Road safety charity the IAM is offering weekly motoring tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week, he advises on driving through tunnels.
Tunnels can present serious problems for drivers. For example, vehicle fires in Europe's Mont Blanc and Gotthard tunnels have claimed 50 lives between them. Many died because they wrongly believed they should wait in their vehicles for help, rather than getting out of the tunnel as soon as possible.
Regardless of the length of the tunnel, an accident in one will present unique problems and knowing what to do is essential.
Before entering a tunnel:
- Check your fuel gauge in plenty of time, don't risk running out in a tunnel.
- Turn on the traffic information station. Some larger European road tunnels have their own radio as well as electronic signs.
- Take off your sunglasses as they will hinder your eyesight in the dim light of a tunnel.
In the tunnel:
- Turn on dipped headlights. Do not use full beam as this will dazzle other motorists.
- Don't exceed the speed limit.
- Leave plenty of room between yourself and the car in front and watch out for brake lights.
- Keep an eye out for the location of emergency pedestrian exits just in case you may need one.
- In two-way tunnels, keep well to the nearside kerb.
- Do not change lanes unless instructed to.
If you break down:
- Switch on your hazard lights immediately.
- Try to coast to a breakdown lay-by. If none are available, stop as close to the nearside kerb as possible.
- Turn off the engine but leave the key in the ignition so the vehicle can be moved.
- Evacuate the vehicle, making sure everyone is in a safe place – well away from the car and on the pedestrian walkway if there is one.
- Put on a reflective jacket if you have one, and walk carefully to the nearest emergency phone to inform the operator.
In the event of a fire:
- Only try and extinguish the fire is if someone is in danger.
- In all other cases leave as quickly as you can – do not wait to be told what to do.
Rodger said: "Though you may see a tunnel as just another stretch of road, there are specific precautions that you must be aware of and implement when using one.
Remember, if there is a fire or an accident, don't wait to act -- fire and smoke can be fatal. Leave the vehicle and walk to a safe place. Save your life and not your car."