Driving in winter can be difficult, and fog frequently makes the dark mornings and evenings more dangerous. It is important to know exactly how to adapt your driving behaviour to suit the weather conditions at the time.
Rain, snow, fog, or high winds were a contributing factor in more than 18,000 accidents across the UK last year. Severe road traffic accidents are happening more often in winter due to motorists being unprepared for driving in winter weather and ignoring weather warnings, and IAM RoadSmart believes now is the time to remind drivers how to drive safely when the temperature drops, and the daylight hours get shorter.
Check before you travel
Checking the weather forecast before you set off on your travels will help to ensure you are fully prepared for the conditions that may impact your journey. Severe weather can present different challenges, and it’s not just winter weather which can wreak havoc on the roads. Rain at any time of year can be dangerous. In fact, 9 out of 10 weather-related deaths and serious injuries on the roads take place in the rain. With today’s technology and the right App or website, most weather forecasts or warnings are communicated ahead of time allowing you to be prepared.
Keep your distance
When you’re driving in wintery conditions, it’s important to substantially increase the stopping distance between you and the vehicle ahead, and approach every junction intending to stop well before the stop or give way line. According to advice from the Highway Code, it can take up to 10 times as long to stop in icy conditions.
Higher the better
Driving your car in a higher gear will help you avoid unwanted wheelspin. If it’s icy and you’re struggling to get started, try pulling away in second gear. This should make it easier to get you going, as pulling away in first gear on ice will give you poor grip. Most modern automatic cars will have the ability to pull away in a higher gear or may even have a separate system for winter driving and a low torque pull away.
Light the way
The winter doesn’t only see us hit with cold weather; we also see the days getting shorter which means you’ll be using lights much more. Before setting off on every journey, check all your lights are working correctly and clean. If you’ve changed your car recently, in the summer, you might not be aware of automatic settings, how to override them or about how to activate full beam. Be prepared before you set off.
With an increase in local councils introducing strategies to tackle climate change which involve dimming or reduced street lighting, your headlights become even more crucial.
Don’t get lost
This goes back to planning. Know your route, where you are going, where you plan to stop and anticipate delays so leave plenty of time for the journey. With unpredictable or fast changing weather, severe drops in temperate, being prepared should include avoiding getting lost. If you don’t know where you are going, it’s dark and you’re in the middle of a snowstorm then the danger gauge has just gone through the roof. Having a Sat Nav, phone, map and torch and some warm clothes all apply to this point and don’t forget water and a snack. Planning really can help. Rather than getting stranded book into a hotel, leave earlier or don’t leave home at all. However, if you enjoy ‘exploring’ and don’t mind getting lost just pack for the occasion.
Your grip will be seriously reduced in the winter, so ensuring your tyres are in good condition is essential. Whilst law requires you to have your tread depth at a minimum of 1.6mm, grip starts to reduce on anything under 3mm, so make sure you keep an eye on your tyres and replace them if needed.
You can also get your hands on some winter tyres which will give you a better grip and traction during winter. If your budget allows then this could offer optimum traction and grip in cold conditions, and help disperse water/snow, and allow the rubber to move around to improve the contact with the road. If you are likely to encounter extreme snow conditions, consider carrying snow socks or chains.
Prepare a winter kit for your car
It’s worth packing a few essential items in your car’s boot to make sure you’re ready in case of getting stuck in cold and wintry weather. If you were to breakdown then it’s best to be prepared as possible.
Remember if you don’t have to go out don’t risk it.
With the adoption of online shopping, deliveries, and remote working there is now little need or excuse to leave the house in extreme weather. Do you really want to risk your safety in snow? If in doubt or you don’t need to then don’t take your vehicle out!