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Car tips & advice | 19.07.2013 - 17:39

The UK’s most common road hazards

A look at some dangers to watch out for on UK roads, both man made and natural.
Snow Road

Every day drivers in the UK face road hazards that if not dealt with properly could lead to costly vehicle repairs, injury and even loss of life. Read up on the most common road hazards and how to deal with them.

A hazard can be anything that causes a driver to change speed, direction or stop. Now the list of things that fall into this category are seemingly endless but without going in to specifics, we can still look at the top hazards and what to do if you find yourself facing them.

A lot of hazard avoidance is about looking ahead and predicting how a situation is going to evolve so that you can take action to reduce things like sharp braking and affecting the flow of traffic behind you or on the other side of the road.

Skidding out of control

This hazard is most commonly caused by black ice on the road. The reason this is so dangerous is that it often takes drivers by surprise as the 'black' ice is invisible on the road. If you are driving in freezing conditions however be sure to start off on your journey with the expectation that you may encounter some slippy road surfaces and listen to weather and travel reports before you go so you are prepared. The threat of black ice is highest at night or in the early morning when temperatures are lowest.

If you do hit black ice, try to stay calm. Do as little as possible and let the car slide over the ice. Do not swerve or hit your brakes and try to keep the steering wheel straight. If you feel the back of the car sliding to one direction very gently, turn the wheel in the same direction. If you turn against the slid your car may spin. Take your foot off the accelerator and shift into a low gear.

Get off the road as soon as possible after this and try to calm down, don't keep driving in a rattled state of mind.

Burst tyre

A burst tyre can be a real shock when you are driving, especially at speed, but can be prevented.

First off take care of your tyres. Don't park up on kerbs or go over pot holes at speed and regularly check your tyre pressure. If this does happen to you, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you get through the incident with nothing more than a bill for a new tyre.

If one of your front tyres got the car will suddenly pull heavily to one side, allow the car to slow naturally and try to steer to correct the pull. You can use the handbrake gently if you need extra help stopping but try to keep everything smooth and put your hazard lights on to notify other drivers you are in trouble. For a rear blow out you will likewise need to hold the wheel firmly and stay in as straight a line as possible. Call out your emergency breakdown team and do not attempt to drive on a blown tyre.

Severe weather – fog, hailstones, heavy rain, strong winds, snow…

Bad weather is more than a minor inconvenience. Severe hail storms could cause a crack in your windscreen as well as impairing visibility. The first question to ask before you venture out is – do I really need to go out at all?

If the answer is yes, then go prepared. Have an emergency kit in your car and make sure your car is ready for the winter weather – anti-freeze in the radiator, lights cleaned, tyres correctly inflated and all windows and mirrors clean and usable. Increase your stopping distance on wet roads and if you start to 'aquaplane' take your foot off the accelerator, don't break or swerve suddenly.

Driver distraction – kids, animals, passengers

One of the biggest driver hazards isn’t always anything outside the car but can actually be the people or animals inside. The biggest thing here is staying calm and being clear about what you need to happen for everyone to stay safe.

If your kids unbuckle their seatbelts or get out of their car seats, stay calm, pull over and be very clear that you won't be moving until they are safely buckled back in. If your kids get agitated in the car try to distract them with sing-a-long music, games consoles or even DVDs. If you have a baby that cries in the car take frequent breaks and try having a passenger with you if possible to distract and comfort them. Most importantly, keep your eyes on the road.

What are the top five road hazards you look out for?

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