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Safety Checks Before Moving Off

The Highway Code issues safety standards and instructions for drivers before setting off. Take a few moments to conduct a roadworthiness checklist before moving off on a journey.

AWARENESS CHECKS: This section lists all the important vehicle checks you should make before driving away.

It explains the proper guidance for drivers on their fitness to drive and the benefits of route planning.

Drivers and riders should never underestimate the importance of making pre-journey awareness checks.

There is information on the appropriate clothing and footwear for driving. The guide also covers the vehicle controls checklist and the importance of checking fuel levels.

The Highway Code rules also govern towing a trailer and loading it for safe road use. All these guidelines are according to the road traffic laws in the United Kingdom.

Roadworthy Vehicle Checks Before Driving

Rule 97: The Highway Code rules say before setting off on a road journey you should take a few moments to ensure that:

  • The vehicle is legal and roadworthy (e.g. taxed and insured).
  • Your mobile phone is switched off or you have set it to hands free access.
  • You are wearing appropriate clothing and footwear to drive a vehicle. It should not prevent you from using the vehicle controls in the correct manner for driving.
  • Familiarize yourself with all the vehicle controls and know how to use them in the proper manner. You should make this check before you need to operate them. Not all vehicle controls function in the same way.
  • Mirrors and seats are properly adjusted to the correct position for driving. Ensure they are set for your comfort, full control, and maximum vision.
  • The vehicle head restraints are properly adjusted. This helps to reduce the risk of neck and spine injuries in the event of a car collision.
  • All seats belts and child restraints (where appropriate) are securely fastened.
  • The vehicle has sufficient fuel before setting off and commencing a journey. This is especially important when driving on motorways.
  • You have planned the route you want to take and allowed enough time for the journey.

Note: You can use some car headrests to smash window glass during an emergency situation. Check further Highway Code rules about vehicle maintenance, safety and security.

Safety Checks Before Towing a Vehicle

Rule 98: As a driver, you MUST NOT tow more than the driving licence allowances for towing. Some restrictions on the weight of trailer you can tow apply to motorists who passed their car test after the 1st of January 1997.

Towing a vehicle with a tow rope can be very dangerous. The UK Highway Code has specific recommendations for towing a vehicle. Drivers should consider using a professional recovery service in the event of vehicle breakdowns on public roads.

Loading a Trailer Before Setting Off

When you load a trailer:

  • You MUST NOT overload your vehicle or trailer.
  • The towed weight should not be greater than the one recommended by the manufacturer of the vehicle.
  • You MUST secure your load and it MUST NOT stick out in a dangerous manner.
  • Ensure any heavy or sharp objects are properly secured and safe. The same rules apply when transporting livestock or animals.
  • Distribute the weight in a caravan or trailer with heavy items mainly over the axle(s). Ensure there is a downward load on the tow ball. Do not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended weight and tow ball load.
  • Ease off the accelerator and reduce speed gently to regain control if the trailer begins swerving or snaking.
  • You may need to adjust vehicle headlights when you are carrying a heavy load or towing a trailer.

Vehicle Checks Before Setting Off: Highway Code in the United Kingdom