Winter Driving

WINTER DRIVING TIPS

 

Driving in the winter is very different than in other times of the year. Adverse weather and longer periods of darkness (especially after the clocks go back at the end of October) makes driving more hazardous. Sometimes conditions can be extreme, as we have found out over recent winters, with prolonged periods of heavy snow and floods.

 

In very bad conditions, avoid driving completely, unless you absolutely have to make the journey and driving is the only option.

 

Different weather conditions create different hazards throughout the winter and in different areas of the country at different times. A single journey may take us into very different weather, road and traffic conditions, so we need to be prepared for each one. This means that we need to adapt the way we drive to the conditions.

 

PREPARE YOUR VEHICLE

It’s a good idea to have your vehicle fully serviced before winter starts and have the anti-freeze if you can’t have it serviced, and then do your own checks. In particular, check:

 

  • Lights are clean and working

  • Battery is fully charged

  • Windscreen, wiper blades and other windows are clean and the washer bottle filled with screen wash

     

  • Tyre condition, tread depth and pressure (of all the tyres, including the spare)

  • Brakes are working well

  • Fluids are kept topped up, especially windscreen wash (to the correct concentration to prevent it freezing), anti-freeze and oil.

     

     

    Emergency Kit

    When extreme weather is possible, keep an emergency kit in your car, especially if you’re going on a long journey. If this seems unnecessary, take a moment to imagine yourself stranded in your car overnight, due to a snow storm or floods. How would you stay warm? What would you eat and drink? If you must drive in these conditions, we recommend that you carry:

     

  • Tow rope

  • A shovel

  • Wellington boots

  • A hazard warning triangle

  • De-icing equipment

  • First aid kit (in good order)

  • A working torch

  • A car blanket

  • Warm clothes

  • Emergency Rations (inc hot drink in a flask – non-alcoholic, of course)

     

  • Mobile Phone (fully charged)

     

    PREPARE YOUR JOURNEY

     

    Listen to local/national weather broadcasts and travel bulletins – especially for the areas you will be driving through. As conditions can change rapidly, check them regularly and be prepared to change your plans if conditions on your route worsen.

    If conditions are very bad, and the emergency services are recommending that people don’t travel, then avoid making your journey unless it is absolutely necessary. Can you postpone your trip? Can you travel by other means, or avoid the need for the journey completely by using the phone or email?

    Of course, what’s ‘essential’ to one person may not be to another; we each have to make our own decisions according to our circumstances. But, try to be realistic about which journeys are essential and which ones could be postponed.

     

    If you decide you really must travel:

     

  • Let someone know where you are going and what time you hope to arrive, so that they can raise the alarm if you get into difficulties.

     

  • Plan alternative routes in case your main choice(s) becomes impassable.

     

  • Keep your fuel tank near to full to ensure that you do not run out.

     

  • Make sure you have a fully charged mobile phone, so you can call for help or alert someone if you’re delayed – it could be a long walk to a phone, if you don’t have a mobile phone.

     

  • If you don’t have an emergency kit in your vehicle, at least take extra warm clothes, boots and a torch. Consider keeping a couple of long-life energy bars in the glove box.

     

  • Clear your windows and mirrors completely of snow and ice before you set off (make sure the heater is blowing warm air before setting off – it will keep your windscreen clear.)

     

    PREPARE YOURSELF

    Most of us have very little experience of driving in extreme conditions, such as snow, so take some time to consider how it affects your driving. Don’t just drive as normal.

    When was the last time you had any driver assessment or training? This is an ideal time for some refresher training. If your employer provides driver training, take advantage of it.

     

    IN SNOW OR ICE

    If you find yourself driving in snow or on icy or snow covered roads, adapt you’re driving to these conditions:

  • Reduce your speed. The chances of skidding are much greater and your stopping distance will increase massively.

     

  • Only travel at a speed at which you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear. Speed limits are the maximum in ideal conditions; in difficult conditions they can often be too fast.

     

  • Avoid harsh braking and acceleration, or sharp steering.

     

  • Always reduce your speed smoothly and in plenty of time on slippery surfaces.

     

  • Slowdown in plenty of time before bends and corners.

     

  • Braking on an icy or snow covered bend is extremely dangerous. The centrifugal force will continue to pull you outwards and the wheels will not grip very well. This could cause your vehicle to spin.

     

  • To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use your brakes gently.

     

  • Increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front. You may need up to TEN TIMES the normal distance for braking.

     

  • Keep your vehicle well-ventilated. The car heater turned up full can quickly make you drowsy.

     

  • In snow, stop frequently to clean the windows, wheel arches, lights and number plates.

     

  • Visibility will probably be reduced, so use dipped headlights.

     

  • During wintry weather, road surfaces are often wet and/or covered in frost and ice or snow. But this does not occur uniformly. A road will often have isolated patches of frost or ice after most of the road has thawed – this commonly occurs under bridges.

     

    If you get stuck in snow:

    If you get stuck in snow, revving your engine to try to power out of the rut will just make the rut worse. Instead, move your vehicle slowly backwards and forwards out of the rut using the highest gear you can.

     

     If this doesn’t work, you may have to ask a friendly passer-by for a push or get your shovel out.

