Preparing for Winter Driving

Now that we're coming into the winter months (when did we have a summer?) it's time to start preparing for the freezing mornings, snow, ice and pouring rain. Depressed yet?

We'd like to offer you some advice for driving during the winter months. Most of it's common sense - all the best advice usually is, but read on anyway; if you act on even one thing, it might just get you out of trouble one day. 

Don't rush

You've got used to bone dry roads and that first hard frost catches out a lot of people, especially on roundabouts and sharp corners, so slow down. One small misjudgement and you could end up having to make a call to your insurance company or worse.

Defrost your car properly

We're sorry but a 5cm hole to see out of just isn't enough. Defrost ALL the windows on your car, including the side windows. Use a jug of warm water (not boiling) from the tap if possible, get a can of de-icer and make sure you have a good ice scraper in the car for when the de-icer runs out. Believe us, snapping your credit card because you haven't spent £2 on an ice scraper is more trouble than it's worth.

Kit to keep in the car

Make sure you ALWAYS have a thick, warm jumper or blanket in the car. Lob the reindeer jumper your Nan knitted you for Christmas in the boot with the rest of your junk and you'll be thanking yourself if you need it. You may look like a dork but you won't care if it keeps you warm. Boots are a good idea too if you're caught in a flood or snow. Jump leads, a torch and a first aid kit could also come in handy. 

Keep Your phone charged/topped up

Your phone can be your saviour if you've broken down miles from anywhere. Make sure you have a car charger and always have plenty of credit if you're on Pay as You Go.

Driving in Snow

Driving in snow can be incredibly dangerous if you don't treat it with a bit of respect. The lightest tap of the brakes can lock up your wheels. If you start to skid make sure that you steer the wheel into the skid and DO NOT slam your brakes on.

It can also be a good idea to carry a fold-up shovel in your boot if you live in the countryside where the chances of large drifts at the side of the road are pretty high.

Don't forget to PROPERLY clear the snow off your car before driving. That little hole you've cleared on the windscreen just isn't big enough. It's also a good idea to clear the snow off your roof if at all possible so it doesn't slide down onto your windscreen when you brake.

Driving in icy weather

Driving on ice can actually be more dangerous than driving on snow, for two reasons.

  1. You may not be able to see a patch of ice until it's too late
  2. It can be more slippery than snow because it is so compacted.

The same rules apply for skidding but make sure you are very light on the brakes because it can be much easier to skid.

Driving in rain

Driving in the rain carries a number of risks. If it's raining heavily your vision will be impaired so make sure that your windscreen wipers are going at an appropriate speed. It's also a very good idea to slow down as much as necessary.

Even once it's stopped raining you can still have problems if there's a lot of standing water on the roads. Your braking distances could be more than doubled so make sure that you leave plenty of space to stop if you need to.

Driving in fog

Despite what some people think, fog lights aren't meant to be left on permanently. The reason they should only be used in fog is that they can easily dazzle oncoming drivers.

If the fog is very heavy you should not use your headlights on full beam on as it can bounce off the water particles and further obscure your vision. That's the time your fog lights should go on, but they must be turned off again as soon as the weather conditions improve. It's also a very good idea to slow down because you have no idea what could be in the middle of the road.

Some of these tips may seem like common sense but if you haven't done any of these we strongly suggest you take our advice. It's never going to be fun breaking down but it can be made less irritating with these tips.

Driving in wind

High sided vehicles can be most affected by high winds, but strong gusts can also be a problem for cars, motorcyclists and cyclists. Be aware of the possibility of cross-winds and gusts on open stretches of road, on bridges and gaps in hedges. 

Do you need to travel at all?

It's easy for weather reporters to advise us not to travel in bad weather unless it's strictly necessary, but the reality is, most of us have commitments which nothing but the most severe weather is going to stop us driving. If you don't have to drive, then just don't, but be as prepared as you can be if you do.

For more information about driving in adverse weather, see the government's official guide.

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Tags: Poor Weather Driving, Winter Driving, Young Driver Safety

Released On 15th Sep 2006