Winter really is the worst time of the year for hitting the road. The cold weather and increased chance of conditions like ice and fog means the risk of accidents and breakdowns is higher than at other times of year – and motorists have to take extra precautions to ensure the safety of themselves and their passengers. As yet another cold snap envelops the UK, make sure you’re following these expert tips and guidelines for driving in wintry conditions…
Plan your journey – and leave extra time
Make sure you extensively plan your route before you set off on any journey, using route planning tools found online to avoid traffic, flooded areas and roads that are prone to black ice. You should also ensure that you leave plenty of time to get to your intended destination. Nobody wants to be rushing on the roads, especially in potentially dangerous conditions. By factoring in some extra time, you’ll also be able to properly de-ice your windscreen and clean all mirrors before you set off.
Approach hills and turns carefully
Hills and bends can be more of a challenge when the conditions are slippery and wet. If you’re driving up hill, leave plenty of room between yourself and other motorists so that you can keep your speed constant as you ascend. When going downhill, use a low gear and avoid breaking as much as you can – unless it’s necessary, of course. As ever, leave lots of space between yourself and the vehicle in front so that you have time to react if they brake suddenly. When it comes to navigating bends, make sure your brake before you actually start to turn – this helps boost your grip on the road and prevent you from skidding.
In case of a skidding incident…
Skidding can happen when the roads are icy or slushy – it can be scary for the driver, but it’s important not to panic. Don’t slam on the brakes or start jerking the steering wheel around. Simply steer gently into the skid and your wheels will eventually right themselves.
Adjust your tyres
Remember that letting air out of your tyres to gain some grip on the roads doesn’t work – and it can actually make your driving even more unsafe. Consider investing in some winter tyres instead. Also bear in mind that snow chains are only suitable when there is actually snow on the roads – using them in other conditions can cause damage to the roads (and even your vehicle).
Driving in snowy conditions
Use your dipped headlines whenever you’re driving in snow conditions. There’s a chance you might get stuck in some snow when your car is parked – if this happens, you should get out and clear the snow from the wheels, and use some fabric (an old rug, towels or a rough sack should work) to give your tyres enough grip to get out. If the road you’re driving on has not yet been gritted, try to avoid driving in other people’s tyre tracks – this is where ice accumulates, and it can be hazardous.