Even experienced motorists sometimes struggle while driving in the sort of conditions a UK winter typically brings.
It’s a sobering thought that 9 out of 10 weather-related serious injuries and road deaths happen when it’s raining*. Unfortunately, the winter months are usually the wettest, as well as bringing a greater chance of ice, snow and high winds.
So, before the worst of the weather hits, now is a good time to step back and think about how you drive.
Here are some important things to consider when getting behind the wheel.
Don’t drive too close
It really goes without saying, but it’s harder to stop when there’s surface water, ice or snow on the ground.
Try and focus on maintaining several car lengths between you and the vehicle in front – and ignore any drivers behind you that might try and ‘pressure’ you to close the gap.
Gears and acceleration
Using a higher gear and slower speed in slippery condition helps your tyres gain more traction and allows you to maintain more control over your vehicle.
Driving through deep water
If you see floodwater on the road ahead, pause and decide if you really want to try and drive on!
If you have no alternative route and are determined to push ahead, keep your car in a low gear and the revs of the engine up – this helps maintain momentum when travelling through the water.
Driving when there’s poor visibility
Fog, snow and torrential rain can all reduce driving visibility to near zero.
If you’re caught in such conditions, don’t forget to turn your sidelights or headlights on and slow right down, driving well away from the car in front. If there is a safe place to pull in, you might want to wait for things to improve.
Keep your windows clear
If you’re in a rush to get to work in the morning, it’s tempting to set off when your windows might still have snow or ice on them.
However, not only is it illegal to do so, it could be the difference between a safe drive to work and being involved in an accident! Use an ice scraper and de-icer to clear your windows.
Keep a winter emergency kit in your car
It’s wise to keep some items in your car which you might not normally have in it during the warmer months. You might want to keep the following to hand:
Blankets, a torch, a shovel, water, ice-scraper and de-icer, boots, reflective clothing and a mobile phone charger.
We’ve detailed the “Top 9 things you should keep in your car this winter” here.
A word about black ice
Black ice gets its name because it is so transparent that it looks like the rest of the road. As black ice is difficult to spot, you should take extra care when driving in freezing temperatures by driving slowly and keeping a safe distance between your vehicle and others.
If you do hit ice on the road, 3 tips to remember are:
- Keep your hands on the steering wheel and take your foot off of the accelerator.
- Do not slam on the brakes, remain calm and let your vehicle pass over the ice.
- Steer gently into the skid, e.g. if the rear of your car is sliding to the left, then you should also steer to the left.