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Keeping Cool Means Keeping Safe: Ten Summer Driving Tips for Holiday Travelers

car at beach

Keeping A/C on in the car keeps drivers safe, but many are unaware of benefits, according to a survey conducted by Honeywell

BRUSSELS --- August 6, 2015: Summer weather has many drivers turning up the air conditioning to keep cool as they collectively cover hundreds of thousands of kilometers during the peak holiday season. But a new survey conducted by Honeywell reveals that many European drivers are not aware of the important safety and health benefits that properly using the car's air conditioning system can bring.

"Our survey found that air conditioning systems are Europeans' preferred optional extra - even outpacing newer technologies like navigation and parking assist. But they did not know it can do more than just keep them cool," said Julien Soulet, business director for Honeywell Fluorine Products, a leading global manufacturer of refrigerants, including HFO-1234yf, a next-generation automobile refrigerant that offers a global warming potential (GWP) that is 99.9 percent lower than the previous refrigerant, HFC-134a, and lower than carbon dioxide. "Air conditioning, combined with good driving habits, can help keep drivers and passengers safe this holiday driving season."

Based on results of a survey of drivers in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, Honeywell is providing European drivers with its top 10 tips to remain safe and alert as they undertake the long drive to their holiday destinations as the temperatures hit the high 20s and beyond this summer. The first three safety tips relate directly to use of the car's air conditioning system.

  1. Keep cool and stay alert: Studies suggest that ambient temperatures above 22°C could cause drowsiness and dull drivers' alertness[1], but nearly half (49 percent) of European drivers do not turn on the air conditioning until the temperature has hit 28°C.
    One study has shown that at 27°C degrees driver reaction times are 22 percent slower than at 21°C[2]. So setting the car's air conditioning to a comfortable and safe 21-22°C helps keep drivers cool, alert and responsive.
  2. Clear the air: Although nearly half of European drivers (48 percent) do not know it, car air conditioning systems remove up to 88% of the pollen and other allergens in the outside air[3]. So turn on the air conditioning to help keep drivers sneeze- and headache-free.
  3. See clearly: When driving at higher altitudes or in mountains, the outside temperature can rapidly drop, causing condensation to build up on the windscreen and impairing visibility. Although one in five (20 percent) European drivers is not aware, turning on the air conditioning quickly and effectively removes moisture and condensation from the windscreen, allowing drivers to maintain optimum visibility of the road.
  4. Take a break: While it is tempting to keep driving for long stretches in order to reach your destination more quickly, driver fatigue is a major risk factor, causing as many as one in every three road accidents. In addition to keeping the cabin temperature below 22°C to increase alertness, remember to take at least a five-minute break for every two hours of driving. If you feel tiredness is taking you over, then pull over and rest up for at least 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Stretch your legs and arms and back: When you take a break, find a safe place to park your car and step outside to stretch completely. This helps maintain alertness and wards off fatigue.
  6. Limit your speed: Driving at higher speeds requires greater concentration and causes drivers to tire more easily. Speeding is also a major cause of accidents. Limiting your speed is not only good for you, it's good for the environment, too. Speeding does not pay off - not only is it illegal, it does not save that much time: on a distance of 120km, driving at 150kmh instead of 120kmh saves a little over 10 minutes.
  7. Stick to the rules: Knowing and respecting the rules of the road is a key factor in ensuring road safety. Many Europeans will be crossing national borders on their long holiday drives this summer. It is important that you are completely familiar with the rules of the road in the countries in which you are driving. They may be different from those at home.
  8. Be equipped: In the unfortunate event of a roadside breakdown, it is important to remain highly visible to other drivers, so ensure you are equipped with a safety kit before you set out - in many cases it's the law!
  9. Do not use your phone: If you must make a call when driving, use a hands-free set. If you do not have one, pull over when it is safe to do so to make that call. And never text and drive!
  10. And never, ever, drink and drive: It may go without saying, but it bears repeating - even if some countries allow a minimum blood-alcohol level, play it safe and never, ever, drink and drive.

About the survey

The online survey conducted by ORC International polled 2,501 respondents ages 18 or older who drive a car. Of these, 501 were from the UK and 500 each from France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Survey respondents were selected from an online panel. Data collection occurred between 17 and 24 June 2015.

Safety-Related Findings: 

  • More than one in three European drivers (35 percent) does not know that using the air conditioning can prevent drowsiness. That figure climbs to more than four in 10 drivers inGermany (44 percent) and over half of all drivers in France (51 percent).
  • When they do use the air conditioning, half of all European drivers do not put it on until the ambient temperature has hit 28°C - when it is already far too hot according to studies. Those studies suggest that task performance is optimal at 21-22°C and decreases at 23°C and above[4], and that at 27°C driver reaction times are 22 percent slower than at 21°C.[5]

  • One in five European drivers (20 percent) is not aware that the air conditioning helps remove moisture from the windshield, a critical safety feature of air conditioning. French and U.K. drivers are the most sceptical, with almost quarter not believing air conditioning can remove windscreen moisture (24 percent and 23 percent respectively).
  • Nearly half of European drivers (48 percent) were unaware that using the air conditioning reduces exposure to pollen, other airborne allergens and ambient pollution. In fact more than half of European drivers (53 percent) erroneously think that air conditioners re-circulate germs and pollutants in the car.

  • Nearly one in five Europeans (19 percent) say they prefer to drive with the window open in slow-moving traffic and when driving off motorways. But a 2010 study shows that car air conditioning can reduce the total number of microorganisms by 81.7 percent, the number of mold spores by 83.3 percent, and the number of particles by 87.8 percent.

Air Conditioning Most Popular Optional Extra Among European Drivers 

  • Air conditioning remains the favourite optional extra for European drivers: More than half (54 percent) said they would be willing to pay for it if it were not included. This is significantly more than those who said they would pay for a navigation system (38 percent), parking assistance (36 percent) or parking cameras (31 percent).