Holidaymakers ‘risking lives’ by refusing to take breaks on long drives

Holidaymakers ‘risking lives’ by refusing to take breaks on long drives
Holidaymakers ‘risking lives’ by refusing to take breaks on long drives

More than a quarter of drivers who take their vehicles abroad have admitted to driving more than five hours without a stop.

As UK holidaymakers face one of the busiest weekends on French roads, new research has found thousands are willing to risk their safety by driving for excessive periods to reach their destination sooner.

The Highway Code recommends that drivers stop for 15 minutes every two hours but the RAC Europe survey of motorists found that 90 per cent have ignored this and driven for three hours or more.

Read more: Driving in Europe: the single offence that could see you fined £5,250

More than half (58 per cent) said they had previously driven for four or more hours. And while 28 per cent had gone in excess of five hours a terrifying 9.7 per cent claimed they had stayed at the wheel for seven hours or more before taking a break.

Increased risk of a crash

An estimated 7 million Britons travel by road on the continent every year. (Picture: Shutterstock)

RAC Europe spokesman Rod Dennis said: “This Saturday is declared a ‘Black Saturday’ or ‘un Samedi noir’ in France, and for good reason – widespread queues are expected as millions of holidaymakers head south and west in search of the sun, with a good number of these starting their journeys this side of the Channel.

“With long traffic jams inevitable, it’s vitally important UK drivers plan, but also pace their journeys. Worryingly, these new figures show just how few of us are prepared to do that. Perhaps it’s a desire to get to our holiday destinations as quickly as possible that means we continue to drive on, or maybe we’re not leaving ourselves enough time to reach the French ferry terminals on our journeys home – but whatever the reason, driving for so long in one go means we’re severely increasing the risk of causing a collision.

Read more: Don’t be caught out by these unusual European road signs

“Despite the ease at which modern vehicles allow us to clock up the miles in relative comfort, it’s still the case that driving is an extremely demanding task – all the more so if you are getting used to foreign roads, and foreign drivers. So taking a proper break is essential – it doesn’t need to be a long one, but having a rest (even a short nap) and drinking two cups of caffeinated coffee as recommended in the Highway Code can keep you safe and alert.”

Staying alert

The Highway Code recommends a break of 15 minutes for every two hours of driving. (Picture: Shutterstock)

An estimated seven million Britons visit the continent via car ferry or the Channel Tunnel every year and the RAC has compiled a list of tips for those facing long drives through Europe this summer.

  • Share the driving. If you’ve a long distance to cover, it makes a lot of sense to share the effort of driving – which allows the person not driving to rest up. Buying temporary car insurance can be much cheaper than adding someone to an existing car insurance policy
  • Plan for plenty of breaks. The drive is part of the holiday, so make some stop-offs to discover, even just briefly, some other parts of the country you’re visiting. Visit RAC Drive for some stop-off inspiration
  • Don’t underestimate how long some journeys can take. If you’re rushing back to a Channel port, perhaps you didn’t leave yourself enough time for the journey in the first place. Check an online route planner and then add some contingency time to give you a chance to rest up (and to factor in any traffic jams)
  • Avoid each ‘Samedi noir’ in France if you can. There may be no avoiding them, but these Black Saturdays in the summer traditionally see the largest volumes of holidaymakers on the road – and some of the longest jams. Check the RAC Drive website for when they are expected in 2019
  • Don’t forget breakdown cover. A good level of European breakdown cover is important for all drivers taking their own vehicles across the Channel

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