Getting Ready for Your Journey

If you are about to drive a long distance to your destination, the following advice will help you to ensure that your journey is not ruined by an easily preventable road accident.

1. Prepare Yourself

Almost every road accident is caused or partly caused by human error. So it is vital to take time to prepare yourself for the journey. First of all, make sure you are in good health and well enough to undertake the journey. There is nothing worse than feeling under the weather and being faced by a long, hot drive in heavy traffic.


Ask yourself some questions ... and be honest with the answers.


  • Am I well enough for this drive, or should someone else do it?
  • Am I taking any medication which advises me not to drive because of its effects?
  • Am I undergoing some form of treatment during which the doctor has said I shouldn’t drive?
  • Am I well rested and ready for the drive?

Falling asleep at the wheel

Driving for more than a couple of hours at the end of a normal day’s (7 - 8 hours) work significantly increases the risk of being involved in a road traffic accident.


Risk factors:

driving when you would normally be asleep – especially in the early hours of the morning
driving in the dark
driving in the early afternoon, especially after eating a moderate to heavy meal
driving after drinking ANY alcohol.
Even if you don’t think you will fall asleep, tiredness will slow your reactions and affect your judgement, significantly increasing the chances of crashing. Singing, turning the radio up; opening a window, using air-conditioning will not keep you awake. At best, they will give you a few extra minutes to find somewhere safe to stop. If you’re that tired, you will fall asleep - even if you are driving.
See RoSPA’s “Safer Journey Planner” for advice on avoiding this risk and what to do if you do start to feel tired during a journey.


2. Prepare Your Route

It is amazing how few drivers take the time and trouble to plan out their route in advance, and yet it can save hours and help avoid risky situations.
Route-planning checklist

“A Safer Journey Planner” will help you plan your journey safely. The main issues are:
  • Always plan your route, and check the travel news for places where hold-ups may occur.
  • Plan alternative routes in advance so you can use them if there’s a traffic problem on your journey
  • Build-in an extra time buffer so you don’t feel hassled. (As a general rule allow at least a quarter more time than you think it might take.)
  • Plan where you will stop for rest and refreshment breaks. Remember not to drive for longer than 2 hours without a break of at least 20 minutes.


3. Prepare Your Vehicle

Check your vehicle thoroughly before you even think of setting out. If you don’t know what to check or how to check it, get someone who knows what they’re doing to check it for you.


Safety checklist

  • Brakes
  • Lights
  • Tyres (wear and pressures)
  • Steering· Suspension
  • Screen washers and wipers
  • Avoiding breakdowns
It will also pay to check those things which most often cause breakdowns:
  • oil
  • coolant
  • drive belts
  • ignition system
  • sufficient fuel


Other things to check:
  • luggage storage - don’t obstruct your view - store it safely (ideally in the boot) - strap it down – you don’t want things flying about in the vehicle if you crash or brake very sharply.
  • if you use a roof rack - make sure it’s securely fixed to your vehicle and that the luggage is well strapped down.
  • if you use a luggage trailer, make sure that it is safe, legal and not overloaded and that it is covered by your driving licence - if in doubt, check it out with someone who knows.
  • Remember you cannot use the right hand lane of a motorway with three or more lanes when towing a trailer, and outside built-up areas different speed limits apply, 50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways.
  • Remember, a roof rack or trailer will affect the handling of your vehicle, so take this into consideration.


4. Prepare Your Passengers

Passengers, especially fractious children, may sometimes be distracting. You may find it helpful to prepare them for the journey by:
  • telling them about the journey
  • showing them the map and explaining where you’ll be stopping off
  • making sure they have plenty of sleep
  • making certain they have enough things to keep them occupied
  • having some snacks and drinks inside the car in case they become hungry or thirsty.


Seat Belts and Child Restraints

It is crucial for everyone’s safety, that all passengers are wearing their seat belt or are using an appropriate child restraint. For further advice, see RoSPA’s website or RoSPA’s factsheets on these topics.


Driving Abroad

If driving abroad, make sure that you have all the necessary documentation and insurance, and check the rules of the road as they are likely to be quite different from the UK.