Accidents and breakdowns are more common in the winter when road conditions are challenging and with a cold snap forecast for parts of the UK, now is the time to check your vehicle is ready for the road.
Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s Chief Examiner, has these top tips to help stay safe on the roads during the freezing weather.
Checking the weather forecast before you set off on your travels will help to ensure you are fully prepared for the conditions that may impact your journey. Severe weather can present different challenges, and it’s not just winter weather which can wreak havoc on the roads. Rain at any time of year can be dangerous. In fact, nine out of 10 weather-related deaths and serious injuries on the roads take place in the rain. With today’s technology and the right App or website, most weather forecasts or warnings are communicated ahead of time allowing you to be prepared.
Don't set off with just a tiny patch of windscreen to see out of. Make sure all your windows are clear of ice, snow, and condensation before you drive away.
When you are driving in wintery conditions, it is important to increase the stopping distance between you and the vehicle ahead and approach every junction intending to stop well before the stop or give way line. According to advice from the Highway Code, it can take up to 10 times as long to stop in icy conditions.
Driving your car in a higher gear will help you avoid unwanted wheelspin. If it is icy and you’re struggling to get started, try pulling away in second gear. This should make it easier to get you going, as pulling away in first gear on ice will give you poor grip. Most modern automatic cars will have the ability to pull away in a higher gear or may even have a separate system for winter driving.
Ensuring your tyres are in good condition is essential. Whilst law requires you to have your tread depth at a minimum of 1.6mm, grip starts to reduce on anything under 3mm, so make sure you keep an eye on your tyres and replace them if needed. Wet weather tyres are designed to perform well in damp and rainy conditions, by ensuring that water is evacuated from the tyre surface as quickly as possible.
Make sure all car lights are working and the lenses are clean. If the roads are mucky, you might have to clean your lights after every trip. Keep number plates clean, to avoid fines. If you must clear snow, don’t forget the lights – front and back. You must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced. If you use fog lights, remember to switch them off when visibility improves so they don’t dazzle other drivers or obscure your brake lights.
With the adoption of online shopping, deliveries, and remote working there is now little need or excuse to leave the house in extreme weather. Do you really want to risk your safety in snow? If in doubt or you don’t need to then don’t take your vehicle out.
Richard said: “Winter brings difficult driving conditions with frost, ice, and snow all adversely affecting road conditions and vehicle handling. Preparation is key to avoiding a dangerous situation whilst driving in snowy or icy conditions. Do not rely on the performance of your car systems to get you out of trouble - allow time, create a safe space, make sure you have good visibility all around and carry the right equipment. If conditions are extreme remember the best advice is not to travel.”