Tiger Guide To Winter Driving

With bad weather warnings back on the news agenda, motorists need to be mindful of the dangers that the weather can present on the roads. This guide to winter driving aims to help motorists get through the winter months safely, and provides information and guidance on a number of areas, from preparing a vehicle before a journey, to tips on how to drive in adverse weather conditions.

Let’s begin with preparation - like most things in life a little bit of preparation can go a long way.

Before The Engine Is Started
  • Plan the route according to the driving conditions – take a bit of time to research if there are any incidents on the roads intended for travel, delays, or if alternative routes need to be considered.
  • Top up with screen wash containing antifreeze – this will prevent the screen wash fluid freezing so the windscreen can be cleared.
  • Clean all the windows and car roof – do not set off until there is full visibility out of all the windows. Allow time to clean the front and rear windscreen and scrape side windows and side mirrors. Do not forget to also scrape the roof as snow can fall and debris can fall from it and obscure your vision.
  • Check tyres – pay particular attention to tread depth, the legal minimum is 1.6mm but for optimum safety tyre tread should be around 3mm. Inflate to manufacturers recommended pressure and do not deflate tyres in an attempt for more grip.
  • Take supplies – pack a medical kit, high visibility jacket, de-icer, scraper, torch, food and water, blanket, spare fuel, a fully charged mobile phone and the breakdown emergency number if you have a breakdown policy.
  • Antifreeze - A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water in the cooling system is required for winter. This is very important as not having the correct antifreeze levels in the cooling system can cause damage to the engine and could potentially cost thousands of pounds to repair.
  • Check the lights – check that all the lights are in good working order and clean as debris and road spray can make lights less effective.

Once On The Road

Driving on snow and ice

  • Driving gently and keeping good distance is key – careful manoeuvring and increasing stopping distance is vital. Stopping distances need to be increased by up to ten times in snowy or icy conditions.
  • Pull away in second gear – ease the foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel spin.
  • Driving uphill – try and keep a consistent speed and select the correct gear well before the ascent to avoid having to change gear midway up. As always, keep a good distance from the car in front.
  • Driving down hill – try to avoid using the brakes too much and use the gears to slow the vehicle down. Again, reduce speed before the hill and select the correct gear, dab the break gently and again leave plenty of room.
  • Wear the right footwear – wear dry, comfortable shoes or trainers for maximum control. Avoid boots, or uncomfortable shoes or any wet footwear as your feet can slip off the pedals.
  • Stick to main roads – where possible try and stick to main roads as these roads are more likely to be gritted.
  • Corner slowly – slow down for corners before turning the steering wheel. Trying to slow down when cornering can cause skidding and loss of control.
  • If the car skids – try to stay calm. Sudden movements or pressing the accelerator or brake suddenly will exaggerate the skid further and make it difficult to keep control. Gently take feet off the pedals, turn into the skid, and as the car begins to straighten up, steer the car to safety.
Driving in Rain
  • Slow Down – give yourself and other road users more time to react.
  • Back off – in wet conditions drop back from the spray created by the vehicle in front.
  • Beware of a downpour – a sudden downpour on a previously dry surface can increase the chances of slipping when braking or steering.
  • If you aquaplane – in deep water do not apply the brake as this can worsen the skid or slide. Instead, gently ease off the accelerator and try to keep the wheels pointing straight ahead until the waterlogged area has been passed.
  • Cruise control – avoid engaging cruise control in wet conditions as it can limit the level of control over the vehicle, particularly if aquaplaning
  • Wipers – in rainy conditions windscreen wipers are essential for maintaining good visibility. Clean wipers or replace them if they are worn.
  • Test the brakes – when driving in wet conditions or if the vehicle has recently driven through deep water, the brakes may not be as effective as before. This is because they can get wet and subsequently it may take longer to stop than before. Brakes can be dried out after they have been driven through a puddle by gently applying and releasing them. Be mindful that any car behind is not too close!
  • Keep it smooth – keeping two hands on the wheel and driving as smoothly as possible can help significantly in the control of a vehicle in wet conditions.
Driving in High Winds
  • Slow down – vehicles are more vulnerable to side winds at higher speeds.
  • Allow room - give cyclists and motorcyclists more room than usual.
  • High-sided vehicles – beware of caravans, vans, trucks, and other high sided vehicles. In gusty conditions they can be forced into another vehicle's path very easily.
  • Debris – tree branches and other debris can be blown into the road, particularly on country roads or in rural areas. Hitting debris can be very dangerous so keep the speed low so that dangers can be anticipated and avoided.
  • Bridges – conditions such as high winds intensify when travelling on a bridge or an overpass. Slow down, keep both hands on the wheel and make steering corrections to keep on track.
  • Observe - watch what is happening to other vehicles – where they are affected will provide a warning.

Gathering skills for winter driving is very important in the UK as the winter months can last a long time. It is important to adapt according to the road conditions and, by following some of the hints in this guide, drivers will stand a better chance of keeping out of trouble. Do not forget that if accidents can be avoided then this will contribute to keeping car insurance quotes low which can save drivers money.

13/12/2013 10:37:03 Mike

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