Winter driving - safety tips

Bad weather can strike suddenly and severely so the best advice is to stay off the road. If you must drive, make sure you are prepared for the conditions. Good preparation is necessary both for your car and your vehicle.

Listen to weather forecasts and traffic reports – don’t travel if the police or road service organisations (eg AA, RAC) advise against it.

  • If you get into trouble, stay with your vehicle until help arrives, if possible. If you do have to leave your vehicle, make yourself visible to others.
  • Always drive safely according to the weather conditions, give yourself time and space – arriving safely should be your aim.

Remember – your vehicle and road safety are ultimately your responsibility.

Be prepared if wintry weather is forecast

  • Is your journey necessary – if it is, plan it and give yourself plenty of time
  • Tell someone your intended route and how long you think it is going to take
  • Listen to the radio for details about road and weather conditions
  • Make sure you are properly dressed (ie warmly) for winter temperatures – do not rely on your vehicle’s heating system as it may fail or the vehicle may break down and you may have to get out to effect repairs, or walk to find assistance
  • Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged and with you
  • Fuel– Keep the tank at least half full to ensure you don’t run out if stuck in a drift or in gridlocked traffic
  • Consider putting the following in your vehicle:
    • Warning triangle
    • Warm coat
    • First aid kit
    • Torch
    • Seat belt cutter
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Travel rug
    • Tow rope
    • Bottled drinking water
    • Recovery service contact number
    • Map
    • Pen and paper
    • Bar of chocolate (any excuse!)
  • Clear all your windows and lights before setting off – avoid ‘tank driver’ syndrome
  • Keep in as high a gear as possible (4th,5th or 6th) to avoid wheel spin
  • Avoid sharp braking. All but the most gentle of braking will lock your wheels on packed snow. If you have to slow down, go into a lower gear (first, second or third) and use the brake pedal very gently
  • If you are caught in a rut or in deep snow, don’t rev the engine. Instead, get into the highest gear possible (4th, 5th or 6th) and try to manoeuvre the car back and forward to gently creep away
  • Take particular care to watch for irregular accumulations of snow caused by snowploughing operations
  • Keep your speed down and be gentle with every control, whether brakes, clutch, gears or accelerator
  • Don’t be caught out by the warmth of the in-car heater. Black ice is invisible and can catch out the most careful of drivers
  • Approach corners at a steady speed, in a low gear and be gentle on the accelerator. Don’t touch the clutch unless you absolutely have to, steer smoothly and avoid braking on bends. The lack of tyre grip will make cornering less easy and your vehicle will be forced outwards
  • Braking distance on ice can be 10 times greater than the normal distance on dry roads, especially if driving downhill. Use a lower gear to let the engine compression hold the vehicle back when driving downhill.
  • If a skid occurs, do not brake, no matter how strong the temptation. Lose speed by gently easing the pressure on the accelerator pedal and, if appropriate, de-clutch until you regain control of the vehicle
  • Do not assume roads have been gritted
  • If roads have been gritted, do not assume they are not slippery
  • Always give plenty of room to a gritting lorry whether it’s in front of you or approaching
  • When you see fog turn on your headlights immediately but keep them dipped
  • Slow down and abide by any warning lights at the side of the road. If the lights are on do not speed up if visibility improves – fog can be patchy
  • Keep your distance from the vehicle in front
  • Don’t accelerate to move away from a vehicle that is too close behind. If you have to slow down suddenly, use your hazard lights to warn other road users
  • Don’t dazzle other drivers with fog lamps. High intensity rear fog lights should only be used when visibility is less than 100 metres and should be switched off when not needed.  It is an offence to use fog lights at any other time.
  • When coming to a junction, open your window, turn off any music and listen for any approaching traffic

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