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Road Safety and Vintage Cars

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 15 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Vintage Cars Road Safety Car Car

It's no wonder that vintage cars are so appealing, as they allude to a different style and pace of living from a bygone era. 'Life in the fast lane' could quite easily be another synonym for a modern lifestyle. To fit this mode of living, it seems that everything in our lives is either getting smaller, lighter or faster. Undoubtedly, this applies to modern cars and as such manufacturers have made safety an integral part of their designs. However, it could be said that road safety was a comparative afterthought to style in the design of a vintage car. Safely driving a vintage car requires more forward thinking, planning and consideration - something modern drivers aren't so used to.

Always Be Prepared For Problems With Your Car

Road safety in vintage cars starts with prevention. The key to a successful journey is planning and preparation, no dashing off in the car on a whim in all weathers! Try to carry out a mini-MOT check before each journey. Vintage cars do have a tendency to shake, squeak and rattle and whilst this can be perfectly normal, it can also be a real distraction. So if you seem to have a persistent noise or vibration, do check it out.

Before setting off, inspect the underside of the car for any oil or hydraulic fluid leaks, as well as general wear and tear on the tyres and brakes. Checking that all bulbs, lamps and indicators are in working order - especially semaphore indicators - is a must.

Accept that mechanical failure is a strong possibility on your journey and equip yourself accordingly. Roadside repairs and on the fly car maintenance are likely to be a frequent occurrence for the vintage car driver, so as a contingency it is wise to always travel with tools. Include a torch if you drive at dusk or at night. An important road safety tip is if working on your vintage car on the roadside, take a warning triangle with you to increase your visibility to other motorists.

Unlike contemporary cars, no computer wizardry or knowledge is needed for vintage car maintenance - by comparison the mechanics are far simpler and more accessible. This makes checking and fixing the car easier. However, a mobile phone is one very modern and vital piece of equipment that no vintage car driver should be without!

Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again

Driving a vintage car requires a greater overall awareness of the car's performance. You will need to anticipate that bit further ahead, to compensate for you car's reaction time and capabilities. You will be markedly slower than lighter, flightier modern cars. Be aware of the speed at which modern cars drive. Take extra time at junctions and roundabouts to double-check that you really are pulling out at the right opportunity.

Vintage cars don't have power-assisted steering - if anything, they have the opposite! A degree of "play" in the steering means that it might feel a bit slower and looser. In turn, this means that normal steering, or recovering from any mistakes or corrections will take longer to implement. As any driver that has been in an accident knows, every second really does count and bear in mind that vintage cars were not originally fitted with seatbelts and airbags as standard.

Vintage car tyres also tend to have a narrower tread width. For the driver, this means poor grip. Sudden swerving to avoid a hazard, especially in wet conditions, is very unsafe and will not be an effective avoidance tactic anyway, given the reaction capability of the car.

Because of the way they are built, speedy gear changes are not something that can be undertaken with a vintage car. Take a more laboured approach with the clutch and gear change. Factor this into the time you will need when you are pulling away or (on the very, very rare occasion) overtaking. It is very important to remember that in the vast majority of cases, a vintage car will not have the same braking capabilities as a modern car. No ABS or disk brakes - so take it gently and slowly!

When thinking about road safety and vintage cars, you should also consider the roads themselves. Some vintage cars have a wooden or generally old, less integral metal chassis that can't take too much of a pounding. Try to avoid poor roads with potholes, as they could potentially damage suspension and cause structural failure.

A last important factor with road safety and vintage cars is to consider your passengers. If you are planning on taking infants or young children for a ride, under new Government legislation you must be able to fit the right child restraints for them.

Have a safe journey!

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