With the Christmas rush starting in just a few days, many people are heading off to visit relatives or to a holiday cottage. Now is a good time to remind yourself of the basics of safe Christmas driving, which every motorist can do to ensure that traffic flows smoothly without unnecessary accidents. As in previous years, Fintraffic, the National Police Board, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom, the Ministry of the Interior Department for Rescue Services, the Emergency Response Centre Agency and the Finnish Road Safety Council will ensure that Christmas traffic continues to run smoothly and wish everyone a very safe journey. Let’s start Christmas on the road.
Christmas traffic forecasts – plan your route early and avoid congestion
Christmas traffic causes a clear spike in traffic volumes during the winter season. According to the Christmas traffic forecasts of Fintraffic road traffic centre, the outbound traffic on our main roads will already start to appear on Friday 22 December when traffic will start to pick up in the afternoon. Outbound traffic will peak between 10 am and 4 pm on Saturday 23 December and, in the north, traffic will continue to be busy even after that. Traffic will be busiest on national road 3 between Helsinki and Tampere and on national road 4 between Helsinki and Heinola.
Return traffic will start on Monday 25 December in the afternoon. The busiest day for return traffic will be Tuesday, 26 December. Traditionally, traffic is then mainly on the southbound carriageways of national roads 3 and 4, and on national road 9 between Orivesi and Tampere.
“On the busiest stretches of road, be prepared for traffic to be queueing at times. However, the timing of some outbound traffic over the weekend will also spread traffic over different days this Christmas. When planning a trip, it is worth remembering that the most important factors affecting traffic at Christmas are the road and weather conditions. According to the current forecast, the weather conditions will be wintry, so people should drive towards their Christmas holiday destinations taking into account the prevailing weather conditions,” says Eero Sauramäki, Head of Road Traffic Management at Fintraffic¨s road traffic centre.
Did you know? You can check traffic volumes, traffic bulletins and road conditions on your route in advance on Fintraffic’s Traffic Situation service at https://liikennetilanne.fintraffic.fi/pulssi/?lang=en. The service is also available from app stores as a free Fintraffic mobile app. Weather forecasts and prevailing weather warnings can be found on the website of the Finnish Meteorological Institute at ilmatieteenlaitos.fi/varoitukset.
Good Christmas spirit part of road safety
As usual, the police will monitor Christmas traffic throughout the country. Particular attention will be paid to speeding, driving offences and drink-driving.
“It’s worth embracing leisureliness, the peace of Christmas and brotherly love during the journey. The journey is already part of the holiday,” says Police Inspector Kari Onninen from the National Police Board. In traffic, this means anticipating situations, avoiding unnecessary overtaking and paying attention to other road users, for example giving way if there is no one ahead and a long queue in the rear-view mirror.
Traficom, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, is also raising the Christmas spirit. A good and unhurried mind gives us the ability to think, to adapt to different situations and to be considerate of other road users.
“At Christmas, people take a break. However, the stresses of work may still be on your mind and the Christmas traffic and congestion can be nerve-racking. Tight schedules and mistakes made by yourself or other drivers can cause irritation and anger. However, in traffic, these emotions should be put to the back of your mind and dealt with later if necessary. Ultimately, you can only influence your own actions. So calm down and concentrate on driving, be merciful to yourself and others. That way we can all get to and from Christmas safely,” continues Petteri Harjuvaara Special Adviser at Traficom.
Prepare for winter road conditions by doubling your safety distance
This Christmas, the Finnish Road Safety Council is reminding motorists to be aware of winter road conditions. A suitable speed and sufficient safety distance from other road users allow safe travel, even in poor and slippery conditions.
Motorists driving too close cause fear and even irritation for those ahead. It’s not just about emotion, it’s about safety – too short a gap to the car in front often leads to tailbacks. Many disastrous collisions with oncoming traffic also start with safety distances that are too short.
“Two things in particular influence the choice of an adequate safety distance: speed and conditions. On the road in summer conditions, the distance in metres should be the same as the speed of the vehicle, i.e. a distance of at least 80 metres at a speed of 80 km/h, or at least four seconds. However, this is not enough in snowy or wet conditions or when the road surface is icy or rutted. The safety distance should be as much as twice as long on winter roads and even more on icy roads,” explains Sami Kivilä, Training Instructor at the Finnish Road Safety Council.
Do you know the right things to do in case of an accident? Here’s what to do
Christmas is also a good time to ensure your car is properly equipped. This also means being prepared for unexpected situations. It’s a good idea to have, at the very least, warm clothing in case of an accident or vehicle breakdown. It’s also a good idea to check your car carefully and take into account the impact of the weather conditions, for example on the battery life of electric vehicles.
The safety authorities will be ready to assist in the event of an accident. Take this opportunity to review what to do in the event of an accident in Christmas traffic and download the 112 Suomi mobile app to your phone.
“If you notice a traffic accident, stop in a safe place and turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights. Move along the edge of the road to the site of the accident. Try to prevent additional damage by turning off the vehicle involved in the accident and by warning other traffic. You should also remember to keep yourself safe and, for example, wear a high-visibility vest after dark to ensure that you can be seen. Always place the triangular warning sign far enough from the accident site to allow enough time for other drivers to react, and call for help and assist the injured in any way you can. If professional assistance is already at the scene, focus on slowing down and safely passing the site, and don’t take any photos of the accident site,” says Tommi Luhtaniemi, Senior Inspector at the Ministry of the Interior’s Department for Rescue Services.
The Emergency Response Centre Agency would also like to remind people about services available from the 112 Suomi mobile app.
“Road users should download the 112 Suomi mobile app on their smart phone in case of any emergencies and problems. In an emergency, you can call 112 through the app. You can also use the app to call the road users’ hotline, so that information about road maintenance needs can be easily targeted to the right place based on your location. The app also provides you with road traffic disruption alerts and any official and hazard alerts based on your location. Familiarise yourself with the use of the app and the range of services available beforehand, so you know how to use it in an emergency,” says Tommi Hopearuoho, Planning Manager at the Emergency Response Centre Agency.