Winter driving

It’s not as tricky as you think

With bad weather forecast for much of the UK over the next few days there is no excuse to get caught out by the imminent wintry driving conditions. Mike Frisby, DIAmond Advanced Motorists’ Chief Examiner, says that far too much emphasis is put on what to do in the event of a skid, when really we should be putting more thought in to not allowing things to get that far in the first place.

There are some simple steps we can all take to help keep us safe, such as planning and preparing for journeys even as early as the day before.

Vehicle checks: have you checked your fuel, antifreeze and windscreen washer levels recently? Are your tyre pressures correct? If freezing weather/snow is forecast consider pulling your windscreen wipers away from the windscreen/rear window to prevent the rubber freezing to the glass.

Set your alarm clock earlier: make sure you allow enough time to clear your car completely before your journey: it is an offence to drive with frosted/uncleared windows. DO NOT leave your car unattended with the engine running. Not only is this illegal on a public highway but it could also invalidate your insurance if your car were to be stolen. You should also clear snow from the roof and bonnet to prevent it slipping during braking, subsequently endangering other road users.

Stay well back from other vehicles that have not been cleared, snow and ice can fly off at higher speeds and can be potentially lethal.

Drive in a higher gear than you may normally do; for example, 3rd gear instead of 2nd gear. This will reduce the risk of the driving wheels slipping.

Plan to slow or stop in good time; it can take ten times longer to stop in wintry conditions, so if you think you’ve left enough space, leave a bit more. Ease off the accelerator and allow the car to stop under its own steam making sure any gear changes are smooth. Use your brakes sparingly and gently; try to avoid braking on bends or descents, brake when you can and not when you have to.

Pay attention to road surfaces, particularly on bridges and flyovers: the cold air that passes under them often causes the surface to freeze. Be aware of sheltered areas too; if the sun is blocked out you may well be about to drive on black ice.

Road markings may be less visible at junctions due to compacted snow or salt and grit. Do not expect other road users to know where to stop. Look for gaps in buildings to identify junctions.

Plan your rest breaks along the way. Make sure you keep in touch with colleagues, friends and relatives to inform them of your progress and intended arrival time. Be realistic about how long it may take and avoid driving at night if at all possible.

Above all plan to keep warm by making up flasks of hot drinks, taking blankets and warm and waterproof clothing. You may even need sun glasses because of the glaring or low winter sun.

Finally, consider investing in a shovel and set of snow chains. Shovels are cheap and chains will help you to drive in very deep snow and are usually under £100.

If you have never driven in the snow before, or are nervous about it please contact us