How to Avoid Fines on the Road This Summer
People make many more short trips during holidays, and complacency on the road can increase the possibility of accidents
Summer driving habits can be risky and lead to fines, with data showing that drivers are more likely to drive faster, and drink-drive
As summer approaches, safety experts at car manufacturer SEAT are warning of the potential dangers of being complacent during short trips in the car. With temperatures rising, millions of Brits are estimated to take to the roads, either for a long cross-country journey or a quick trip to the beach, shopping centre, or cinema. Many of these trips will take only a few minutes, but they can catch out drivers.
There are several typical summer driving habits that British motorists should avoid due to added risk and the possibility of receiving a fine. SEAT has produced several tips for a carefree summer on the road to minimise the chance of things going wrong, in the UK or abroad.
No flip-flops, sliders or swimsuits
Flip-flops and swimsuits are of no use in the driving seat. Not only do flip-flops diminish a driver's control of the pedals, but they can also get stuck and hinder the driver's ability to react quickly and efficiently. Driving in flip-flops, sliders, or even barefoot can lead to a fine as this may limit freedom of movement. Drivers should always wear ergonomic footwear that fits properly. While not strictly illegal, driving without the correct footwear breaches Rule 97 of the Highway Code and could be seen as driving without due care and attention. If you’re in an accident and caught by the police wearing unsuitable footwear, you could receive an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three points on your licence, and injure yourself, passengers, or another road user.
Furthermore, driving without a t-shirt (something 25% of drivers across Europe are guilty of according to the European Automobile Commission Foundation) can cause chafing from the seatbelt. Instead of driving topless, simply lower the temperature inside the vehicle - the SEAT Technical Centre recommends opening the doors and windows for a minute to ventilate the interior before turning on the air conditioning, with many new cars featuring the possibility of doing so prior to even getting into the vehicle by pressing down on the unlock button on your car key.
Drivers need the right fluids, too
Although not directly prohibited, eating and drinking while driving can cause distractions. However, it is also very important to stay hydrated when temperatures are soaring. A study made by Loughborough University and the European Hydration Institute shows that a dehydrated driver makes the same errors as one who has had 8 glasses of wine, so it is best to drink water before setting off and keep sipping at regular intervals while on the road. In addition, SEAT driving assistants such as its drowsiness detector analyse driver behaviour and recommend when to take a break if necessary.
With the increased number of social occasions during the summer that involve alcohol consumption, and the temptation to have a couple of pints in the sun while watching football, or a glass of wine at a barbecue with friends, drunk driving incidents are more likely during the summer period. It’s vital to not exceed the legal limit, as this risks all road users and passengers. If you’re attending a social event that involves alcohol, leave the car at home and take a taxi or public transport instead, as not only are you risking fines and potential bans, but also lives.
Inadequate posture: driving with your elbow out the window on hot days is typically seen on the road in warmer weather and should be avoided. Firstly, because it affects the ability to control the vehicle as both hands are not on the steering wheel, and secondly because of the risk of serious injury in the event of a collision. Another extremely risky posture, for the front seat passenger, is sitting with their feet on the dashboard. In the event of an accident, not only will the front airbag not retain the occupant correctly, but it can also potentially cause bodily harm.
Beach towel, sunglasses, sunscreen… driving licence
As well as your summer essentials, always make sure you carry your driving licence documents, especially when driving abroad. In most European countries, driving without a licence will get you a fine.
After a day at the beach, be sure to adequately dry your feet and change out of flip-flops if you’ve been wearing them. Slipping out of your shoes due to sandy, wet feet can have a huge impact on your ability to drive and control the pedals adequately.
Sunglasses can also be a tricky case to work around, as not wearing them when necessary, or lowering the sun visor could cause a risk of sun glare through the windscreen, and can ultimately land you points on your licence and a fine if your driving is found to be compromised. Additionally, wearing sunglasses that obscure your view of the road and create a blind spot or have a tint that is too dark and restricts daytime vision, could also lead to you being penalised. If in doubt, stick to using the built-in sun visors that offer protection from sun glare.
