Long nights, bright mornings, freshly cut grass and glistening green leaves. Summer is just around the corner, and before we know it, the children will be on their long school break, the BBQs will be a ‘frying and this years exciting summer plans will begin to form.
However, the summertime is when our roads are at their busiest. If you’re travelling to an event, embarking on a camping trip or to going see relatives, the roads can be a dangerous place – especially when everyone else has the same idea!
Irelands Motorway system is growing rapidly, and its’ development has been great for the country’s transport system. Journey times are shorter and it’s had a positive affect on the communities who use it. However, because motorways are fairly new to Ireland, the last 15 years have seen new and veteran drivers alike tackle the new road system with little or no prior motorway experience.
Although the motorway is statistically the safest place to drive, it’s important to know how to stay safe during your journey. Although it’s unlikely, if a motorway accident did occur, it’s more likely to be serious.
So, to keep you and your family safe on the roads this summer, we’ve put together a guide on how to practice safe motorway driving when you’re out and about.
Safe Motorway Driving | A Summer Guide
Taking Care Of Your Vehicle
It’s imperative that you keep your car maintained throughout the year to ensure it’s safe to drive. The winter can take its toll on your vehicle, and after a cold & wet few months of driving, it’s important your car gets serviced.
Your car is deemed safe by the Irish government as long as it has an NCT, but additionally, it’s wise to follow these safety precautions before embarking on a long journey to ensure you and your passenger’s safety.
- Make sure your car has enough oil or radiator coolant.
- Ensure your tyres are in good enough condition to endure high speeds for a long period of time.
- Ensure your tyres are at the correct pressure.
- If you’re travelling with a fully loaded car, make sure your tyre pressure is adjusted accordingly.
- Make sure your car has sufficient washer fluid to keep your windscreen clean.
Obstructed Views & Overloaded Cars
With families, a lot of summer activities require equipment and packed bags, but it’s very important not to obstruct the rear window when loading them in your car. If you are using a roof rack or bicycle rack, be weary about the fastened objects obstructing your mirror view.
All driving requires you to be able see clearly behind the car at all times, however, this is especially important on the motorway when it comes to lane changing. If you cannot see behind your vehicle clearly, it could result in an accident.
How to pack your car safely to ensure passenger safety:
- Don’t load the boot of your car above the parcel shelf or on the parcel shelf.
- Leave your back window completely un-obstructed.
- Make use of the foot wells to store belongings .
- Make sure the roof rack is secured correctly and nothing can become loose and obstruct your view.
Some of the signs used on the motorway are different to those used on normal town roads. It’s extremely important that you know the precise meaning of motorway sign as they often provide information on how far away certain destinations are, upcoming junction information and when a motorway starts or finishes.
The high speeds of the motorway don’t allow as much time to react as normal driving, especially if you are not focused. It’s important to be aware of what each sign means so you can respond accordingly, safely and in good time.
Motorway signs are ALWAYS blue. You may also see brown indicating directions to tourist attractions. Below are some examples of motorway road signs that you need to be aware of.
Breaks & Tiredness
Motorway driving can be repetitive and often takes place over a long period time. This, as opposed to the varying roads and speeds experienced when town driving, can cause tiredness or a lack of concentration, which can in turn lead to serious motorway accidents.
It’s for this reason that you must take regular breaks and ensure you’re not too tired to drive. It also gives the family a break from being on the road, too.
There plenty of things you can do to make sure you are alert when driving long distances.
- Don’t drive long distances if you’re ill or have had little sleep. If you feel unwell, it’s not advisable to embark on a long journey. It’s safer to wait until you feel better, or have someone else drive. The same applies if you have had a late night or feel especially tired. It’s important to remember that your lack of sleep could be a danger to other motorway users, as well as yourself.
- Ensure you have access to water to keep hydrated. Hydration is key to alertness. Make sure you have enough fluids for the duration of your journey.
- Keep the car cool. Even if it’s very cold, it’s best not to have your heater on full blast. Too much warmth can induce sleepiness. Instead, keep wrapped up in warm clothes and if you start to feel drowsy, open the window for a blast of fresh air.
- Take regular breaks at a service station. Make sure you stop for breaks. Even if its 5 minutes, it’s important to stretch your legs and change your focus every hour or so.
- If you feel like you need to sleep – sleep! It doesn’t even have to be for long – studies have shown that a 10 or 20-minute nap can give you the ultimate boost in alertness and energy and can last for hours. Pull into a service station when it’s safe and take a quick nap. Never pull onto the hard shoulder unless it’s an emergency.
Motorway Driving Habits
Motorway driving is very different to normal town driving. It requires lots of practice and the right education to master properly.
Basic Motorway Rules
1. Always stay in the left lane UNLESS you are overtaking someone.
This is the main rule of the motorway, but it’s critical for safety. Many drivers don’t use the lanes correctly, a top reason why accidents and collisions occur. The far right lanes are only for the purpose of taking over other drivers. Once you have overtaken a slower vehicle, move back over to left. Not being aware of this can cause congestion and accidents.
2. Be aware of other drivers.
Overtaking requires you to be very aware of what’s happening around you. Pulling out in front of other drivers with little room is an accident waiting to happen, so make sure you check your mirrors AND blind spot before you start to merge over.
3. Be speed aware.
The speed limit on the motorway is 120km per hour. This speed is optimised for safety as well as speeding up journey times. It’s important not drive faster than the limit, as high impact crashes above this speed are significantly more dangerous.
For more information on motorway driving rules, watch this video by The RSA:
Be Weather Aware
In our corner of the globe, we’re used varying weather. Even the summer months can be inconsistent, so it’s important to plan long journeys taking the weather into consideration.
Severe rain on the motorway can reduce visibility and slow down stopping times. With a car packed with luggage and family members, stopping times might be decreased even further. Give plenty of room and slow your speed right down.
Keeping the Family Occupied & Non Distractive
Everyone knows that children and long journeys are a mixture for disaster! Being kept in the same environment for long periods of time can make them irritable, tired and just generally a bit bothered!
This can be a concern for the driver’s concentration. Tending to the needs of your little passengers could distract you from the road, so it’s important to make sure they’ll be occupied and happy during the journey.
Tips for happy little passengers:
Keep snacks in the car. Keep them occupied with healthy snacks and things they like. They’ll associate the long journey with tasty things they like to eat and are less likely to be disruptive.
Make regular stops. Like you, they need to avert their attention and stretch their legs every hour or so. Regular toilet stops will avert any in car disasters!
Plan games for them to play in advance. Keep your kids occupied with pre-planned games they can play with each other or even with you. This will keep them engaged and less likely to be irritable.
Motorway Accidents Dublin
If you have experienced a motorway accident, Gibson and Associates could help you claim compensation. We have expert solicitors on hand to advise and help you with your case. Take a look at our personal injury page and find out how we can help you further.
Please complete an Online Enquiry or call us on 1890 989 289 and we’ll be in touch with you shortly.