Driving in winter is hazardous. The harsh weather conditions and limited light can make the safest roads treacherous. All of us on the road need to take care and be able to adapt quickly to the road and weather conditions. Spending a little time preparing for a journey can prevent potential tragedy and expense later on.
Just last night I was out helping a friend of mine that had been smacked by a 4×4, she ended up getting checked by the paramedics, then a hospital visit before finally getting home sore but alive. The guy driving the 4×4 said he couldn’t stop in time and he didn’t have enough grip to steer out of the way.
I’m lucky, I can walk to the Outdoor Revival office so I don’t have to do the early morning dodgems with the cars on the highway, many are not so fortunate though so this article is for you. Much of it is common sense but it’s good to be reminded, and I hope some of these tips help you.
As with most things planning makes a huge difference, there’s a quote I’ve often heard, especially in military circles and that’s “Fail to plan – Plan to fail.” Make going out in your car a conscious thing.
Be aware of the weather forecasts, both national and local, and not just for the days you are traveling, but several days before and after as well. Keep an eye on the forecasts: the weather can change rapidly and unexpectedly.
Be prepared to change your plans if you need to. Don’t travel if there’s official advise you not to. In these circumstances, consider postponing your trip or using other safer means of transport. Ask yourself if you need to travel at all. If you do decide you need to travel in adverse conditions, use these simple precautions:
- Leave an itinerary – Ensure someone knows the dates, times, destinations and route of your journey.
- Have alternate routes ready.
- Keep your gas tank as full as you can all the time.
- Ensure you have an emergency kit with you.
- Make sure your windscreen is clear of ice before you set off.
On a personal level
Do you know how to drive in adverse conditions? Rain, snow, ice, mud, sand all require different driving techniques, if you are unsure you may need some training which is easy to get. A few sessions with a driving instructor may prove helpful, even life-saving and there are organizations such as the Advanced Drivers of America (or RoSPA Advanced Drivers and Riders if you’re in the UK) that can point you in the right direction.
If you are driving as part of your employment, your employer may be able to provide the training or help finance it.
If you’re feeling unwell or suffering a medical condition that could be aggravated by environmental, road or traffic conditions, don’t drive.
Make sure your vehicle is up to the journey
Make the more obvious checks that should be done before any big trip – lights, battery, windscreen, wiper blades, screen washing fluid, tires, brakes and oil. But for winter also ensure that there is plenty of anti-freeze, snow tires, if needed, equipped, and the windscreen fluid is at a sufficient concentration to prevent freezing.
Have an emergency kit on hand
Your car could break down or become stranded in severe weather. If this happens, you’ll be glad to own an emergency kit. This should consist of warm clothes, suitable footwear, a car blanket, water, some food, a fully charged mobile phone, torch, shovel, tow rope, de-icing gear, and of course a full first aid kit.
Driving in ice and snow
This is where some training can come in really handy. Even if you are an experienced driver, don’t leave anything to chance. Slow down and travel at a speed at which you could stop easily. Ensure the gap between you and the car in front is at least 5 times the normal distance recommended for braking. Do not brake harshly. Move into lower gear early before braking. Remember you have very little control when you’re on ice and snow, so steer gently.
Make sure your vehicle is well-ventilated, nad your visibility is good, clean the windows, headlights and wheel arches often and make sure to use your headlights, it really helps you to be seen even if you don’t feel you need them to see. Be aware that road surfaces vary in cold weather. There are often patches of ice on the road, especially beneath bridges, so be aware of this.