Winter driving safety is of paramount importance. This article, by Stephen Turvil, complements his previous pages on motoring which can be accessed on this site.
Winter driving can be more challenging than solving a crossword puzzle while juggling.
Factors such as dangerous weather and heavy traffic conspire to create genuinely hazardous conditions.
However, the impact of these factors can be minimised by the use of winter driving safety tips.
There are two elements to consider - vehicle preparation and driving techniques.
Vehicles should be serviced regularly in order to maintain reliability. Schedules vary but generally every 10,000 miles or twelve months is sufficient. It is also worth specifically checking the battery, tyre pressures, and maximising visibility by cleaning the glass and lights.
The next consideration is the emergency kit. This could be invaluable for breakdowns or during incidents and delays. The kit might include warm clothing, high visibility jacket, warning triangle, refreshments, shovel, jump-leads, torch, de-icing equipment, etc.
Once the vehicle is prepared you are ready to drive. This, of course, assumes there are no severe weather warnings.
As well as maintaining a sensible distance to hazards there are various techniques to handle slippery conditions. The most important is to be smooth. Gentle acceleration minimises wheel-spin, light braking reduces skids, and progressive steering helps maintain stability.
As well as these general guidelines there are specific phenomenon to consider, e.g. aquaplaning.
This often occurs during rainstorms when tyres cannot disperse enough water to grip the road. Motorists therefore slide across the water and lose steering control. To recover simply lift the throttle, avoiding braking, and wait for traction to return.
Skidding is another common hazard, i.e. sliding uncontrollably forward with locked wheels and limited steering.
Modern vehicles generally have anti-skid systems but millions of older cars lack this feature. The good news is straight skids are easy to control. Usually pumping the brakes repeatedly will do the job.
Winter driving is inevitably more dangerous than wafting through the countryside in summer – but risk can be managed.
The key is to prepare properly, minimise journeys, and drive smoothly. These winter driving safety tips should help keep you happily motoring until the sunshine returns next spring.
Additional information: It pays to clear your roof from snow. It has been calculated that 4 ins. of snow on an average-sized car roof adds 35 kg. to the weight of the vehicle which could cut fuel efficiency by 2%, according to Halfords.
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