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No signal, miles of tailback, driving today needs a new mind-set


September 2017

traffic jam

No longer is August the only time when our roads become congested. This year, with late holiday makers, September is also expected to see busy conditions especially on key routes to favourite resorts and holiday areas.

Thanks to modern technology, many people will be checking queues and tailbacks before they leave to ensure their planned route is okay. AA traffic news, the RAC, Traffic England, Highways Gov UK and many others provide online updates on how the traffic is flowing across the UK, and there are numerous other apps and aids to assist modern day drivers.

But this doesn’t always solve the journey problems. You won’t be the only person planning a route to avoid a traffic jam and all too often these days; with the volume of traffic, you will find that so many cars have also chosen the most obvious alternative routes that even small roads and back lanes around a problem area can today all grind to a frustrating halt.

Alternatively, traffic problems can occur unexpectedly and especially if an accident occurs ahead, you can be trapped on a road with no escape, sometimes for hours.

Because of this, there are a few tips that might help to ensure late summer driving remains safe and enjoyable.

Don’t rely on getting a signal
The first thing to be aware of is that in this day and age it is surprising how many pockets there are around the country where signal is simply not available. Well over 4,000 miles of British roads have no 2G mobile phone coverage from any network provider. A further 28,000 miles of road have only partial 2G coverage. If you are looking at 4G signals, then more than half of the road network has no coverage.

This means if you have a breakdown, accident or emergency you may not be able to call for help.

Because of this, it can be a really good idea to pop a paper map, even large scale, into the car just as a permanent back up.

Emergency box
It is always a good idea to prepare an emergency box for the car before a long drive. Drinking water of course, but also some snacks and anything else that might help you be comfortable on a long roadside delay.

Some people have learned the hard way to always ensure some entertainment in the car. Sitting in a car on a congested road for three hours can be very trying and you can quickly run out of people to call and chat to in order to pass the time. If you have grandkids on board, it can become a nightmare so some physical magazines or activities can be a good backup in case of electronic failure.

Be aware of dazzle – even in early autumn. A sudden clear sky coinciding with late afternoon/early evening driving into the west can cause sudden flashing and even total blindness. Early morning departures east of course can experience the same problem. A pair of dark glasses in the car can help enormously here.

Foreign drivers
Many people our age have been driving for years and years and forget that things change. For instance, some are still unaware that for any car registered later than July 2006; a red warning triangle must be carried in the vehicle. In fact it is a good idea to carry one even in an older car.

Drive defensively. In 2015 (the latest year for which figures are available), 0.4 per cent of all traffic on British roads was estimated to be accounted for by foreign registered vehicles. HGV traffic has the highest proportion of foreign registered vehicles, with 4.8 per cent of HGV traffic estimated to be foreign registered. This means some of the drivers may be having problems with their route or driving conditions so be prepared to give way or adjust when you are driving near foreign number plates.

Update road knowledge
Been driving 40 years, 50 years...of course we know what we are doing!!! Many people our age are very good and experienced drivers, but road situations are changing all the time and it is important to be up to date. Do you know exactly what a smart motorway is? This ensures signals and speed limits can be changed according to traffic flow. Probably the most important is when a red X shows on an overhead sign. This indicates that that lane is closed to traffic. There could be an accident or breakdown ahead, or even debris on the road, so ensure you leave that lane as quickly as you can.

Traffic is increasing every year on British roads, and it is worth giving your longer journeys a bit of extra thought to ensure the trip goes as well as it possibly can despite the crowded roads.

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