Driving in winter is not always easy. Road and weather conditions can create treacherous conditions to be out in, and it is important to know how to help yourself, and stay safe when driving this winter.
1 – Get your car checked
Before the bad weather sets in, get your car checked over at a garage to ensure that it is safe to drive in poor weather conditions. This is particularly the case with older cars, as they are more likely to become affected by the colder weather than others. Bear in mind that lights and heaters will all take more of a drain on your battery, so ensure that you have this checked. Replacing an older one before a journey is far easier and less stressful than having to wait for recovery at the roadside. This is particularly advisable if you are making any long journeys.
Check your tyres as well. Before every trip ensure that they are fully inflated and that the tread is suitable for winter driving. It i recommended that you have at least 3mm of tread for winter motoring, and certainly no less than 2mm (AA). For heavy snowy conditions, think about having winter tyres fitted, or snow chains.
2 – Keep an emergency kit in your car
The weather can take a turn for the worse at any time, and you need to make sure that you are prepared should you become stuck. Although this might seem unnecessary, you do not know when you might become stranded.
Ensure you have:
- A tow rope
- A shovel
- A warning triangle
- De -icer
- First aid kit
- A torch (preferably a wind up one, but if not, make sure you have spare batteries)
- Blankets for everyone travelling in the car
- Warm clothes
- Food and a flask of a hot drink
- Mobile phone and car charger
3 – Plan your journey
If the weather is really bad, you first need to decide whether the journey is absolutely necessary to make. If you decide that it is, ensure that you have planned your journey well. Check weather broadcast and travel bulletins regularly, as weather conditions can change rapidly. Let people know the route that you will be taking, and alert them to any changes that you make. Let them know when you set off and what time you are due to arrive.
Don’t forget, in poor weather conditions, your journey will take you longer, so ensure that you have left enough time to make your trip, so you are not tempted to rush. Make sure you have a fuel tank, and don’t forget, heaters and lights will increase your fuel consumption.
Before you set off on any journey, make sure all your mirrors and windows are completely clear of snow and ice. Put your heaters on and make sure they are blowing warm air before you go as this will help keep your windows clear.
4 – Driving in the snow and ice
Driving in snowy and icy conditions can be tough, particularly if you are not used to it, so it is important that you know how to handle your car in these conditions. Be aware that the stopping distances are increased by ten times in ice and snow.
Keep a separate dry and warm pair of shoes that you keep in your car for driving in these conditions. If you wear the same shoes inside and out, they might slip around on the pedals where they are snowy and wet.
When driving keep to higher gears, and when pulling away do so in second gear, and ensure that you ease your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin. If you have to go up any hills, avoid having to stop, and pick your car well in advanced, so you do not have to change down gears; when going down make sure you have reduced your speed before you start to descend as it is best to avoid braking. Make sure you leave enough room between you and the car in front. If the roads have not been gritted and there is heavy snow, be wary of driving in the wheel tracks of other vehicles as the snow will be compressed which is likely to make it more slippery.
If you do find that you skid on ice or snow, don’t panic and gently steer into the skid. So, if the rear of the car is skidding to the right, you should steer to the right and vice versa. Keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times, and do not stamp your feet on the brakes.
5 – Driving in heavy rain
Heavy rain can be just as treacherous as ice and snow, and it is a weather condition that every driver will likely experience at some point in their lives. If you do find yourself driving in heavy rain remember that the stopping distance will double as your tyres will have less grip on the road. Keep your headlights dipped so that you can be seen more easily by other drivers, and try not to use your rear fog lights, as it can mask your break lights.
Keep your heater or air conditioning on to stop your windows from misting up, and be mindful when passing large vehicles as they are likely to kick up a lot of spray which can affect your visibility.
If you find yourself driving through deep water, do not travel fast as this can cause serious damage. If you find at any point that your steering feel light, it is possible that you are aquaplaning. If this happens, ease off the acceleration and brake and allow your speed to reduce, giving you control of the steering again.
Finally, be considerate of other road users, especially pedestrians and cyclists when driving in heavy rain, and take care not to splash them.