Winter Driving Tips
It's that time of year again when temperatures drop and ice and snow become daily life. Here are some of the most common winter driving hazards with tips on how to avoid or prepare for them.
Before you leave it is important to take steps to insure that your vehicle is properly prepared. For more information on this check out our other article ‘Preparing your car for winter journeys’
Before setting out on a journey during winter weather conditions make the following checks:
• is the journey absolutely necessary?
• check the local and national weather forecasts
• obtain travel information and road conditions from local and national radio
• ensure that the vehicle has a full fuel tank
• give an estimated time of arrival at your proposed destination
• finally ask yourself again if the journey is necessary.
• Use dipped headlights in poor visibility
• Reduce your speed compared to ‘normal’ driving conditions
• Keep a safe stopping distance behind the vehicle in front. It takes much longer to stop in wet or icy conditions
• Avoid harsh braking, acceleration and steering
• Keep a careful watch out for other road users especially motorcyclists, pedal cyclists and young pedestrians.
Should you get stuck due to snow or on a closed road you should make sure you have some essential emergency supplies with you. This includes blankets, a supply of food, several litres of water, rope, flashlight, first aid kit, extra clothing, shovel, cat litter or salt for traction if your tyres are stuck, scraper, jumper cables and a wheel wrench and jack.
If you get into trouble, try not to abandon your vehicle, stay with it until help arrives. IF you are forced to leave your vehicle make yourself visible by wearing a fluorescent / reflective tabard / jacket.
Black ice is one of the worst hazards you can come upon when driving. You usually can't tell you are on it until you start sliding. Worse yet, if you hit your brakes, it can cause you to slide out of control. The best defence for black ice is simply to go slow in areas where you know the ground is frozen and it's been raining or snowing. In addition, you can use caution when applying your brakes if you start to slide. Pump your brakes slowly if you find yourself starting to slide. Also, if you start sliding in one area, it's likely there are more areas of the road ahead that have ice on them, so stay alert and keep driving slow and cautiously.
The best protection from unexpected weather is to keep your radio on and stay tuned to a news and weather station. They will let you know of any hazards, whether to watch out for ice, snow, rain or fog and whether any roads are closed or require chains. Its also a good idea to keep an emergency radio in your car at all times with extra batteries.
In the age of smartphones most of us have GPS in our hand. However just with any other battery operated device it is important to prepare for your phone running out of battery. Take a spare battery, if your phone has a removable battery, or a battery pack with you on all journeys. Some torches and emergency radios come with a hand crank on the side, which you can hook up to your phone and give yourself virtually unlimited cell phone power, which can be a lifesaver in itself.