Driving in winter is often a nerve-wracking experience. There is so much more to think about; so many more risks involved and, unsurprisingly, a lot more accidents being reported.
The majority of these accidents occur unexpectedly. This is due to not taking necessary precautions or natural hazards like black ice and heavy snow. From over-steering or under-steering a corner to fishtailing down a motorway, there are so many risks involved when driving during the dark winter months.
In this post we'll look at some of these risks and talk about what to do in the event of any of them happening.
7 top tips for driving in winter conditions
1. Take precautions
Before you start your journey, take the time to prepare your vehicle as best as you can. Use de-icer and a scraper to clear all windows. Make sure you clear your lights and registration plate too.
Allow time for this, if you leave in a rush this will only add yet more risk and stress!
2. Stay alert
Just because you are being careful doesn't mean other drivers are. take nothing for granted.
Always remember to increase the distance between you and other vehicles in front and behind you. No matter how experienced a driver you are, slowing down in poor weather conditions takes longer. Make sure you have enough space and time to do this.
3. Dealing with black ice
What is black ice?
Driving on solid, black ice is just about as dangerous as it gets. It is not actually black, rather, a thin transparent and incredibly slippery layer of ice. Bridges, overpasses and areas of shade are particularly prone to black ice.
Don't let clear skies fool you either. The night before it might have been raining or hailing, causing the roads to freeze. Also, be wary of fresh snow that might be covering a layer of black ice. Again, precaution is your greatest weapon here. Always check the weather reports the day before you travel somewhere new.
In the event you find yourself sliding over black ice, you should ease off the accelerator but keep your foot pressed gently down so the vehicle moves at a constant speed. If you're already moving quickly then take your foot off completely and slow down first.
You might think that the colder it gets, the more chance there is of hitting black ice. However, it is much more slippery while the water is still wet. So in many ways, the colder the better as far as road safety is concerned.
4. Use appropriate tyres
What are the best tyres for winter?
One thing you need to be absolutely sure of is the quality of your car's tyres. Worn or incorrectly inflated tyres are a real hazard in snow or icy conditions. All-season tyres are fine in snow but don't provide the same grip as winter tyres. This is because winter tyres are made with a different rubber compound that grips better in cold weather.
What are snow tyres?
If you live in a particularly treacherous area you might want to consider investing in some snow tyres. Snow tyres have a much thicker tread and won't freeze. They are softer too, helping your vehicle to grip the ice better. If you need to go up and down steep hills or are worried you'll lose control, you could even attach some snow chains to your tyres.
5. Use antifreeze to avoid expensive repairs
Your vehicle's antifreeze is also of the utmost importance. Make sure your engine's cooling system has the proper water-to-antifreeze ratio. A cracked engine part or broken radiator is not only dangerous but can be very expensive to repair.
It's also a good idea to add antifreeze or another form of windscreen wiper fluid to your windscreen wiper water tank. If you get caught in a blizzard or your windows freeze up on the road you'll need to rely on antifreeze.
6. Use anti-lock or ABS brakes
Bringing your vehicle to a controlled stop is also vital. Many newer vehicles have anti-lock brakes, and you should find out whether yours does or not. Like most things it pays to be prepared.
ABS brakes are more effective in winter weather conditions since they add a level of automatic control to your braking when pushed. However, you will need to brake earlier than you would with ordinary brakes. ABS brakes require a steady application of pressure.
7. Keep a winter vehicle kit
Have you packed your winter vehicle kit?
A decent winter vehicle kit will not only make your life easier if you're stuck in traffic for a while, it could also save it in the event of an emergency.
Be sure to pack all the essentials you'd need such as a torch, small shovel, scraper, windscreen wiper fluid (which you should add to the tank), matches or a lighter, blankets and - of course - a mobile phone!
Don't forget that the odd box of cereal bars and a bottle of water might also make all the difference if you need to wait for emergency services on a cold night.
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