in summer and the vast majority (86%) neglect to test the cooling fan.

Londoners (38%) are the least likely to check coolant levels compared to those in the West Midlands, South-west and Wales (45%). Those in the South-east (12%) come bottom for testing the cooling fan with drivers in the North-west and Scotland most likely (16%).

Update

(Friday 26 July)

  • Rain disruption likely on peak traffic period of summer
  • Routes to South-west likely to be busiest

Heavy showers and flash flooding are likely to disrupt the summer getaway this weekend on what is expected to be the peak traffic period of summer.

It’s going to be a busy weekend for traffic as people head off for summer and the weather won’t help. Rain slows traffic and then some people drive too fast, slam on their brakes and create a domino effect.

The current forecast is quite unpredictable, so be wary of flash flooding, as the water runs straight off and drains struggle to cope. Don’t drive through flood water – pull over to a safe place and wait, as it often comes and goes quickly.

Bad weather and tired drivers don’t mix very well, so allow extra time for your journey and plan in some regular stops – at least every three hours. If you can, try to avoid the peak 10:00-16:00 time on Saturday and do all the basic checks on your car before heading off.

Last summer, the AA attended around 840,000 breakdowns and it will have extra patrols on duty this weekend, including its specialist flood rescue crews. It has also temporarily relocated some to holiday hotspots, for example, the South-west.

Gender differences

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the gender differences are more marked with almost double the number of men (52 vs 27%) than women checking coolant; and men lead when it comes to other basic checks like tyre pressures (82 vs 73%) and oil level (76 vs 60%).

Maintenance check Men (%) Women (%)
 Fill up with fuel  90 90 
 Windscreen wash  81 75 
 Tyre pressures  82 73 
 Oil level  76 60 
 Tyre condition  65 52 
 Lights  50 38 
 Coolant  52 27 
 Increase tyre pressures (for heavy load)  48 33 
 Adjust headlight aim (for heavy load)  19 11 
 Cooling fan  16 11 

Summer getaway traffic

Traffic information specialist Trafficmaster expects the weekend of 26-28 July to be the peak traffic period, although the recent fine conditions will have encouraged more people to head off a week earlier (19-21 July) as schools in England and Wales started to break up.

Traffic is forecast to build from lunchtime onwards on Friday (26 July) as ‘getaway’ traffic mixes with the commuter run; and on Saturdays (27 July), traffic will peak between 10:00-16:00 on the holiday routes.

Routes to the South-west are likely to be the busiest and congestion is also expected on main routes to the coast, cross-channel ports and major airports.

Top five congestion hotspots according to Trafficmaster

  • A303 From M3 through Hampshire, Wiltshire and Somerset
  • M5 Almondsbury (M4) to Exeter (J31)
  • M3/M27/A31 Winchester (J9) to Dorset coast
  • M6 Between Junction 11A (M6 Toll), through Staffordshire and Cheshire into Lancashire
  • M25 Western Sector Between M1 interchange (Junction 21) and M3 interchange (Junction 12)

Over the school holidays Trafficmaster expects that regular commuter traffic will be substantially quieter but daytime leisure traffic will increase, particularly if the good weather continues.

Try to avoid travelling at peak times and use your car radio’s TA or traffic announcement function to keep ahead of the jams

Tony Rich, AA patrol of the year

Comment

Tony Rich, AA patrol of the year, says: “While many children will be relishing the prospect of ice cream on the beach, some parents may be somewhat daunted at the thought of being stuck in traffic in such warm conditions.

“If you can, try to avoid travelling at peak times and use your car radio’s TA or traffic announcement function to keep ahead of the jams. Take a sat-nav and road atlas in case of any unexpected diversions or delays and make sure your car has plenty of fuel, so if you do get stuck, you can at least keep the air-conditioning on.

“If you’re travelling with children, take plenty of things to keep them entertained and plan in some regular stops – at least every three hours. If you’re an AA member, you save up to 20% and get special deals** at Moto service areas.”

It’s much better to discover a car problem at home, rather than in the outside lane of a motorway when the engine overheats

Tony Rich, AA patrol of the year

Breakdown prevention

Since the warm weather arrived, the AA has seen overheating-related call-outs jump more than 50% and looks set to exceed the 840,000 breakdowns it attended last summer.

The AA will have extra patrols on duty and has temporarily relocated some to holiday hotspots, for example, the South-west.

Tony Rich says: “Over the last fortnight, most drivers will have seen cars stuck at the roadside with bonnets open. It’s not that they aren’t designed to cope – great effort and cost goes into their design – it’s usually down to driver neglect.

“When it’s hot enough to melt roads and buckle rails, any underlying issues can be quickly exposed, so do the basic checks before departing including the coolant level and operation of the cooling fan.

“It’s much better to discover a car problem at home, rather than in the outside lane of a motorway when the engine overheats.”

Summer getaway preparation advice

  • Plan your route in advance and allow plenty of time for the journey
  • Check local traffic and weather reports – call AA Roadwatch on 84322
  • Travel when the roads are quieter
  • If tired, stop and drink one or two cups of coffee or other caffeinated drink and take a short nap of no more than 15-20 minutes
  • As one of their AA Rewards, personal AA members get up to 20% off food and drink at Moto service areas when they show their membership card
  • Check oil, coolant and windscreen wash levels, cooling fan operation, lights and tyre pressure (check when tyres are cold and increase pressure for heavy loads if necessary) and tread depth – not forgetting the spare and any caravan/trailer – before hitting the road
  • Pack the car safely being careful not to overload or obstruct vision
  • Keep plenty of refreshments on board and plan car games to keep children comfortable and happy throughout the journey

(updated 26 July)

* Source: Populus interviewed 23,450 adults aged 18+ on The AA/Populus online panel between 11-17 June 2013. Populus www.populus.co.uk is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

** AA Rewards members save up to 20% on all food and drink at Moto service areas (10% at Moto M&S Simply Food). Between 10 July and 10 August, AA Rewards members can buy one fish and chip meal and get the second for free at Moto services stations throughout the UK.

 

Flower power

Don't forget the basic checks every couple of weeks;

Fuel, Lights, Oil, Water, Electrics, and Rubber

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