Winter driving

Posted on 10th December 2012

Winter driving...

As the cold snap sets in, driving conditions will no doubt become increasingly treacherous in the weeks ahead and drivers are urged to be vigilant. Here are our top tips that will get you through the winter safely:

Heavy rain...

When driving in heavy rain, motorists must be sure to double the size of the gap that they have between them and the vehicle in front.

As stipulated by the Highway Code, headlights MUST be used when visibility is less than 100 metres or 328 ft. Fog lights can be used too, but must be switched off as visibility improves.

Fully working and maintained windscreen wipers are vital – make sure you renew them if they are worn or damaged.

In the rain, steering may not be as responsive as usual. If this is the case, ease off the accelerator gently and slow down gradually.

Floods...

In recent months flooding has become seemingly more frequent in the UK after one of the wettest years on record.

While motorists are often advised to only make essential journeys, if you do find yourself faced with water on the road, only drive through it if you know it's not too deep.

Drive slowly through it, avoiding creating a bow wave which could cause a hazard for other drivers. Drive in a lower gear so the engine's revs are higher to keep water out of your exhaust and prevent damage to your catalytic convertor.

Avoid fast-moving water at all costs – drive through it and you risk being swept away.

Don't drive fast through standing water. Tyres can lose contact with the road causing your vehicle to aquaplane – or lose steering control. If this does happen hold the steering wheel lightly and take your foot off the accelerator to minimise the danger. Driving fast also puts your engine at risk, especially if you're driving a turbo-charged or diesel vehicle. A small amount of water can cause serious damage.

If you break down during flooding, don't be tempted to open your bonnet and attempt to fix the engine yourself. Instead wait for the patrol to arrive. The last thing your engine needs is more rain on the electrics that could prevent it from starting again.

Ice...

Tyre tread, screenwash, fuel levels and battery life should all be checked before a journey in wintry conditions. Also, before you set off, clear ice from windows, check locks aren't frozen and pack warm clothing – while your heating may keep you nice and warm, a breakdown could force you to go outside your car.

Pack a bag of rock de-icing rock salt in your boot to put under tyres when you're stuck.

Keep your speed steady and constant. Going too fast could cause you to lose control while not going fast enough may risk losing momentum on the road.

When starting from stationary try to keep your revs as low as possible.

In the event of a skid take your foot off the pedals and steer, only using the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble.

Stopping distance should be doubled or even tripled when the roads are icy.

Snow...

Try to plan your journey around busy roads that are more likely to have been gritted.

Stay in the clearest lane possible on motorways avoiding slush and ice where possible.

Keep your car in a higher gear to give you more control and pull away in a higher gear, rather than just using first.

Keep your speed down when going downhill and be careful not to let it build up. Keeping speed low is far safer than trying to slow down once the road gets icy.

When snow is falling use dipped headlights or fog lights to make sure others can see you. These must be switched off as conditions improve, however, to avoid dazzling other drivers.

Be sure to keep your distance from the car in front, especially if you are following its lights when driving at night.

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