Top driving tips for challenging conditions
Driving in normal conditions requires both attention and skill. When driving at night, on challenging roads, or in adverse weather conditions, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to the road and adjust your driving skills.
Before starting the journey
If you know you will face difficult conditions, challenge the need to take the journey. Consider rescheduling or using alternative transport to avoid any issues.
If you must travel, plan ahead using the Journey Management Plan. Check tyres, brakes, windscreen wipers, lights and fluid levels to make sure that your vehicle is suitable to undertake the journey.
Be prepared for emergencies and carry emergency response equipment.
Always carry a supply of drinking water and a blanket to counter unexpected weather conditions.
Night driving and reduced visibility
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) 40% of collisions happen in the hours of darkness. Twilight can be even more dangerous as our eyes constantly try to adjust to the changing light levels and so it is important to keep a lookout for vulnerable road users to avoid potential incidents.
Low winter sun can also be hazardous, creating glare and reducing your vision. If the journey feels unsafe, reduce your speed, or pull over at a safe spot.
Fatigued driving poses another challenge as our natural body rhythms mean that we are often sleepy at night. Consider taking your journey in daylight, sharing the drive, or taking a break if tired.
- Consider fitting your vehicle with winter tyres, including the spare, and ensure that the exhaust pipe and radiator are clear of snow. Accelerate and brake gently, using low revs.
Snow and Hail
- Black ice is transparent and hard to spot, so make sure you monitor your speed frequently. Be especially cautious of ice on bridges and overpasses.
- In extreme conditions, stay inside your vehicle and park so that hail hits the windscreen which is reinforced to withstand the force.
- In case of fog, dip your headlights, switch on fog lights and open windows at junctions to hear the traffic. Check the alignment of headlights according to country regulations and visibility conditions. If the fog is severe pull over and wait in a safe area for the fog to burn off.
- Take extra care if near high sided or towing vehicles and look out for debris on the road.
- Be prepared to handle unexpected gusts or storms.
Blowing Sand and Dust
- Blowing sand and dust can make road markings difficult to see. Drive at a slow speed with lights on.
- As a rule of thumb, do not enter water deeper than the centre point of the vehicle’s wheel, and avoid road edges.
- Drive at slow speed at gear to prevent stall and to keep ignition system dry.
- Ensure your vehicle’s radiator, coolant and windshield wash are topped up.
- Periodically turn off air conditioning to avoid overworking your engine and pull over to allow it cool if necessary.
City driving can overwhelm even the most skilled drivers. Plan your route well to avoid missing exits and allow plenty of time to negotiate the traffic jams.
Avoid the temptation to constantly switch lanes to overtake others – in reality you are unlikely to gain any significant distance and you increase your chances of collision.
Be extra vigilant about other road users and lanes designated for buses or cycles. Also be mindful of regular road users who might use back routes to reach their destinations quickly.
Mountainous terrain will put your driving skills and your vehicle to the test. Steep, narrow winding roads with severe drops to the side require the highest levels of concentration to negotiate every turn.
Avoid using brakes too often to avoid overheating of the engine; pull over but keep the engine running. The most efficient way to cool the engine is to put your heater on.
Pay special attention to the treads on your tyres and brake fluid. As brake fluid ages, contaminants gradually build up, reducing the boiling level so be sure to change it regularly.
Finally if you want to admire the views, pull over in a safe area!
RoSPA - The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
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Most road accidents can be avoided. Human error means that our roads can never be 100% safe, but, by following three simple rules you stand a much better chance of reaching your destination safely.