Winter is upon us, so it won’t be too long until our roads are covered in ice and snow. Here’s what you need to do to drive safely…
Preparing Your Vehicle
The first step in driving safely in snow (or winter conditions in general) is making sure your vehicle is up to the job. You need to make sure that the likes of its tyres, windscreen wipers and lights are all working as they should. Check your tyres for any signs of damage and ensure they have the right air pressures and adequate tread depth. See whether your windscreen wipers are working and actually remove debris and determine whether your lights are sufficiently bright.
In addition to conducting some basic maintenance checks, it also makes sense to pack some emergency equipment. A torch and some spare batteries will be invaluable should you end up stranded in a quiet area. A shovel will be useful should you end up getting stuck in dirt. It also makes sense to pack winter clothing, blankets and some food and water; a first aid kit might also be a sensible investment. Finally, get a pair of sunglasses in order to deal with glare from the sun.
Driving in the Snow
Where you drive can be as important as how you drive when it comes to snow and ice. Plan your journeys in advance and try to stick to main roads, like A-roads and motorways, as these are more likely to be gritted and well-lit. You can also check ahead in order to avoid congestion and road works.
When you’re setting off, get in the habit of accelerating gently and changing into higher gears as soon as possible; this will help to prevent wheel spin. Drive at a slower speed than you normally would, and leave extra space between yourself and other road-users (stopping distances will be significantly increased). Should you find yourself skidding at any point, try not to panic and gently remove your foot from the accelerator – keep your hands on the steering wheel and steer in the direction that you’re skidding. If roads are slippery, try to drive in the tracks left behind by other vehicles as compressed snow isn’t as dangerous.
When driving in heavy snow, use dipped lights to ensure that you’re visible to other road-users. Should visibility drop below 100 meters, use your fog lights; just remember to switch them off once driving conditions improve.
Accessories to Consider
Depending on how you find driving in winter conditions, or the sorts of roads you typically drive on, there are a few car accessories that may be worth considering. The most common consists of winter tyres. These are specifically designed to be more effective in snowy and icy conditions, providing substantially more grip. Whilst they’re not a legal requirement in the UK, they could make driving much less stressful if you’re prepared to pay for them. Just remember, when weather conditions improve you’ll need to swap them for regular tyres again.
Somewhat more particular, and radical, options include snow socks and chains. Socks are slipped over your car’s wheels, and so are relatively straightforward to use; not to mention they’re typically affordable. They’re useful should you need to get off of a particularly icy driveway or estate road. You’ll have to remove them once you’re back on gritted roads. Snow chains work in a similar way, but are more heavy-duty. They can be quite cumbersome and hard to use, but they’re useful for navigating tough conditions, especially in rural areas. Like socks, they have to be removed in regular driving conditions as they can damage road surfaces.
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