Knowing how to stay safe on the roads is vital for all drivers, but even more so if your job role is based on driving for the entirety of your day. If you are in a role such as a driving instructor, HGV driver or paramedic, you will know that just because the weather becomes harsher, unfortunately, your day cannot come to a halt. Instead, you must take a slow and steady approach to ensure both you and other road users remain safe.
10 Tips On Stay Safe On The Roads
Many different tips and tricks can help you to stay in control of your vehicle when the risks of a collision are multiplied. Driving in any weather condition can be dangerous, but even more so when roads are icy, slippery or filled with heavy rainfall. Hazards such as potholes, oil spills and leaves can all be easily camouflaged.
The rule of thumb is that if weather conditions are treacherous and you can get away with not getting behind the wheel, then do not drive. However, if you have to drive, take a look at the following tips.
Always Keep Your Distance
During dry weather conditions, you must maintain the two-second rule which relates to the distance you must leave between you and the vehicle in front. In icy, rainy or snowy weather conditions, this must be at least doubled. Although it may mean that you are driving incredibly slow, it does mean that in the event of an emergency brake, you will not skid, spin out or hit the vehicle in front.
Never tailgate, not only does it dramatically decrease your reaction time and increase the risk of a collision but it could also result in a hefty fine. Tailgating is a driving offence and consequences could be severe if it causes an accident.
Never Drive With Ice/Snow On Your Vehicle
Always ensure that you leave yourself additional time before setting off to clear all ice and snow from your vehicle, this also includes de-misting your windscreen.
Many drivers assume that snow only needs to be removed from the windscreen, windows and mirrors, however, you should actually clear the entire vehicle. Leaving snow on your roof runs the risk of snow falling onto your windscreen while braking or turning a corner, creating blind spots and limiting visibility. You must also clear snow from your headlights and brake lights; otherwise, other drivers will find it tricky to spot you, and you’re more likely to camouflage into the surrounding snow.
Invest In A Winter Car Kit
There are a few essentials that are recommended to keep in your car at all times, no matter the time of year, such as an ice scraper, first aid kit and torch. However, during colder conditions when the likelihood of a breakdown or becoming stuck in standstill traffic is increased, it is always worth adding a few extra bits to your kit, these include the following:
- A snow shovel
- Warm clothes or blankets
- A mobile phone holder
- Extra snacks and bottles of water
- A reflective warning sign
Keep Your Tank At Least Half Full
As mentioned in our previous tip, the likelihood of standstill traffic is increased during harsher weather, along with more road closures and diverted traffic. This means that you should never allow your fuel tank to reach below half, just in case of an emergency or a journey taking longer than you’d hoped. Sitting in traffic with your heating on full for a long period does start to drain fuel, so make sure you’re topped up.
Avoid Common Slipping Hazards
Leaves are one of the biggest causes of skidding during wet or icy weather. During the Winter months, we experience roads and paths filled with fallen leaves, which are unlikely to be cleared meaning a slick layer of rainfall or ice forms on top. If you’re driving in one of the mentioned conditions and notice a pile of leaves, aim to decelerate slowly or if you can, drive around the pile rather than through.
Use Your Gears
Drivers often underestimate the power of their gears and how useful they become when weather conditions cause roads to become dangerous.
If you are forced to drive in heavy snow, always aim to pull away in second gear rather than first. Although it may sound unfamiliar to move from stationary in any geat aside from first, it dramatically decreased the risk of wheel spin and becoming stuck in the snow.
Your gears are also great tools for helping you to stay in control while slowing down. Heavy braking in a high gear is likely to cause a skid, so instead, gently press down on the brake while moving down gears one after the other.
Keep Up Regular Car Maintenance
Scheduling in time every few months to carry out necessary car maintenance checks is essential no matter the time of year, but even more so during the Winter.
Before setting off for a journey in the rain, ice or snow, check your tyre tread depth is a minimum of 1.6mm. This can easily be checked in less than 30 seconds using a 20p coin. Place the coin between the main tread grooves, and if it covers the outer band of the coin, then you are within the legal limit. Ensuring that your tyres have the legal minimum tread depth means that you will have a better grip on the road surface.
It is also important to check the condition of your windscreen wipers as cracks or splits make it harder for rain or snow to be cleared from your windscreen while driving. If you notice that they are not doing their job as much as you’d hoped, then it is worth replacing your wiper blades.
Plan Your Trip Ahead
If you look outside and the weather seems miserable and you know there is likely to be problems on the road, it is always worth taking a quick look at the latest travel news for any nearby road closures or accidents. It means that, if there is, you can plan an alternative route and avoid being stuck in traffic. While driving, opt for listening to the radio rather than your music, again to keep up to date with the latest news.
Ensure You Have Valid Breakdown Cover
Unlike car insurance, breakdown cover is not a legal requirement; however, we cannot stress the importance of investing enough.
Breaking down is a horrible thought no matter the time of year, but even more so when you become stuck in freezing conditions. Ensuring that you have valid breakdown cover means that recovery will aim to get to you as quickly as possible and will also arrange transport home for you.
Use Your Headlights
Driving in heavy rain or snow makes visibility incredibly tricky, so it is vital to use your headlights to make sure that other road users are aware of you approaching. Even during the day, switch on your dipped headlights so other drivers can easily see you.
Stay Safe This Winter
Many drivers are dubious about driving in harsher weather conditions due to the increased risks, however, through carrying out adequate preparations and most importantly, taking your time, you minimise any dangers. While taking driving lessons or advanced driver courses such as ambulance driver training or trailer towing training, it is likely that your instructor will go over this, however, if you are unsure, make sure you ask any questions.