I don’t know about you but I’m hoping for another Winter like the last one! I love the snow and I like driving in it too. So in anticipation of another long spell of deep snow covered roads, icy corners and treacherous conditions, I began thinking of all the things I learnt last year that got me to my destination safely and in one piece. Remember this?
Snow causes havoc in the UK, mostly because we don’t get that much of it but we do get cold winters and plenty of ice. Canada and others countries fare much better because they expect it so they are always prepared. So that’s the answer then, isn’t it? Be prepared. There’s already been a few very bad crashes reported due to ice on the roads, so to help make sure you’re not one of them, here’s my comprehensive list of tips for driving safely this winter.
Regular winter checks for your car
Keep tyres inflated to the correct pressure – cold causes tyres to deflate – they can loose 1 psi for every 10° of temperature drop.
Check for worn treads, a minimum of 3mm but the deeper the better for more grip.
Ensure there is sufficient anti freeze in the cooling system and keep it topped up.
Keep the windscreen washer fluid reservoir topped up with proper windscreen wash, not just water. Winter roads are dirty roads and even a light dusting of road grime can hamper visibility.
Keep oil topped up
Check all lights and indicators are working and keep them clean
Replace windscreen wiper blades if damaged or worn
Before you set off
Defrost thoroughly – it’s illegal to drive with just a small viewing window!
Use de-icer on car locks or heat the key on a radiator to help unfreeze frozen doors.
If you do use water to clear your windscreen of heavy frost and ice – use warm, not hot water.
Lift wiper blades up before you defrost the windscreen; this ensures they are moving freely and aren’t frozen. Don’t use them to help scrape ice off the windscreen, it can damage the blades.
Scrape before you de-ice – it prevents that nasty sludge pile of de-icer and ice – it can only defrost so much! You’ll also use less de-icer and it’s quicker. Invest in a proper scraper, they’re all of 99p from a car shop or garage.
You shouldn’t, but if you do run the engine whilst you’re de-icing, remember not to leave the car unattended, it might not be there when you come back!
Scrape any snow off the roof. It may be cute to leave your car with a snow hat but as it melts it can slide down the windscreen and suddenly block your view.
Don’t forget to defrost wing mirrors too
Driving safely and keeping control
Keep your distance from the car in front – stopping distances can be ten times greater on slippy roads.
Drive smoothly, manoeuvre gently and keep a slower constant speed to help avoid the need to brake.
Pull away in second gear - this allows greater traction and helps prevent the wheels slipping and that awful wheel spinning, sliding start.
Don’t stay in low gears, get into a higher gear such as third to keep slow constant traction. High revs and power are often causes of sliding.
Use your gears to slow the engine down, rather than your brakes.
Keep both hands on the steering wheel. Heavy snow and ice can make road surfaces very uneven; a wheel dropping over a chunk of ice can cause the steering wheel to pull out of your hands if you’re not careful.
When you do have to use your brakes, do it gently. Start slowing well before a junction and ‘pump’ the brakes gently – stop gradually instead of immediately.
‘Listen’ to your tyres – the sound they make as they travel over different surfaces will give you a clue as to how the car will react as you’re driving and how much grip you can expect to have. Crunching on snow, a slush as it melts, no sound – you’re probably on ice.
Slow down well before a bend and keep a constant speed driving round it.
If you do skid – don’t hit the brakes. Turn into the direction you are skidding, so if the rear of the car swings left then turn the steering wheel left, if it skids right, turn the wheel right. Take your foot off the accelerator until the wheels have regained some grip and then accelerate gently and slowly to maintain control out of the skid.
The best prevention of accidents in bad weather? Don’t go out if the weather’s really bad unless you absolutely have to! If you do, allow plenty of extra time for your journey and to defrost your car.
If you’ve any helpful hints for driving safely in the winter months, please leave a comment Safe driving!