Whether it’s fiddling with sat navs, MP3 players or smart phones, there are numerous in-car temptations to draw drivers’ eyes away from the road. And that’s without taking account of any excited kids who might be in the back!
Using a hand-held mobile phone in the car has been illegal since 2003. Being caught means an automatic fixed penalty notice of three points on your licence and a £100 fine. In serious cases, you can be disqualified from driving and fined £1000.
You can use hands-free devices legally although research shows a driver’s reaction time is slowed and the Department for Transport advises against making a hands-free call. Consulting maps, checking your car’s trip computer or changing the audio system can be equally distracting so it’s safer to pull over if you need to do this during your journey.
Are you sitting comfortably?
A simple way of ensuring a comfortable journey is to make sure you’re wearing the right clothes. Loose clothes will allow you to sit more comfortably in the seat. For kids, layers are the way forwards so they can keep cool or wrap up as required.
Give yourself a break
The longer you drive for, the less alert you’re likely to feel, so take a break every couple of hours and particularly if you start to become drowsy. If you do feel sleepy, have a cup of coffee and a nap. Ten minutes with your eyes shut will allow the caffeine to kick in and you’ll wake up refreshed, alert, and ready to carry on. Alternatively, walk about in the fresh air for five minutes and do some stretching exercises to get the blood flowing round your body again.
Before setting off
- Do not drink alcohol heavily the night before
- Check that any medication you are taking doesn’t cause drowsiness
- Never set off if you feel tired, dizzy or unwell
If you feel tired but can’t stop
- Turn the sound system on or change what you’re listening to
- If you’re listening to music, try singing along (passengers will have no excuse to tell you to stop, too)
- Wind down the window or reduce the temperature inside the car
- Sit upright
- Look around you as much as you can safely
Take plenty of snacks and drinks on a family journey. Make sure the drinks have screw tops rather than cans or cartons, which cause storage problems if left unfinished and toilet problems if consumed all at once.
You can also make the journey part of the holiday. If possible, choose more interesting places to stop than service areas – a helpful resource is Offmotorway.com. The more kids can run around during stops, the more peaceful a journey will be.
Travel sickness occurs when you can’t see yourself moving, only feel it. For children who are prone to travel sickness, try to limit activities where the eyes are focused inside the car, such as reading and playing hand-held games. Listening to books or music enables children to look around while they’re being entertained. Travel sickness wrist bands may help.
Tips for dealing with kids
Keeping kids entertained is the key to a hassle-free family trip. Try our pick of great games and toys for kids. Also, there’s a huge variety of games suited to all kinds of mobile devices. It just takes a bit of research to find and buy the best ones for your journey.
If you want something that occupies all the family, try audiobooks. You download them in advance and a good one will keep the car quiet for hours. There are also various games that will involve all the family. Try the following:
I went to the shop and I bought...: Starting with the letter A, and working through the alphabet, each player has to add an item to the shopping list and memorise the whole list until they reach Z.
Think of a number: One player chooses a number, and then gives the other players clues to help them work out what number they’re thinking of. For example: ‘If I subtract 25 and add 16, I get 41, what number am I thinking of?” (Answer: 50).
Who am I?: One player thinks of a famous person, then the rest of the players have to take turns asking questions with yes or no answers to identify the person they are thinking of. The player who guesses the identity of the person correctly wins that round and gets to choose the next famous name