Driving in winter can be dangerous. When the weather takes a turn for the worse it can reduce grip on the road and limit visibility, making travel more of a hazard than during balmier periods.
When conditions get really bad the safest option is always to avoid going outside, but if your journey is absolutely necessary, we’ve put together some tips to stay safe on the roads this winter.
Car preparation is key
When driving in winter, often it’s the checks you do before you set off that have the biggest effect.
For example, cold weather puts more strain on car batteries when you turn the engine on, so if they’re weak you might find the car won’t start at all. So before you head off go and check the car will start, and if it’s struggling, you might need a new battery.
You should also check your fluid levels, such as engine coolant and windscreen washer fluid. Make sure these have a mixture of antifreeze and water so they keep working when it’s cold.
Clear your car
Every time there’s a snowstorm in the UK you’ll see footage of people driving with their windows covered with snow. This is incredibly dangerous because it limits how much you can see, making you a danger to yourself and others around you.
Make sure you have an ice scraper to clear windows. You can also turn the windscreen heater on in the car to help you – but do not leave your vehicle with the engine on as this makes it attractive to thieves.
Give yourself extra space
With lower grip on the roads, that means you’ll need to drive slower than in the dry. This is because you won’t be able to take corners as quickly, but more importantly, your braking distances are much longer.
As a result, you should leave a much bigger gap to the cars ahead of you – as much as four seconds in the wet and more of it’s icy outside.
Allow extra time
It can be tempting to leave the same amount of time as you normally do for your journeys, but your trip can take much longer in winter on account of your slower driving.
Even after accounting for this, you should bear in mind that roads could be shut because of crashes or flooding, for example, so your optimum route might not be possible.
Use a higher gear
This tip is particularly useful when driving in the snow. In lower gears, you might find the wheels spinning in the low grip conditions, meaning you make no progress and get stuck in place.
One way to combat this is to use a higher gear than normal, even pulling away in second gear if necessary. You should also be more gentle with the throttle, as this can help the tyres find grip without spinning.
Pack for the occasion
With the increased likelihood of road closures, you might find yourself one of the unlucky ones to be stuck in traffic for hours.
To keep yourself safe, make sure you have plenty of fuel so you can keep the heating on. But you can also put a winter survival pack in the boot, containing items such as warm clothing, food and drink, and a shovel.