Simon Best's blog: 30 January 2013 - There may be tunnels ahead
19 March 2013
Simon Best is chief executive of the Institute of Advanced Motorists
Britain's longest under-land tunnel, the Hindhead tunnel opened on the A3 in July 2011.
It marked the start of improved journeys on the main route between London and Portsmouth. But tunnels can present problems for drivers. For example, vehicle fires in Europe's Mont Blanc and Gotthard tunnels have claimed fifty lives between them.
Many died because they wrongly believed they should wait in their vehicles for help, rather than getting out of the tunnel immediately.
Accidents in tunnels can and do happen. No matter how short the tunnel is, they present unique problems and knowing what to do is vital.
Before entering a tunnel, it's important to make some checks. As always, check your fuel gauge. Whatever you do, don't risk running out of fuel. It is not worth the risk.
Keep the radio on to keep up-to-date with traffic information. If it's a sunny day, before entering the tunnel, take off your sunglasses.
While you're in the tunnel, make sure you turn on dipped headlights. Don't exceed the speed limit and make sure you leave extra room between yourself and the car in front.
Keep an eye out for the location of emergency pedestrian exits just in case you may need one. In two-way tunnels, keep well to the nearside kerb and do not change lanes unless instructed to.
If you break down, start by switching on your hazard lights immediately. Try to coast to a breakdown lay-by. If none are available, stop as close to the nearside kerb as possible.
Turn off the engine but leave the key in the ignition so the vehicle can be moved. Evacuate the vehicle making sure everyone is in a safe place - on the pedestrian walkway if there is one.
Put on a reflective jacket, if you have one, and walk carefully to the nearest emergency phone and inform the operator.
In the event of a fire, only try and extinguish the fire is if someone is in danger. In all other cases leave as quickly as you can, don't wait to be told what to do.
Finally, dealing with congestion is different in a tunnel. If traffic slows suddenly, ensure you turn on your hazard warning lights to warn the road users behind you.
If traffic stops moving completely, leave a distance of at least five metres from the vehicle in front. Turn off your engine but do not leave your vehicle. Finally, turn on the radio if you are able to receive reception.
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