Monday, 30 March 2009 12:00 AM
Car drivers are usually the first to give their van driving counterparts a hard time, mainly because they have no idea how hard life in the cabin can be.
The more miles you travel, the more chance there is of being involved in an accident, and as van drivers spend their working lives behind the wheel, here are Confused.com's top tips on keeping safe.
1. Don't rush
The pressure of being in a hurry goes with the territory, but being in a rush isn't good for your blood pressure or your judgement. Whenever you can, leave plenty of time for your journey, including a bit extra for any hold ups or breakdowns. That way you can stay chilled on the move while everyone else is tearing their hair out!
2. Safety essentials
We all hate doing it, but getting a bit grubby under the bonnet before a journey is a crucial step to staying safe. Check your tyres, lights, oil, water and fuel before setting off. Make sure your windscreen washer is full (in bad weather you can actually get a fixed penalty for having an empty washer bottle). Clean your windows and mirrors too.
3. Driving position
We don't mean leaning out of the window and swearing at cyclists: getting your driving position right is important for lots of reasons. Firstly, sitting right means comfy long-haul trips, and most importantly, no bad back! Correct driving position also means correct mirror adjustment, so take a minute to optimise your field of view before setting off.
4. Plan your route
Whether you travel all over the country or take the same short journey every day, it's worth thinking about your route. Motorways are both the quickest and safest way to get from A to B, and if you're no good at map reading, consider getting a SatNav. Also, think about the time of day you travel. Try and avoid rush hours and school runs whenever possible.
5. Heavy loads
Easy as it is to quickly pick up the load, chuck it in the back and hoof it away to the destination, taking a moment to load your van in the right way can make a huge difference. Ideally you want the load to be as low as possible and in the centre of the wheelbase. And be very careful when lifting loads that you don't put your back out.
6. Be prepared
There are a few essentials you should have on board before starting your journey. Make sure you have a spare wheel, jack and wheel brace. Check your breakdown cover is up to date and that you have a fully-charged mobile phone nearby (but never use while driving, of course). A torch, high-vis vest and first aid kit are also handy.
7. Stay awake
Never drive when you're feeling tired. Ensure you get a good night's sleep before climbing behind the wheel for a long day or a long journey. If you do feel tired whilst driving:
. Open the window to get some cold, reviving air on your face;
. At your earliest opportunity, pull over into a safe place to park and get some rest;
. Don't start driving again until you're fully alert once more.
8. If the worst happens
Accidents do happen, even to professional best drivers, but what's crucial is what to do next. If you're involved in an accident: switch off your engine; put your hazard warning lights and handbrake on; and extinguish any cigarette. Check the occupants of any other vehicles to determine their health, and call the emergency services if need be.
Be prepared to hand over your van insurance details and make sure you get theirs. If you need to, get witness details and take photos of any damage (it's a good idea to keep a cheap camera in your glove compartment for this purpose). Finally, don't admit liability or guilt – that's for someone else to sort out.