Keep moving this winter – tips for reducing risk
It’s this time of year more than any other that drivers need to take extra precautions to reduce driving risk. Here’s some top tips for mitigating common winter risks…
Preparing for your journey
When cold weather strikes, it’s important to take some extra time before starting out. Give yourself time to clear and defrost car windows and remove snow and ice from your mirrors and lights.
As well as checking the weather forecast before you leave for the day, you should also check:
- Cooling system,
- and don’t ignore advice about closed roads.
You should regularly check that the heating system works and that the windscreen washer levels are topped up. Also, don’t forget to keep your mobile charged.
Once on the road, drive slowly – if you drive when visibility is poor or road conditions are wet and icy it will take longer to react to hazards. You should also steer and brake sooner, but more gently than usual. Use low gears to avoid skidding and maintain a safe gap between the vehicle in front as stopping distances double in wet weather and increase tenfold in snow and ice.
Driving in heavy rain
Rain can be equally as troublesome as snow – transforming road conditions in an instant. Your vehicle can be damaged even if you drive through a few inches of water so never attempt to cross a flooded road if you are uncertain of the depth.
If driving through shallow water, you should only cross if nothing is coming the other way and drive very slowly in first gear to prevent stalling. You should always test your brakes after driving through floodwater to check they are not wet. Keeping the engine rev count up will also keep water out of the exhaust pipe.
Another issue is aquaplaning, which occurs when vehicles lose contact with the road surface. If this happens you need to slow down to help tyres reconnect with the road. Driving at night can also cause problems, due to glare from lights being increased by rainwater. Cruise control can also reduce reaction time, as can wet shoes – so be sure to dry them on vehicle mats to prevent wet soles slipping off the pedals.
Precautions in the fog
You should only use your fog lights if visibility is less than 100 metres, as otherwise they will dazzle other road users. Once fog lights are on, dip your headlights and do not follow the lights of the person in front.
Advice for driving in the snow
- Think twice about overtaking, if enough time has been given for the journey, it’s better to keep the speed down.
- Pay more attention to the road and be aware of icy patches in shaded areas.
- Make sure the vehicle is ventilated to stop the windscreen misting up and to stop the vehicle getting stuffy.
- Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin whilst taking care not to let your speed creep up.
- When driving downhill, choose third and fourth gear to prevent skidding.
- Drivers using a manual car should start in second gear rather than first to minimise risk of wheels spinning.
- Brake gently to avoid locking the wheels – gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving.
- Ice forms first on bridges, overpasses and shady areas. When driving over patches of ice decelerate slowly and hold the car steady.
Be safe and take care!