     

    If you get caught in a snow drift:

  • Don't leave your vehicle

     

  • Call your breakdown service or the emergency services and let help come to you.

     

  • Don't run the engine to keep warm

     

    RAIN

    Rain reduces your ability to see and greatly increases the distance required to slow down and stop. Remember that you will need about TWICE your normal braking distance. Use windscreen wipers, washers and dipped headlights; drive smoothly and plan your moves in plenty of time

     

    Aquaplaning

    Aquaplaning is caused by driving too fast into surface water. When the tyre tread cannot channel away enough water, the tyre(s) lose contact with the road and your car will float on a wedge of water. Aquaplaning can be avoided by reducing speed in wet conditions. Having the correct tyre pressure and tyre tread depth will maximize your tyres’ ability to maintain their road grip. If it happens, ease off the accelerator and brakes until your speed drops

    sufficiently for the car tyres to make contact with the road again.

     

    Flooded roads

  • Avoid the deepest water – which is usually near the kerb.

  • Don’t attempt to cross if the water seems too deep.

  • If you are not sure of the water’s depth, look for an alternative route.

  • If you decide to risk it, drive slowly in first gear but keep the engine speed high by slipping the clutch – this will stop you from stalling.

     

  • Be aware of the bow wave from approaching vehicles – operate an informal ‘give way’ with approaching vehicles.

     

    Remember to test your brakes when you are through the flood

     

    FOG

     

    Avoid driving in fog unless your journey is absolutely necessary.

    Fog is one of the most dangerous weather conditions. An accident involving one vehicle can quickly involve many others, especially if they are driving too close to one another.

    If you must drive:

    Follow weather forecasts and general advice to drivers in the local and national media

    Allow plenty of extra time for your journey

    Check your car before you set off. Make sure everything is in good working order, especially the lights

     

    Reduce your speed and keep it down

    Switch on headlights and fog lamps if visibility is reduced

    If you can see the vehicles to your rear, the drivers behind can see you – switch off your rear fog lamps to avoid dazzling them

     

    Use the demister and windscreen wipers

     Do not ‘hang on’ to the rear lights of the car in front as you will be too close to be able to brake safely

     

    Switch off distracting noises and open the window slightly so that you can listen for other traffic, especially at crossroads and junctions

     

    Beware of speeding up immediately visibility improves slightly. In patchy fog you could find yourself ‘driving blind’ again only moments later

     

    If you break down, inform the police and get the vehicle off the road as soon as possible. Never park on the road in fog and never leave it without warning lights of some kind if it

    is on the wrong side of the road.

     

    STRONG WINDS

  • Hold on tight

  • Avoid bridges

  • If driving a high sided vehicle ... don’t.

     

    LOW SUNSHINE

    Ironically, having talked about all these poor winter weather conditions, winter suns can also cause difficulties. In winter, the angle of the sun in the sky will frequently be too low for your visor to help. If blinded by glare:

    Reduce your speed

     

    Reduce the effect of glare by keeping both the inside and outside of your windscreen clean and grease free.

     

    If you wear sunglasses (with prescription lenses if necessary) take them off whenever the sun goes in. They should not be worn in duller weather or at night as they seriously reduce the ability to see.

     

    If the Worst Happens

    If you get stranded, don’t panic.

    Stay with your vehicle and call the Emergency services on your mobile phone . 

     

Summer Driving

Hot weather and high temperatures on busy holiday routes  this summer can put extra demands on cars and their occupant’s, with a little planning and preparation, you can reduce the risks of stress and possible breakdown to a minimum.

Breakdowns

It’s easy to lose your keys on the beach in the sand, or leave in your pocket and go for a swim drowning your remote control for the cars logging sty stem and immobilizer leaving you stranded with logged doors and windows or not be able to start your vehicle.

Salt in sea water can ruin electronic circuits and render transponders keys useless.

Tyres

Hot temperatures can aggravate existing damaged tyres, under-inflation adds to the problem, causing greater friction leading to the tyre becoming hotter which proves too much for weak spots, causing punctures and blow-outs.

  • Check tyres regularly for correct pressure and adjusted for extra loads.

  • Check caravan’s tyres for cracks and renew damaged tyres before use.

Overheating

High temperatures can course cooling system’s problems too, low coolant levels, leaks in hoses and broken electric cooling fans can all result in overheating and expensive damage.

If the fan’s broken it will soon become apparent when in slow moving traffic as the engine temperature soars.

  • Check the coolant reservoir regularly.

  • Look for white staining on coolant hoses

  • Check the by running by running the vehicle to a normal temperature and allowing the engine to idle for five to ten minutes- the cooling fan should cut in.

Sun Glare

  • Sun glare causes many accidents particularly under clear skies at dawn or dusk.

  • Make sure sun glasses are clean and unscratched and are at hand.

  • Avoid lenses which darken in strong sunlight-the windscreen filters out UV light so the glasses will change only slowly.

  • Clean the windscreen regularly, inside and out, to remove smears, which catch sunlight and impair vision.

  • Renew worn or damaged wiper blades will also help to improve vision.

Hayfever

Hayfever is particularly bad in the summer and if you sneeze at 70MPH you lose vision for about as much as 100 metres.

  • Only take medication which doesn’t cause drowsiness.