Take your time to find the best parking spot
Parking close to the beach or park can sometimes be a nightmare, but there's no need to get stressed out. Once space has been found, more of SEAT's driving assistants such as Park Assist can help by automatically turning the steering wheel to ease into a space.
Summer tunes and erractic driving
SEAT was the first carmaker in the world to integrate Shazam in its cars to identify any summer hit. But when you turn up the volume too much you risk not hearing other important sounds, such as an ambulance siren or another vehicle honking, which can potentially be extremely risky.
Our recent study also included research on how songs over a certain BPM can influence driving behaviour, and how several songs on some of the most popular driving and road trip playlists exceed this threshold. Songs over 120 bpm can cause erratic driving, and encourage road users to exceed the speed limit and switch lanes more often, for example, the indie classic ‘Mr Brightside’ by The Killers which has a BPM of 148. Whether you’re heading out on a road trip this summer, or just popping to the shops, be mindful of the music you listen to and at what volume.
Advice for hayfever sufferers
If being allergic to pollen and grass wasn’t already enough, motorists may have cause for concern in relation to fines and points on their licence too. If you’re suffering from eye irritation, coughing, or sneezing while behind the wheel, and find your driving ability compromised, this can result in a £1,000 fine. This falls under “failure to have proper control of the vehicle and a full view of the road”. But if you’re tempted to reach for hayfever medication to combat the symptoms, you also need to be aware of the type of medication you’re opting for.
If the medication you take could cause drowsiness, this can impair your driving ability and lead you to be charged with drug driving in the event of causing an accident. Certain hayfever medications, while relieving your symptoms, can also cause blurred vision, slow reaction times, and drowsiness behind the wheel.
Who let the dogs out?
While you may be tempted to take your sidekick for a summer day out, there are rules around how they should travel in your vehicle. While not a legal requirement, Rule 57 of the Highway Code states that dogs and other animals should be suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while driving, or injure you or themselves if you stop quickly. This can result in a fine of up to £5,000 if your pup isn’t adequately restrained.
Everything but the kitchen sink
Whether you’re picking your adult child up from university, or taking a family camping trip, overpacking can cause serious issues if it restricts your view of the road, and your ability to complete maneuvers safely. If you have two wing mirrors, then blocking your rear windscreen is not illegal, but loading beyond your car’s weight limit is. This can result in a fine of up to £300 and three points on your licence if you exceed the manufacturer’s limits, this is due to placing strain on your tires and weakening the handling of your vehicle, which can make accidents more likely.
Furthermore, if you have an accident while your vehicle is loaded beyond its maximum limit, this can invalidate your insurance, making you liable for any damage caused to your own car, as well as that of others.
*Based on survey by confused.com, July 2018
SEAT is the only company that designs, develops, manufactures and markets cars in Spain. A member of the Volkswagen Group, the multinational has its headquarters in Martorell (Barcelona), exporting 80% of its vehicles, and is present in 80 countries on all five continents. In 2018, SEAT sold 517,600 cars, the highest figure in the 68-year history of the brand, posted a profit after tax of 294 million euros and a record turnover of close to 10 billion euros.
The SEAT Group employs more than 15,000 professionals and has three production centres – Barcelona, El Prat de Llobregat and Martorell, where it manufactures the highly successful Ibiza, Arona and Leon. Additionally, the company produces the Ateca in the Czech Republic, the Tarraco in Germany, the Alhambra in Portugal and the Mii in Slovakia.
The multinational has a Technical Centre, which operates as a knowledge hub that brings together 1,000 engineers who are focussed on developing innovation for Spain’s largest industrial investor in R&D. SEAT already features the latest connectivity technology in its vehicle range and is currently engaged in the company’s global digitalisation process to promote the mobility of the future.