AA Patrols who are preparing for up to 1,500 breakdown call outs over the weekend and who report a marked year on year increase in motorway breakdowns, are reminding those who will be driving with an extra load this bank holiday to make sure it’s securely fastened. They’re also advising drivers to adjust their tyre pressure and driving style as their vehicle handling is likely to be affected.
By and large AA Patrols observe a fastidious approach to the practice of driving with an extra load by Irish drivers however do report on the occasional reckless behaviours where drivers unthinkingly put themselves and other road users at serious risk of harm.
Of a group of 7,700 AA Members polled by the AA at the start of the summer, 410 individuals admitted to having lost luggage off a roof rack, roof box, trailer or open boot on one or more occasions during their driving careers. Among the potentially lethal objects this cohort of drivers confessed to having lost and which highlights the importance of correctly fastening loads for all weather conditions, were kayaks, a mattress, a bale of briquettes, pipes, suitcases and clothing.
“The likes of plastic kayaks can bend under a heavy load, so it’s really important to allow for this when transporting them via roof rack.” Advises Noel Keogh, Head of AA Rescue. “It’s also crucial to think of the affects of cross winds particularly when driving on motorways.”
180 of the AA Members polled also shared that they have had the frightening experience of having jack knifed a trailer. A similar number, 181 drivers, stated they had attempted to drive away having incorrectly fastened their trailer to their tow hitch.
“We’d particularly worry about those who are new to the experience of towing a trailer. Do your home work and ask for help if you’re unsure of anything.” Advises Keogh. “One driver we polled admitted to learning his lesson when the trailer he was towing became unfastened and ended up in a ditch. Another lost the back door off his trailer while someone else lost the wheel off their trailer due to overloading. Thankfully no one was hurt in any of these cases but it could have been a very different story.”
The AA also advises drivers to make sure they have a good tank of fuel on board, a fully charged mobile phone and their AA Membership cards on them before heading off into bank holiday traffic. Currently 11% of all motorway call outs attended by the AA are as a result of Members having completely run out of fuel it reports.
For further advice on what to do in the event of a breakdown or to avail of their bank holiday Membership sale motorists’ should visit: AAireland.ie/Membership
In light of their findings, AA Patrols offer the following tips on travelling with an extra load:
Inside the car:
- Adjust your tyre pressures if needed to suit the heavier load. But remember to adjust them back again after the trip.
- Drive more cautiously as handling and performance will be affected by the load plus stopping distances will be increased.
- Don't exceed your vehicle’s Maximum Permitted Weight (MPW). This is the maximum permissible weight the vehicle is permitted to carry based on the capability of tyres, suspension, etc. It includes everything in (including its passengers) and on the car.
- Carry a spare wheel for your trailer. AA Patrols are frequently called to punctured trailers where the driver has forgotten to carry a spare wheel.
- Remember it’s just as important to maintain your trailer as it is your car.
Keep larger/heavier stuff low down
- Make sure everything's secure. Stuff sliding around or tipping over whenever you brake/turn will be both irritating and very distracting.
- Empty boxes or plastic crates can be useful in the boot to stop things sliding around your boot.
- Keep the dash or shelf beneath the CD player and front floor space empty. Items will fall off and roll around could even get lodged under the brake pedal.
Can you still see?
- Put the bigger stuff in first and then pack the smaller items around the larger items as this will help keep your centre of gravity lower to minimize the effect on handling.
- Heavy items in the boot (cases of wine/beer, DIY materials) should be packed tightly against the back of the rear seat to reduce the risk of them bursting through in a crash. This affords better weight distribution and handling too.
Passengers come first
- Avoid packing items above the back seat line so that you see clearly out of the back window.
- Consider using a roof rack or roof box for lighter / bulkier stuff to leave more room inside.
On the roof:
- If you have to fold seats to get a large or awkward load in the car, simply come back for your passengers later on. This is especially important if the load prevents them from putting their seat belt on.
Roof racks are a great way of carrying very large or awkward items but take care:
- Check your car's manual to make sure that the load, including the weight of the roof rack itself, doesn't exceed the maximum. This limit tends to be quite low.
- Ensure that your load is securely attached and that it doesn’t stick out creating a hazard.
- Once you're underway, the airflow will be trying to lift the front of any long load so a secure fixing, holding the front of the load down is important.
- Under heavy braking the load will tend to slide forwards – secure fixings to the rear will help prevent this.
- Fixings will work loose – stop, check and re-secure regularly.
- Don't forget the extra height.
- Distribute weight safely.
- If you can, try to put bulky but lighter items on the roof and heavier items low down in the car. This will help keep the centre of gravity down and improve stability.