Driving in the winter is very different than in other times of the year. Adverse weather and longer periods of darkness (especially after the clocks go back at the end of October) makes driving more hazardous. Sometimes conditions can be extreme, as we have found out over recent winters, with prolonged periods of heavy snow and floods. Here’s our top tips on keeping safe in the snow!
Prepare Your Vehicle
It’s a good idea to have your vehicle fully serviced before winter starts and have the antifreeze tested. If you can’t have it serviced, then do your own checks. In particular, check:
- Lights are clean and working
- Battery is fully charged
- Windscreen, wiper blades and other windows are clean and the washer bottle filled with screen wash
- Tyre condition, tread depth and pressure (including the spare)
- Brakes are working well
- Fluids are kept topped up, especially windscreen, anti-freeze and oil
- Tow rope
- A shovel
- Wellington boots
- A hazard warning triangle
- De-icing equipment
- First aid kit (in good order)
- A working torch
- A car blanket
- Warm clothes
- Emergency Rations (inc hot drink in a flask – nonalcoholic, of course)
- Mobile Phone (fully charged)
Driving in Snow or Ice
- Reduce your speed. The chances of skidding are much greater and your stopping distance will increase massively.
- Only travel at a speed at which you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear. Speed limits are the maximum in ideal conditions; in difficult conditions, they can often be too fast.
- Avoid harsh braking and acceleration, or sharp steering.
- Always reduce your speed smoothly and in plenty of time on slippery surfaces.
- Slow down in plenty of time before bends and corners.
- Braking on an icy or snow covered bend is extremely dangerous. The centrifugal force will continue to pull you outwards and the wheels will not grip very well. This could cause your vehicle to spin.
- To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use your brakes gently.
- Increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front. You may need up to TEN TIMES the normal distance for braking.
- Keep your vehicle wellventilated. The car heater turned up full can quickly make you drowsy.
- In snow, stop frequently to clean the windows, wheel arches, lights and number plates.
- Visibility will probably be reduced, so use dipped headlights.
- During wintry weather, road surfaces are often wet and/or covered in frost and ice or snow. But this does not occur uniformly. A road will often have isolated patches of frost or ice after most of the road has thawed – this commonly occurs under bridges.