Many of us will be taking to the roads over the Christmas period either to visit friends and family, to go on holiday or to cram in that last minute Christmas shopping.
Busy roads combined with winter weather and poor light can be a recipe for disaster, so we've put together some guidance on how to keep yourself and your family safe on the roads this Christmas.
Traffic data from 2017 indicated that up to four times more vehicles than usual would be taking to the roads over the festive period. The Friday before Christmas is reported to be one of the busiest traffic days, as people set off on their Christmas getaways or head to the shops.
As the roads become busier, the chances of an accident increase for a number of reasons.
Firstly, tensions can run high when drivers are stuck in traffic and people can quickly become frustrated and impatient. Road rage can be incredibly dangerous. Make sure that you remain calm behind the wheel and employ a defensive driving technique, predicting other drivers' behaviour and being prepared to react if needed.
In heavy traffic, drivers don't always leave sufficient space between themselves and the vehicle in front, meaning that they could fail to stop in time if the car in front stops suddenly. This problem becomes amplified in slippery conditions or poor visibility.
Make sure that you leave plenty of stopping distance. If another vehicle moves into the space that you have left then drop back to re-establish a safe distance. Also ensure that you are fully focused on the road, with no distractions. This might mean stopping your conversation with your passenger or turning the radio down, for example.
The best way to reduce the risk of being involved in a road accident in heavy traffic, is to avoid driving in heavy traffic all together. Try to time your journey to avoid peak traffic times if possible. This will reduce the risk of an accident as well as allowing you a quicker and more pleasant journey.
While some may be dreaming of a white Christmas, adverse weather conditions can wreak havoc on the roads. Icy conditions can increase stopping distances by up to 10 times, so if you are driving in freezing conditions then make sure you're prepared for this. The risk of skidding also increases greatly, so brake gently and apply engine braking where required. Also be aware of the risk of black ice, particularly on roads that may not have been gritted.
For more information, see tips for safe driving in winter.
As we all know, winter weather in the UK can be unpredictable, so it's important to be prepared. Check weather reports before you set off, familiarise yourself with your route and keep winter essentials in your car such as spare bulbs, food and drink, a warm coat, a torch, a map and a shovel.
It also pays off to get your car winter-ready by treating it to a little TLC before the Christmas period. Make sure the oil's topped up, that you have plenty of washer fluid, coolant and antifreeze and that your tyres are a suitable pressure. With so much traffic on the roads, breakdown services are likely to be stretched so you could find yourself with a long wait if you do break down.
With a little preparation before the holiday season arrives, you can reduce the risks that driving over Christmas can pose to you and your family.