Why vehicle safety checks are important
Carrying out simple safety checks before you drive can help to ensure your journey goes smoothly and reduce the risk of breaking down.
It’s particularly important if you’re getting back on the road after your vehicle has been standing idle or making only short journeys for several weeks.
Every year our traffic officers deal with more than 85,000 breakdowns. Over 40 per cent of these are caused by vehicles running out of fuel, poor tyre maintenance, power loss and engine trouble. Simple checks could have prevented some of these breakdowns.
If you need to travel this week, check your vehicle first
How to check your vehicle
Most breakdowns are avoidable, and simple vehicle checks can help you have a safer journey. Check your tyres, fuel, oil and water.
Advice on what to check
It’s a legal requirement that each of your tyres has a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. Driving without the legally required amount of tread can adversely affect your grip, braking distance and steering. If you’re stopped by the police and found with illegal tyres, you could receive a £2,500 fine and 3 penalty points per tyre.
Driving with underinflated or overinflated tyres can adversely affect your braking distance, steering, fuel efficiency and the lifetime of your tyres.
To ensure you have good visibility, always keep your screen wash topped up so you can clear any debris or dirt off your windscreen.
In 2015, there were more than 7,000 breakdown incidents due to vehicles running out of fuel. Always keep your tank at least one quarter full to avoid running out on your journey. You can be issued a Fixed Penalty Notice in some locations if your breakdown was foreseeable, which includes running out of fuel.
Maintaining the correct oil level is essential as the oil lubricates, cleans, cools and protects the moving parts of your engine, preventing your engine from seizing up and breaking down.
Your lights are not only essential for you; they’re also essential for other drivers to understand how you’re driving your vehicle and how you intend to manoeuvre.
Our vehicle safety check guide
Carrying out a few quick and easy checks will help to ensure you and your vehicle are safely equipped to drive. Having a roadworthy vehicle can also save you time and money in the future.
You and your journey
Always make sure you’re well-rested and aren’t under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you’re going on a long journey, plan your route and identify opportunities to take a break.
Know what to do in a breakdown
If your vehicle appears to have problems or is damaged and you’re on a motorway, always try to exit at a service station or the next junction.
If that’s not possible, you should follow these steps:
- Pull into an emergency area. These are regularly spaced along the motorway and are marked with blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol.
- If you can’t get to the SOS telephone in an emergency area but have a mobile phone with you, call our customer contact centre on 0300 123 5000. Why not save this number in your phone, so it’s available when you need it?
- If you can’t get to the hard shoulder or an emergency area but your vehicle can be driven, move it as close as possible to the nearside (left-hand) verge or other nearside boundary or slip road and put on your hazard lights.
- If you feel you can exit safely with any occupants, consider exiting your vehicle via the nearside (left-hand) door and get away from the road. Keep clear of your vehicle and moving traffic at all times. For example, if your vehicle gets hit, you’re out of the way.
- Switch on your hazard warning lights and any other lights such as rear fog lights or side lights, to increase your visibility, especially if it’s dark or foggy. Do not put out a warning triangle.
- Contact your breakdown recovery service. All motorists should be able to make their own recovery arrangements in the event of a breakdown. We advise you to carry details of your provider with you.
If it’s not possible to exit your vehicle safely, there’s no safe place to wait, or you feel your life is in danger, put your hazard warning lights on and stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on. If you have a mobile phone, dial ‘999’ immediately.