Skip to content
Back Back to Insurance menu Go to Insurance
Back Back to Saga Money Go to Saga Money
Back Back to Saga Magazine menu Go to Magazine
Search Magazine

How to survive summer traffic jams

Carlton Boyce / 04 August 2015 ( 25 April 2019 )

Ah, the joys of the British summer: Pimm’s in the garden, Wimbledon on the TV, and the gentle hum of bees in the background. Oh, and traffic jams, lots of traffic jams, especially in the summer holidays when the kids aren’t at school, or on bank holidays when everyone and their dog are on the roads...

Traffic jams
Take regular breaks to avoid getting tired

While the temperature outside might soar, there’s no need for your temper to do the same! Here’s our guide to surviving summer traffic jams.

Checking your car’s coolant and oil before any long journey is a sensible precaution, but it is especially important if you are going to be sitting in traffic for a long time as your engine and cooling system will be working overtime to stay cool.

When you’ve checked your car’s fluids, let your engine tick over for ten minutes or so to check that the radiator cooling fan cuts in. Better to find out that it isn’t working now than on a packed motorway.

Stock up on water to drink. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a hot queue with nothing to quench your thirst.

Pack an in-car phone charger, just in case, but don't be tempted to sit and text whilst you're in a queue of stationery traffic, as you can be fined - plus, it's just not safe. 

Summer driving tips

Take regular breaks. It might be tempting to push on when you’re behind schedule but you’ll still get tired, even when you’re just sitting in a traffic jam. Aim for at least a twenty-minute break every three hours.

When you do take your break,try and park in the shade if possible. It might mean a longer walk but you’ll thank me for it when you get back into your car.

It might seem counterintuitive but keeping your windows closed when you are travelling slowly (or not at all!) will help you car’s air-conditioning work. At speed, you can crack open the windows to set up a cooling breeze - but you’ll pay the price in increased fuel consumption.

While we are talking about air-conditioning, it’s a good idea to set it to recirculate the air inside the car rather than drawing it in from outside; all those exhaust fumes from the cars around you won’t do anything other than give you an even bigger headache!

Have you heard of the petrol and rings scam?

If you research your journey on Google maps just before you leave it will take the current traffic conditions into account and show you a journey time that allows for them. It will also show you two alternative routes that might save you time and money. If you have a passenger with a smartphone, ask them to have Google maps open with the journey programmed in - if there's a sudden snarl up ahead, you might find out in time to avoid it. 

Which leads me on to my next tip: why not eschew the motorways and dual carriageways and meander along B-roads instead, avoiding the queues altogether? Yes, it’ll take a bit longer but it might be a more direct route, which will save you fuel and it will probably take you past places you’ve never seen before, turning a journey into a road trip.

Can you travel at a quieter time? You are less likely to face traffic chaos if you can travel in the early morning or late evening.

Be aware of motorcyclists. They’ll be zipping between lanes to avoid the queues, so be extra careful if you need to change lanes.

Tips for driving on the motorway

Other drivers might well be a bit more grumpy than usual. If you are faced with an angry driver a smile and an acknowledgement (even if you weren’t in the wrong) will go a long way to diffusing the situation.

Try to resist getting angry with queue jumpers. Yes, it’s annoying when they jump into the gap in front of you but they aren’t gaining an advantage and it is important to maintain that safe gap between you and the car in front – even if that does mean impatient motorists jump into it…

Finally, try to relax; you’re off somewhere wonderful and you will get there - eventually! You're never stuck in one place forever, remember.

Saga Car Insurance: Join over a million drivers already benefiting from our outstanding cover and personal service for the over 50s. Get a quote and find out more!


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.