Earlier this year we covered how to stay safe when driving during the summer months. Well, it’s now the middle of September and the weather’s taken a turn for the worse. The days have been getting darker, the night’s longer, and things are set to get much colder, wetter and more miserable in the coming weeks.
So it’s probably about time we went through our top winter driving tips to help you stay safe on the roads in difficult conditions.
1. Plan your journeys
Pay attention to the local news and travel bulletins. That way you’ll be alerted to any disruptions before you encounter them on the road, giving you time to plan out an alternative and faster route.
And if the weather is particularly bad, it’s advised that you rearrange your plans to avoid driving if at all possible.
2. Stay seen, and see others
In winter it’s especially important to see what’s on the road, and to make sure that you yourself can be seen easily.
There’s a lot of mud, slush and snow around that can reduce your visibility though the front and rear windscreens, and the brightness of your headlights may also be reduced, which will limit how far you can see.
And if your windscreen is frozen over, you should avoid using hot water or using your wipers to clear it, as this could cause damage – arm yourself with a window scraper and a bottle of de-icer instead.
3. Check your tyres
With rain and snow on the roads you’ll have much less traction than normal, so it’s important to make sure that your tyres are kept in a good condition, with enough tread depth.
Tyre tread should be no less than 2mm for winter driving, with at least 3mm being the optimum treat depth.
Despite what a lot of motorists might tell you, reducing the pressure in your tyres won’t give you any more grip, and it can be dangerous.
4. Ensure a healthy car battery
Using your headlights, removing condensation and trying to stay warm mean that there’s a higher demand on your car’s battery when making trips in winters.
So try to avoid running these electrical systems for longer than needed, and preserve your battery’s life.
5. Drive smoothly
Driving on snow-covered roads or in icy conditions means that you need to change the way you drive. You don’t have the same kind of responsiveness as you do on dry roads, so you need to pay close attention to your speed – reduce it to increase your stopping ability and to reduce the changes of skidding.
You should also apply the brakes in good time and avoid using them harshly – especially on bends, where the centrifugal force can cause you to spin off the road.
6. Always be prepared for the worst
Always take your mobile phone with you, and make sure that you’ve got the essentials with you in your car at all times.
We’d recommend keeping a torch, blanket, jump leads, di-icer and a shovel to help you out of some sticky situations, and it’s also a good idea to let someone know that you’re travelling in difficult conditions. That way, if you happen to find yourself in trouble and don’t turn up when expected, there’s someone ready to get help to you as quickly as possible.