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As we move through the coldest month of winter, driving can become more hazardous – snow, ice, fog, darker mornings and evenings can make getting out on the road difficult. Inclement conditions were a factor in 57,260 accidents in England and Wales in 2013. Wet, flooded and icy roads seem to cause the most issues – 11,614 accidents were the result of skidding – signifying drivers have difficulty adapting to winter conditions.
Before you hit the road in bad weather make sure you are prepared by taking a look at the advice we have compiled for you below.
Before You Get Behind the Wheel
It’s wise to make sure your car’s prepared for the journey you have planned – no matter how short it may be.
Tyre pressure should be checked to aid handling of the vehicle, lights should be kept clean to maintain the best possible visibility and of course, you’ll need to clear your windows of ice or snow so you can see and avoid being fined £60 for ‘portholing’. Not only should you ensure the outside is clear, take time to demist the interior of windows also.
Batteries should also get some attention too. Your engine requires twice as much current to turn over in cold conditions while those same conditions significantly decrease the battery’s output. Check you have a fully charged battery; if your battery is older than four years; it’s time to replace it.
Keeping an emergency kit in the care for winter driving is also advisable. The RAC has a comprehensive list of things you should include in this.
Adapt Your Driving to Different Weather Conditions
It’s important to understand that your vehicle won’t respond in wet, icy, or snowy conditions the same way that it does in finer weather. Similarly, driving in fog requires a different style of driving to say, driving through flooded roads.
Driving in Snow: Take some time to warm the engine up by turning the key and leaving it to run for five minutes while you clear snow from the roof and windows. Do this outside rather than in a confined space to avoid a build-up of carbon monoxide.
While driving, keep your revs low and make all driving movements smooth, slow and deliberate. If your car has ‘winter mode’ enable this as it’s designed to diminish wheel slip. Increase your emergency stopping distance and if you do skid, steer into it rather than resisting.
Driving on Icy Roads: Your car’s grip is massively reduced on icy roads, so leave LOTS of room between you and cars ahead. Accelerate, change gears, steer and brake as smoothly as possible to reduce the risk of skidding. Be aware that ‘black ice’ can appear as a simple wet road surface, so take it easy in freezing weather.
Travelling on Wet and Flooded Roads: Reduce your speed and maintain a longer distance between you and the car ahead. Use dipped headlights so you can be easily seen and resist turning on rear fog lights as they’ll mask your brake lights and dazzle drivers behind. One of the serious dangers of wet and flooded roads is aquaplaning. This is when tyres lose contact with the road, making your steering feel light. Ease off the accelerator if this happens and don’t hit the brakes until you gain full control of the wheel again. Aquaplaning can cause serious and expensive damage, so keep a lower pace to avoid it.
Driving Through Fog: Foggy conditions are one of the most disconcerting and dangerous for driving. Visibility is low and concentration has to be high. Keep your speed low so you have time to react to unexpected hazards. If visibility is no more than a few metres, pull over safely and wait it out if you can. If you can’t, switch off the radio, focus solely on the road ahead and even open your window so you can hear other traffic better. Use your normal headlights, not high-beam as the water droplets that comprise fog will simply reflect the light back to you, making it more difficult to see. Switch your fog lights on too if you have them, even in the day, as it’ll make you more visible to other drivers.Back To News