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Student drivers urged to lighten up before taking to the road as Freshers’ season starts

Students are reminded to make sure they have loaded their vehicle correctly and carried out basic vehicle checks before setting off to college or university this Freshers’ season.

Freshers’ week is a rite of passage for many new students, providing an opportunity to make friends and let the hair down before lectures start.

Highways England is urging those travelling away to study for the first time to make sure they don’t overload their vehicle and to avoid getting behind the wheel while tired.

New research by the organisation responsible for running England’s major A-road and motorway network shows 6 out of 10 students would carry on driving, even if they may have overloaded their car. The data also shows that 7 out of 10 students have driven while tired.

The information comes after Highways England surveyed more than 1,400 students ahead of Freshers season starting.

With many young people likely to be moving away from home to university accommodation, Highways England is calling on students to ‘check it before driving it’ and says people should avoid packing everything but the proverbial ‘kitchen sink’.

Richard Leonard, head of road safety at Highways England, said:

We want everyone to get to their destination safely and we can all play a part in that. We know that this is an incredibly exciting time for students with many leaving home for the first time.

Our traffic officers are there to help get things moving if there’s a problem. But we’d urge all students to make sure they load their car correctly before setting off as they could be endangering themselves and other road users.

Advice for loading vehicles correctly includes:

  • place heavy luggage on the boot floor, directly behind the rear seat backrest so that it can’t move or fall over in to the free space
  • put light luggage on top of the large cases and cover it with a blanket and secure it all with a strap otherwise loose objects can turn into dangerous projectiles, especially if the luggage exceeds the height of the rear seat
  • heavy luggage can be safely stored in the space between the front and rear seats
  • store small and light objects that you do not necessarily need while driving behind the front seat or in vacuum bags which fit neatly into the storage space under the seats
  • put anything particularly heavy in the boot and not unrestrained on the back seat and secure the load if carrying anything externally on the car eg a roof box or bike
  • drivers should still be able to see in their mirrors when driving
  • if people aren’t sure about the car’s official weight limit they should check their handbook. If they feel they are close to the limit they can go to a weighbridge to check
  • drivers should make sure they have the right insurance, especially if using other people’s vehicles and are sharing the driving or towing a trailer