IAM RoadSmart has set out its top tips for those who need to return to car or motorbike travel as the Government starts easing the current coronavirus restrictions.
While the advice is to still to stay at home as much as possible, for those who do now need to drive or ride their motorbike for work, for essential journeys or on permitted leisure trips, the road safety charity is urging them to set good examples for behaviour.
It also says drivers and riders must be mindful of a collective responsibility to reduce pressure on the emergency services.
To help those getting back on the road after staying at home for an extended period, Richard Gladman, head of driving & riding standards, is offering some common-sense tips.
- If you registered your vehicle as SORN during lockdown, make sure you have taxed and insured it before you set off, or it will not be legal to drive/ride.
- If your MOT was due during the lockdown, while the extension is still in place, make sure your car or bike is roadworthy. The lack of MOT requirement does not allow your car or bike to remain on the road if it is defective. Garages are operating a reduced service at the moment, but repairs are still possible.
- In any case, check your car or bike over carefully before you use it. ‘POWDERY’ checks are essential to minimise any risk of breakdown, covering Petrol, Oil, Water, Defects, Engine, Rubber etc). For more advice on basic vehicle checks, see the IAM video here. For guidance on tyre safety, visit the Tyre Safe website here.
- Brakes are also critical. Make sure you test them as soon as possible when setting off and when safe to do so, to ensure they are working properly. If you have any doubts, get your brakes looked at before embarking on your journey.
- While you will have done necessary basic vehicle checks before heading off, keep hand sanitiser, wipes and even a face mask in your car or bike in case you need them. If something does go wrong, breakdown services are still operating in emergencies, but social distancing and hand hygiene guidance still applies.
- Always plan your journey before you set off. If you are driving to an open space for example, make sure it is open. Some country parks and tourist areas remain closed, so parking could be an issue and facilities outside of the designated parking areas will be limited.
- Advice is to avoid using public transport where possible, so as more people return to work, traffic and congestion in urban areas may increase, potentially lengthening journey times. And if you’re heading to work with everyone else from your organisation, will there be enough parking spaces?
- Has your usual route changed? With the introduction of pop-up cycle lanes and other initiatives to promote walking and cycling and keep public transport use to a minimum, check before you leave to avoid any difficulty.
- Ease yourself back in gently. If you have not driven or ridden at all in the last few weeks take time to get your judgement of speed and distance back. Remember others may be feeling the same or even less confident than you are.
- Some people may feel particularly anxious about getting back behind the wheel or on their bike after so many weeks away. Simple tips like breathing exercises and talking to loved ones about your concerns may help alleviate stress, and IAM’s videos offering mental health and wellbeing advice may be of benefit. There also many organisations like Mind who offer relevant support.
- The roads have been quiet and repairs may have been delayed, so watch out for potholes or drain covers that may now pose a problem, particularly if it has rained. Be cautious and mindful of this as you drive or ride.
- If using a petrol station, remember the hand cleaning rules still apply. Use a disposable glove when handling the pump if possible, or make sure you clean your hands afterwards. Respect social distancing guidance and avoid close contact with other customers and staff.
- Remember, with the instruction to still stay at home as much as possible and with most children yet to go back to school, there will still be more family groups and exercisers out on the roads than previously while volumes of cyclists and walkers will likely increase. Be mindful of and considerate to these road users at all times, to ensure everyone’s continued safety on the road.