Back on the road? Here’s what to keep in mind

Back on the road? Here’s what to keep in mind

Have you spent the last few weeks in lockdown? Does the same go for your car? Check out some expert advice on how to get safely back on the road.

5. 5. 2020 Škoda World

Tyres, battery, electrics, paint job – there are many things that deserve care and attention when your car goes a few weeks unused. “A car should be able to survive around a fortnight without any kind of care. But any longer than that, and we recommend taking it out onto the road once a week – this prevents bald spots forming on its tyres and corrosion on its brake disks. If we know that our car will be out of action for a long time, it’s a good idea to inflate the tyres to the maximum limit and treat rubber seals with a suitable product,” says Tomáš Procházka, head of the ŠKODA service at Auto Jarov, a car dealership in Prague.

Modern cars are constantly drawing a small quantity of current from the battery to keep certain systems, like an alarm or central locking, on standby. The rate varies from car to car – electricity use is governed by the battery management system and on-board control unit. “In any case, it’s a good idea to keep this in mind. If your car is going to be out of action for some time, say three months, make sure you check the battery capacity, so it doesn’t get completely drained, which damages it,” Procházka adds.

A good view

What do you need to think about when getting back on the road? The first thing is to ensure you have a good view. “A lot of dust and pollen settles on your windows during the spring. You need to clean the windscreen and side windows before setting out. If you leave this task to the windscreen spray and wipers while driving, there is a risk you’ll make things worse: you’ll be left with a coarse paste spread over the windscreen and it could leave scratches," warns Robert Šťastný, a member of the Traffic Safety Research team at ŠKODA.

Robert Šťastný
member of the Traffic Safety Research team at ŠKODA.

All you need to do is get a bottle of ordinary water, pour it over the glass, let it soak for a while, and wipe it off with a window scraper. Or you can use a cloth, but that will get very dirty – so it’s a good idea to soak the glass again and run a clean cloth or paper napkin over it. The windscreen wipers’ rubber blades should be cleaned separately.

Tyres and brakes

If your car remains parked for a long time, bald spots can emerge on the tyres – but it’s too late to do anything about that. But you should keep this in mind and drive carefully at first. Check the tyre pressure. If your car still has its winter tyres on, don’t make them suffer by driving too dynamically – they’re not designed for it. It’s better to call a service centre and change them for summer tyres.

After a long time out of action, the brake disks will most likely be a bit rusty, so on your first drive in a while you should apply the brakes gently and constantly to remove the corrosion. First make sure it’s safe to do so, though.

Don’t forget about hygiene

Cleanliness issues are one of the things that won’t go away even after some of the coronavirus restrictions are lifted. “At a time of hygiene concerns people try to touch as few things as possible or just use one hand while keeping the other hand clean. But you need both hands to drive and you need your whole hand wrapped around the steering wheel. If we went to keep our car more or less sterile, it’s possible to keep a pair of suitable gloves (like thin joggers’ gloves) in the car and only use them while driving,” advises Šťastný.

The principle when handling children’s car seats is the same. Little bottles of disinfectant have become an integral part of our homes – and it certainly does no harm having another bottle in the car. Have clean hands or clean gloves when you are buckling a child in – remember that young kids will be touching everything around them and won’t keep their hands away from their mouths.

Back behind the wheel...

They say you never forget how to ride a bike or how to swim. What about driving? That depends how experienced we are, according to Robert Šťastný. “Seasoned drivers shouldn’t have any difficulty getting behind the wheel again. The less experienced should try out actions they’re not sure about – changing gear, releasing the clutch, locating the brake pedal and so on.

Psychologist Adéla Doležalová is of the same opinion. “It’s certainly a good idea to be cautious. It can happen that some people feel a bit uneasy when they have to drive again after a long period of inactivity. In that case it’s better not to attempt anything complicated. Limit yourself at first to shorter journeys on less busy roads so you get back in the swing of things. But driving is not something you really forget, so no special measures are necessary. But if someone has a tendency to be anxious, this kind of situation can impact on their driving skills. The ideal thing to do in that case is to take a refresher lesson with a driving school. Although certain automated actions can suffer if they aren’t used for a while, it doesn’t take long for driving to become second nature again.

Adéla Doležalová

...and back to school

The same applies to all of us when we’re on foot. Drivers and pedestrians should take extra care. The reduced traffic in recent days could lull people into a false sense of security. As pedestrians we should concentrate more and as drivers we should look out for pedestrians - some people have started treating city streets as pedestrian zones because cars have almost vanished during lockdown.

Children will be most at risk. Although it looks like they won’t be going back to school for some time, the lifting of the lockdown will result in lots of kids out and about. The situation will be a bit like the first weeks of a new school year. Road safety will be the last thing on kids’ minds. What’s more, if their attention is fixed on their mobile phones they are likely to step into the road without looking.

“There’s definitely no harm in reminding kids of the basic rules they need to follow when close to traffic, like looking in both directions before crossing the road and so on. It’s also important to teach them the new rules that the current situation has made necessary, like pressing the buttons to open doors in the public transport, touching handrails and handles with bare hands and so on,” adds Markéta Hrkalová, a psychologist and psychotherapist from Prague.

Markéta Hrkalová
psychologist a psychotherapist

Will it be crazy out there?

It’s a sad fact that reduced traffic on the roads tempts many drivers to break the rules, like speed limits – often in built-up areas – and drive like racing drivers. “One downside of the euphoria of getting back to normality will be that people will drive fast, under the influence of the desire to make up for lost time. And cars can be a deadly weapon. That makes it doubly important to be disciplined and considerate on the roads,” Doležalová stresses.

What else can we do to stay safe? “Concentrate on your own safety. Make sure everyone is wearing a seatbelt, ensure that the headrests are in the right position, children are in their child seats and no potentially dangerous objects are left lying around. And be even more vigilant. When turning into a main road from a side road, we have to be aware that an unexpectedly fast car or motorbike could appear. Or if we are on the main road, there’s nothing wrong with slowing down a bit if a car is approaching along a side road. If someone is overtaking dangerously, it’s better to just get out of the way,” the ŠKODA Traffic Safety Research team member advises.

Motorbikes, deer or wild boar

Motorbikes are a chapter unto themselves. Empty roads are every biker’s dream. Keep them in mind – even the responsible, considerate and careful bikers who just want to enjoy the ride. Make sure to look carefully, both when joining a main road and when turning left or overtaking – and look behind you as well as in front. We automatically register cars, but we’re not so used to motorbikes.

To conclude, Robert Šťastný has one more piece of safety advice many of us might not be aware of. “Reduced traffic means less off-putting noise for animals. So there’s a higher chance we’ll come across them on the roads. The only prevention is to slow down and be mentally prepared for this eventuality. And if you do come across one, you need to brake hard, ideally without swerving.”