If this winter is anything like last winter, before long, we will be buried under 2 feet of snow!! As always, we love it for the first day, while its fresh and picturesque and we get a day off work, then reality strikes and we start to realise that we need to get out and about and do the shopping or go to work. The governments advice to stay off the roads is just not practical. Below is some useful information to help you get by if you do have to travel on our roads this winter.

1. Plan your journey during wintry weather conditions.

  • If your journey isn’t absolutely essential, don’t take the risk.
  • Check the local and national weather forecasts and listen to local and national radio for travel information.
  • Tell someone at your destination what time you expect to arrive.
  • Make sure you are equipped with warm clothes, food, boots and a torch; in snowy conditions, take a spade.
  • Clear and de-mist your windows and mirrors before you set out and carry a windscreen scraper and de-icer.

2. Keep your vehicle in good condition. 

In winter, it is even more important to check that your vehicle is well maintained and serviced. 
• Keep the lights, windows and mirrors clean and free from ice and snow.

  • Make sure your battery is fully charged.
  • Add anti-freeze to the radiator and a winter additive to the windscreen washer bottles.
  • Make sure wipers and lights are in good working order.
  • Check that tyres have a minimum of 2mm tread depth and are maintained at the correct pressure.

3. Adjust your driving to the conditions.

Driving in low visibility on icy or wet roads requires a very different driving style. There are some simple steps you should take to ensure your safety when exposed to the different driving hazards.

In low visibility.

  • When driving in hail, heavy snow or rain, use your dipped headlights and reduce your speed.

When roads are icy or slushy.

  • It can take ten times longer to stop, so drive slowly, allowing extra room to slow down and stop.
  • When accelerating, use the highest gear possible to prevent your wheels from spinning.
  • Manoeuvre gently, avoiding harsh braking and acceleration.
  • To brake without locking your wheels, use a low gear earlier than normal so your engine will smoothly reduce your speed and use your brake pedal gently.
  • If you do start to skid, ease off the accelerator but do not brake suddenly.

In Winter Sun

  • Glare from the low winter sun can be dangerous, so use your visor and keep a pair of sunglasses in your vehicle.

In foggy conditions.

  • Expect visibility to deteriorate rapidly as
  • fog drifts quickly and is often patchy.
  • Drive very slowly and use your dipped headlights.
  • Use fog lights if visibility is seriously reduced, but remember to switch them off when visibility improves.
  • Don’t hang on to the tail lights of the vehicle in front, as you may well be driving too close.

In wet weather.

  • Don’t speed up suddenly, even if it seems to be clearing, as you can suddenly find yourself back in thick fog.
  • Stopping distances will be at least doubled as your tyres have less grip on the wet road, so leave more distance between you and the vehicle in front to increase your ability to see, plan ahead and brake.
  • If your steering becomes unresponsive, the water may be preventing your tyres from gripping the road, so ease off your accelerator and slow down gradually.
  • The rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen, so increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front and use your dipped headlights.

When coming across flooded roads.

  • If the water seems too deep, find another route instead of risking breakdown by attempting to cross it.
  • If the water does seem shallow enough to cross, drive slowly in first gear and avoid the deepest water, which is usually near the kerb.
  • Remember to test your brakes when you are through the flood before you drive at normal speed.

4. Consider using winter tyres or alternative solutions.

Winter tyres.
• For driving in consistently wintry conditions, winter tyres can be fitted to your vehicle. They do not harden as much as standard tyres in low temperatures and have more and wider grooves. This gives better traction in the snow and ice, meaning braking distances are shortened, resulting in the reduced risk of a crash.

Snow chains and snow socks.
• These devices are temporary solutions and give your vehicle extra grip in compacted snow and ice. While both are very effective, once the road is clear, they should be removed and then re-fitted when the conditions worsen. Snow socks are quick, convenient and take less time to fit than chains; however they can wear out more quickly. When driving with snow socks, movements should be smooth and not exceed 25mph, which can be restricting when driving on motorways. Both solutions should be carefully selected and fitted to make sure they fit your vehicle and will work correctly.

Car traction tracks.
• These portable plastic tracks can be stored in the vehicle and placed under the wheels to give the vehicle extra traction. While only a temporary measure, these tracks are really useful for getting your vehicle on the move again. They fold up neatly and can be stored easily in the vehicle boot once used.

5. Take care around winter road maintenance vehicles.

The Highways Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Transport, is responsible for the motorways and trunk roads in England. It aims to reduce delays and accidents during wintry weather conditions by pre- treating motorways and trunk roads to prevent the formation of ice and snow, and by clearing snow from carriageways and hard shoulders
as soon as conditions permit.

Local Authorities are responsible for similar work on the local road network.

Salting vehicles.
• Salting vehicles travel at speeds of up to 40 mph spreading salt across all lanes of the carriageway. Ensure you maintain a safe distance behind these vehicles and do not attempt to overtake as they often spray salt at such a speed that it can damage your vehicle’s bodywork.

Snow ploughing.
• Snow ploughing can throw up irregular amounts of snow that may be a hazard to vehicles. Again, maintain a safe distance behind the vehicle and not to attempt to overtake.

6. Roadworks on motorways and major roads

If you have to drive through roadworks, take extra care:

  • Keep to the speed limit, which is there for your safety.
  • Move into the correct lane in good time and avoid switching lanes.
  • Concentrate on the road ahead rather than the roadworks.
  • Be alert for Highways Agency works traffic leaving or entering roadworks.
  • Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front, as you may have to quickly slow down for queues.
  • Observe all signs, which are there to help you.

If you must drive, make sure you are prepared for the conditions.

If you do get into trouble.

  • Do not use a mobile phone while driving. Instead, stop somewhere safe or ask a passenger to make the call.
  • On a motorway, it is best to use
a roadside emergency telephone, because it will help the breakdown/ emergency services to locate you easily. If you have to use a mobile phone, make sure you know your location from the numbers on the marker posts positioned at the side of the hard shoulder.
  • Abandoned vehicles can
hold up rescue vehicles and snowploughs, so to ensure that the road is cleared as quickly as possible, stay with your vehicle until help arrives. Remember, do not stay in your vehicle on the hard shoulder.
  • If you have to leave your vehicle to get help, make sure other drivers can see you clearly.


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