Winter Driving: Don’t Get Caught Cold!
As we head towards the festive season, there’s plenty to look forward to – holidays, family time and possibly even some daft presents to unwrap too. But while nobody wants to be a killjoy, for drivers winter can be a treacherous time on the roads. So before the worst of the weather kicks in, it makes sense to prepare for what could lie ahead.
Winter Checks For Your Car
The first thing to consider before taking to the roads in winter is whether you’ve winter-proofed your car properly. By now, we’d like to think you’ve covered the basics. But if you need a refresher, here’s what you need to have take care of to stay safe.
Lights – in wintry conditions, visibility on the roads can be severely affected. So making sure your lights (front, rear, reverse and indicators) are in good working order is an absolute must. Not just for your safety, but for the safety of other drivers.
Tyres – another hugely important part of your winter vehicle checks should be tyres. Any kind of wear and tear that’s not addressed can be fatal when you hit icy roads, particularly when the dreaded ‘black ice’ rears its ugly head. So– if required – have any worn tyres replaced. It may be expensive, but the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.
Windscreen wiper fluid – carrying a can of anti-freeze in the car is a must for winter. But what about your windscreen wash? With plummeting temperatures there’s always the chance your wiper wash could freeze, leaving you in a perilous position. So make sure you use an anti-freeze concentrate to keep your front and rear window clear.
In-car heater – many modern cars have quality air conditioning as standard these days. But that doesn’t mean you should be complacent. Whatever type of in-car heater/windscreen heater you have, make sure you can rely on them over winter. If you need to clear your windows, a scraper alone makes the job twice as difficult. Plus, there’s always an outside chance you get stuck due to snowy weather and need to stay warm.
Emergency Kit – most of us of driving age can probably remember a winter where weather dominated the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Whether it’s snowdrifts, blizzards or blocked roads, you need to prepare for any eventuality – and that can mean getting stuck in your car in Arctic conditions.
In such a situation, it’s not long before the cold begins to bite. So it pays to have a fully-stocked emergency kit in your boot. You can buy them from any motoring retailer both online and offline. But if you want to put your own together here’s what to consider:
- A couple of warm blankets
- Spare winter clothing (coat, hat, gloves, extra layers etc)
- Food and drink that won’t go off (bottle of water, biscuits, chocolate, nuts etc)
- Snow shovel for digging yourself out (although it’s best to stay in your car until help arrives if the conditions start to worsen considerably)
- Spare engine oil, anti-freeze and windscreen wash
- Emergency triangle
Plus make sure your mobile is fully charged before you travel
Smarter Driving Tips for the Season
When it comes to driving behaviour during the winter period, there are also a few pointers well worth considering. Here’s what to watch out for and how to avoid trouble.
Extra braking distance – this is a bit of a no-brainer. With poor surface conditions (slush, ice, snow etc) comes the need to drive slower and further behind the vehicle in front. Your braking in such conditions should also be slower and more measured.
Use snow-chains – just as important as making sure your tyres are in good order is investing in a set of snow-chains for your wheels. That way, if you simply have to drive, you can gain more traction and get out of trouble more easily.
Watch your gears – driving in the right gear is a must at all times on the road. But gear selection becomes even more important in winter conditions. Use a lower gear to gain traction on hills. If you do find yourself spinning and unable to move, do not force the issue. Use gentle clutch control in a higher gear to get yourself moving.
Lastly, if in doubt, postpone your journey. It’s simply not worth the risk.
Darwin Goodfellow wants you to stay save this winter and hopes there won’t be a need for you to make a car accident compensation claims