Monday, 3 March 2014

Staying alert 9-5

Do you ever arrive at work and realise you can't remember anything about your drive there? Driving on auto pilot is a dangerous thing, but there are plenty of things you can do to make your daily commute safer.

Keep the car maintained.  You may be driving with the low sun in your eyes, so make sure your windscreen washer fluid is topped up and that your windscreen and windows are clean.  Check and adjust your tyre pressure regularly, and keep an eye on tread depth – this must be at least 1.6 millimetres – and their condition.  You should also keep the oil at the right level and check all of your lights work.

The biggest problem with commuting is that everyone travels at the same time.  People get frustrated and tired and will be inclined to behave unpredictably – watch out for people changing lanes suddenly as they try and get ahead of traffic. Be wary and anticipate the actions of road users around you.

Stay calm.  Being stuck in traffic and late for work is stressful, so allow a lot more time than you're likely to need for the journey.  I recently spent two hours on the M4 and only covered three miles.  If you're going to be late and need to let a colleague know, pull over into a safe place not obstructing other traffic, switch the engine off and make the call before carrying on.  Avoid rushing the rest of the journey to make up time.  Better late than never, especially where your life's concerned.  And please, don't be tempted to use your smartphone to check your work emails while you drive.

Check the weather forecast before you travel, especially when making a long journey.  Heavy rain always slows traffic down, and in very severe weather conditions you need to consider if it's safe to travel.  When you are on the road, listen out for traffic updates on the radio in case your route is affected, but never look for updates on your mobile phone or satnav while on the move.  The Highways Agency has a useful app with up to date traffic information for incidents on its roads, but remember you are breaking the law if you access it on a hand-held device, while moving.

Knowing an alternative route in case of an accident or road closures is also useful.

Does your insurance cover you? Many policies will include commuting, but make sure they do, and if you start a job which involves commuting further remember to increase the mileage on your insurance premium.  If you are expected to drive for work, you need to make sure your insurer covers you for business mileage too.  If you have an accident driving for work, you won't be covered if you don't have this.  Many employers will have driver risk assessment schemes in place, and company insurance, but they are not legally obliged to do so, so don't leave this to chance.

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