Getting back on the road: tips for motorists

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The Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily enforced measures that prohibited all but essential travel.  The recent easing of some of these restrictions has resulted in an increase in people now using their vehicles on the road. Nick Lay, Chartered Legal Executive and Claims Technician at Cornish Mutual, outlines a few tips to help keep motorists and others safe.

In recent weeks, many of us have kept our cars off the road for all but very occasional journeys. Some are now driving more frequently, perhaps to return to the workplace or make the most of the new guidance on exercise and recreation. Now is a good time to check that you have everything in place to ensure your vehicle is compliant.

  1. Remove a SORN before you drive

If you had registered your vehicle as being off the road with a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) and are now planning to drive again, please advise the DVLA that your vehicle is in use. Follow the necessary steps to ensure it is also properly taxed, insured and roadworthy.

  1. Ensure your insurance cover is adequate

Check your motor insurance policy to ensure that you have an adequate level of cover for your needs. For example, do you require comprehensive cover or cover to drive your vehicle for work purposes?

  1. Check the MOT is valid

Check that your MOT is still in date. Any MOT due on or after 30 March 2020 has been extended by six months. It’s therefore worth paying extra attention to the condition of your vehicle and completing regular maintenance checks. 

  1. Ensure your vehicle is roadworthy

Despite the extended MOT dates, the legal responsibility for the condition of a vehicle remains with the owner or user.  Before any journey, it is good practice to carry out the following checks:

  • Tyre tread - It is a legal requirement that each of your tyres has a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. Tread below this depth can reduce your grip and braking distance. If you’re found to have tread below the legal limit, you could be faced with a fine and three points on your licence, per tyre.
  • Tyre pressure – Under or over-inflated tyres can not only reduce your braking distance but also impact fuel efficiency and the life span of your tyres.
  • Brakes – Make sure you test your brakes before travelling.  Be confident that they are working correctly and that they feel and sound in good working order.
  • Oil and water level – Check your levels are correct to ensure smooth running and longevity of your engine.
  • Nesting animals – An engine might seem like an unlikely place for nesting animals.  However, ensure that you check your engine to prevent you from unknowingly causing harm and potentially damaging your engine.
  1. Check your windscreens

If your vehicle has been parked under a tree or in a dusty location, it is a good idea to clean your windscreen and check that your windscreen washer reservoir is full before you travel.

  1. Prepare to recharge the battery

If you have a flat battery, recharge it using a charger. If you use jump leads, refer to your vehicle handbook for specific advice.

  1. Let the engine circulate

If you have not driven for some time, you may need to take extra steps before you set out. The RAC recommend starting your car and letting it run for a minute or two, before you drive, to let the engine circulate properly.

  1. Account for journey planning and traffic volumes

Please don’t assume that there will be fewer cars on the road and consider what impact the level of traffic will have on your journey time. If in doubt, leave a little earlier.

  1. Beware of cyclists

During the lockdown, the sale of bicycles has soared. As a result, more cyclists are on the roads and additional care is required when approaching and passing them.

For further advice, please read our Legal Expenses Insurance partner ARAG’s ‘Drivers should take care as lockdown lifts’ article.