At this time of year it always makes sense to remind our readers of the best practices for driving safely through the winter months. Not only will this help to keep your car insurance premiums down but most importantly keep you and your family safe over this festive period.
The Highways Agency provides a fully featured, comprehensive guide to safer winter driving. During these months you will see their salt spreaders and snow ploughs out on the roads whenever freezing temperatures are forecast.
Severe weather is not just about snow and ice. It includes strong winds and floods too. Hence it is always advisable to check the most up-to-date weather forecasts and road conditions before embarking on your journey. It is also advisable to always check your planned route before you set out.
If really bad conditions are forecast, think about whether you need to travel at all, even if you are only going on a short, familiar journey. And make sure your vehicle is in good running order before you leave.
1. Check your vehicle
- Get your vehicle serviced. That way you know it won’t let you down even if the weather does.
- Keep the cold out of your vehicle by checking and replacing the anti-freeze in the radiator.
- Most batteries last between two and four years. Make sure yours is fully charged and replace it if you’re not sure it’s reliable.
- Lights can get filthy with all the spray in winter. Keep them clean and check the bulbs regularly so you’ll be prepared for lower visibility and shorter days.
- Getting a better grip on the road takes more tyre tread in wet or icy conditions. Ensure your tyres are inflated to the manufacturers’ recommended pressure and have at least 3mm of tread depth.
- Make sure your wiper blades aren’t worn so you can keep your windscreen as clean as possible for the extra spray, ice and rain you get in winter.
- Dirty windows and mirrors can make it hard to see as the low winter sun hits. Make sure you keep them clean and free of ice and snow in colder weather. Ensure your windows are clear and de-misted before you set off!
- Don’t forget to take a map with your for any unplanned diversions.
- Take an emergency kit.
2. Change the way you drive:
A lot of collisions are caused by people not braking in time when the roads are wet or slippery. If it’s foggy, raining, snowing or icy, make sure you slow down and keep well back from the vehicle in front of you.
Stopping distances in winter
When roads are slippery it will take longer to stop. Up to 10 times longer. So, drop your speed, and give yourself more time to slow down and stop. Drive with care even if roads have been treated.
When the road’s wet, it can take up to twice as long to stop so it makes sense to slow down when it’s raining. If your vehicle loses its grip, or “aquaplanes”, on surface water take your foot off the accelerator to slow down. Don’t brake or steer suddenly because you have no control of the steering or brakes.
3. Breaking down on the motorway
Pull onto the hard shoulder, park as far over to the left as you can, away from traffic, and turn on your hazard warning lights. Get yourself and any passengers out of the vehicle immediately, using the doors on the left hand side furthest from the traffic. While you wait for help, keep well away from the carriageway and hard shoulder and do not try even the simplest of repairs.
Try to use the emergency roadside telephones rather than a mobile phone. This will help traffic officers and emergency services know exactly where you are.