Lockdown has meant that for many, their vehicles have been forgotten and left outside on drives, on the street or in parking spaces for up to three months. Experts have warned that not using a vehicle for some time could lead to problems on the road.
It’s not just the mechanics of the vehicle which drivers should be checking, insurance experts, Caravan Guard are warning drivers who leave excessive amounts of unwelcome bird poo or tree sap on the windscreen that they are unwittingly breaking the law and leaving themselves open to a £100 to £2,500 fine and three penalty points under the Road Vehicles Regulations 1986.
Although it’s not strictly illegal to have dirt on your car, the Highway Code states a driver’s windscreen must be kept clean and clear from obstructions that interfere with their vision.
The Road Traffic Act also states, “no person shall drive a motor vehicle on a road if he is in such a position that he cannot … have a full view of the road and traffic ahead.”
With lockdown easing, many drivers are looking to return to some normality from July, whether that be driving to work, day outings or weekend camping trips away. To make sure your vehicle is safe and to avoid any unwelcome fines, Caravan Guard has provided key tips to help drivers get back on the road safely:
Clean your vehicle
Dirt has slowly been building up over the past few months and if you take a careful look, will realise there is more than you thought. If vehicles have been parked near trees it’s likely that sap and bird poo has covered a lot of your vehicle, which could leave you at risk of a £100 on the spot fine from the police along with penalty points. Driving with limited vision causes serious problems as mirrors can be deemed useless allowing the police to issue these punishments.
Inspect for unwelcome guests
Small rodents may have also become attracted to your vehicle while it has been out of use, so it is worth making sure you’ve not had any unwanted critters take up residence. Droppings under the bonnet, nesting at the bottom of the windscreen and chewed up wires are just some tell-tale signs that you have a new companion. Pay particular attention to those warm dry areas within your vehicle as these are the most attractive to animals and can save you hours of pain later.
Make sure you are protected
Since being in lockdown, millions of motorists will have seen their vehicle pass its MOT date. The DVLA changed the rules so that if your MOT was due between March 30 th and July 31st, it will be extended by six months, but for those that had vehicles due before then, you must still have it tested before returning to the road. It’s also recommended that ahead of a long trip the driver should service the car to make sure it remains in the best possible condition.
If a vehicle has failed its MOT even if it wasn’t due until after March 30 th , then it is still not allowed to be used on the road despite the extension. You can be fined up to £2,500 and receive three penalty points, also the driver could be banned from driving as the vehicle is deemed too dangerous to drive.
Check for criminal or weather damage
Unfortunately, burglars have still been operating over the last few months and unattended vehicles represent a vulnerable and easy target for break ins and vandalism. To deter thieves, don’t leave anything of value in sight in your vehicle. Other unfortunate events caused by bad weather have also seen many vehicles been affected by falling tree branches and water leaks. We advise getting in contact with your insurance provider to register your claim as soon as possible if you have suffered any damage.
Check your tyres
Checking the tyres and their pressure is vital for the efficiency of any vehicle and the safety of the driver and passengers. Leaving a car stood still for a prolonged period of time can affect the pressure and condition of the tyres. Under inflated tyres are prone to blowouts which could create problems with steering and driving a car properly on the road, potentially causing a collision.
Refresh yourself on the law
After a long break from driving it is easy to break the law. Data shows that despite less cars being on the road, more offences are being committed. Speeding offences have increased by 187%** in London between March and June compared to the same period a year ago.
Before getting back on the road, it would be recommended to do a quick 101 theory test making sure you are familiar with the signs, safety and attitude of the road. For those that may be towing a caravan make sure you know the laws around this such as towing mirrors and the weight of your towing outfit to avoid any unwanted fines and points, or worse still an accident.
Make sure your battery is healthy
When a vehicle is left unattended for a long time the battery will gradually lose charge?, which can lead to problems. It would be recommended before planning any long journeys to take the vehicle on a few smaller drives to check how it’s running.
Neil Menzies, Director of Caravan Guard, commented: “Everyone is so excited to be returning to some normality from the 4 th July, discussions about staycations and trips to the seaside are being overheard and definitely long overdue.
“However, we must remember to check all vehicles remain safe after having been left for such a long period of time, there are bound to be a myriad of lesser known rules and regulations which could land drivers in hot water with fines and points on their licence.”