Driving in Winter Weather
Now the weather is starting to get colder we need to make sure that we take care of ourselves and I don’t mean wrapping up warm so you don’t catch a cold (though you should do that because sadly at Connect we don’t have Cold Insurance Cover) but how to keep safe when you have to travel in a car. So when it does snow or become icy you need to make need to make sure that you keep yourself and other road users safe and secure.
One of the most important things to ask your self is “Is it essential that you make this journey?” In simple terms the Met Office do not say this to annoy you, they say it to make sure that you do not harm yourself or anyone else. You need to ask yourself what harm would come to you if you didn’t leave home – and weigh that up against the harm that might come if you were to have an accident or get stranded. The worse that happens at home is that you make a cup of tea and then forget about it and by the time you find it its gone cold, but if you were to leave home and get stuck in traffic for hours or worse get into an accident.
If your journey is essential and it does begin to snow you need to make sure your headlights are on and do not just assume that they are. You should also check the position of your headlamp switch and ensure that it is set to the “dipped beam” setting; doing this will improve your vision and will allow other drivers to see you in good time. Also you should keep your dipped beam headlamps turned on to make your car more visible even when it’s not snowing because even snow clouds can cause light levels to drop, as will mist and murk. Remember only to use your fog lights unless visibility is very poor. This is because rear fog lights can dazzle other drivers and the effect is increased when there is spray from melted snow coming from the back of a car. Front fog lights have the same effect, when cars are ahead of you the snow on the road is reflecting the light back up at them. “The Highway Code says that you should only use your fog lamps when the visibility drops below 100m.”
Make sure to keep your distance from other cars if the weather conditions are icy, it takes 10x as long to stop on an icy road compared to a dry road. If you can, you should increase your distance from the car in front by that much; a good rule of thumb is you should leave a 20 second gap from yourself and the car in front. This is because if the car was suddenly to stop or worse crashes into the car in front, you will have time to stop, or take avoiding action.
When the road is slippery it is a good idea to test your brakes and steering now and again to see how slippery it is. It’s a given that you should only do this when it’s a straight road, clear from any junctions and make sure that no one is following you. It is also sensible to keep the radio volume turned down when driving on snow (which I know is hard when you want to belt out those Christmas songs), but your ears can often give you the first warning that you have hit a slippery patch of road; driving through snow patches will create more tyre noise than usual thanks to its crunching sound, as well as the roar of snow being kicked up into the wheel arches. If the tyre noise suddenly stops, it can mean you’re driving on a patch of ice. If you do hit a patch of slippery road and you feel the car starting to skid, you should take your foot off the accelerator and allow the speed to drop on it’s own until you regain control. I know it’s hard when you panic, but avoid using the brakes as this will prolong the skid. If your car begins to spin whilst you are skidding, steer into the direction of the spin and allow the car to straighten up, and if another driver is driving too closely to you, don’t react as this could increase the chance of a road accident. It is easier and more sensible to concentrate on your own driving, you can pull over if it is safe do to so and allow them to overtake and they can be on their way.
Some quick Tips:
- Check the fluid levels in your car
- Clear ice from the whole of your windscreen
- Drive smoothly and gently
- If you can use winter tyres