Whatever the elements throw at you, find out how you can stay safe, even in the coldest, wettest or iciest of conditions. If the weather is really severe, ask yourself, “Can I postpone my journey or do I really have to drive?”
The fact is that we should be vigilant at all times when driving but winter conditions pose unexpected challenges for even the most experienced drivers:
- Reduced visibility hampers your ability to judge distances and speed
- Wet and icy roads reduce grip, increasing your chances of skidding and losing control
- Ice, snow and heavy rain on your windscreen will obscure your vision
- High winds may blow unexpected articles into your path
What’s more, breakdowns are far more common, so it’s important to check and maintain your vehicle to a high standard.
Allow Extra Time
In winter, allow extra time to prepare your vehicle – you may need to scrape ice or snow from your windscreen and mirrors and demist the interior. Many countries will take legal action against anyone who is found to have driven with poor visibility. Remember to also clear the roof of snow or it may slide onto your windscreen, blocking your visibility or even into the path of other vehicles.
Invest an extra couple of minutes to prepare your vehicle and you can literally save lives. If your lock freezes, spray antifreeze into the lock or warm your key. Do not try breathing on it as this will only add to the problem. If there’s a chance of your doors sticking, wipe rubber seals with a silicone based furniture polish.
Take Safety Precautions
- Consider using a windscreen cover to protect it from ice and snow.
- Check the battery. A cold engine needs more power from the battery.
- Check liquid levels, especially screen wash and ensure there is antifreeze in your coolant. Antifreeze is cheap to buy, a frozen engine is costly to repair! When buying antifreeze, check the minimum temperature in which it will work as they are not all the same.
- Wiper blades – if damaged or frozen, they may damage your windscreen and will not clear your screen adequately.
- Check the tread on all your tyres, if worn, they will not hold in wet conditions. There should be a minimum tread of 3mm and remember to check that your spare is inflated.
- If conditions are severe, you may need snow socks or winter tyres.
- When stopped or travelling slowly activate your hazard warning lights.
- Ensure the relevant emergency services numbers are in your phone; also keep a list of them in your vehicle in case the phone loses its charge.
- Keep a hi-vis vest inside the vehicle so that it can be worn before exiting, this will increase your visibility to other traffic.
Check your Battery
Cold temperatures affect the ability of batteries to hold charge so more demand is put onto the starter motor. Together with the fact that more and more electronic devices make demands of the battery, it’s important to minimise the drain on available charge. Make sure that non-essential items are switched off.
Check the battery regularly, especially if it’s over three years old.
Every vehicle should carry a minimum number of items in an Emergency Safety Kit.
During winter, you should also carry a number of specialist items.
- warm clothes and boots;
- flask for hot drinks;
- snow sock or chains;
- demisting pad;
- snow shovel;
- torch and spare batteries (remember they hold less charge in the cold); and
Adapt your driving style to meet conditions
In general, drive more slowly and steadily, brake early and accelerate slowly.
Safe Driving Tips
- If conditions are severe, can you postpone the journey?
- Listen to local radio for the latest traffic and weather reports
- Plan your route according to conditions , if it’s raining heavily, avoid flood spots, if there are severe winds, avoid exposed areas
- Leave bigger gaps between yourself and the vehicle ahead – 10 times the normal gap
- Allow extra time for your journey
- Make sure your windscreen and mirrors are fully clear and demisted before driving
- All movements should be smooth and slow.