car driving in snow

How To Stay Safe On The Roads Over Winter

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 wet leaves can all be easily camouflaged, particularly if you are driving in the dark, as well as being faced with lousy conditions.

During the colder months, the rule of thumb is, if the weather conditions are treacherous and you can get away with not getting behind the wheel, then do not drive. However, having provided D1 training courses for many years, we recognise that there are many scenarios in which you have no choice but to face the roads. If you are in a driving-related role or are forced to tackle trickier driving conditions, then take a look at the following tips on how to stay safe.

1. 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 feel as if 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.

Even if the driver ahead of you is driving frustratingly slowly, then it is imperative never to tailgate. Not only does tailgating 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, especially if you are charged with causing an accident due to careless driving. Due to the increased number of drivers caught tailgating each year, consequences have now been upped to three points on your licence and up to a £100 fine.

cars stuck in traffic

2. 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 always 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.

Along with clearing snow and ice, don’t forget to de-mist your vehicle before attempting to drive. Many drivers opt for turning on their heating or air-con before they begin removing snow and scraping ice, meaning the windows can start to de-mist while you’re busy clearing the outside. A super handy infographic and guide on how to de-mist your windscreen in half the time can be found on RAC.

3. 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. This will ensure that you are fully prepared in the event of a breakdown or accident.

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 – A shovel is a must-have, especially if you drive to work and leave your car in an open carpark throughout the day. Although it is unlikely in the UK, if there is heavy snowfall during the day, a shovel will help you to clear snow around your car to leave the carpark safely.
  • Warm Clothes Or Blankets – If your vehicle ever breaks down or you are stuck in standstill traffic during colder weather conditions, then you will most definitely thank yourself for packing a few extra layers.
  • A Portable Mobile Phone ChargerPortable chargers are now available for every device you could name, so use them to your advantage. It means you will always be able to phone your loved ones, your insurance provider or emergency services in the event of a problem.
  • Extra Snacks / Bottles Of Water – If you are planning any longer journies, especially during rush hour, packing some bottles of water and extra snacks will always come in handy. In some cases, roads close due to adverse weather conditions, so you may be stuck in traffic for a long period.
  • A Reflective Warning Triangle – Ideally, you should always carry a reflective warning triangle, but even more so when breakdowns become more common. A warning triangle is placed behind your vehicle to inform other road users that your car is stationary.
  • reflective warning triangle

    4. 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 an extended period does start to drain the fuel, so make sure you’re topped up. The last thing you want is to run out of fuel when you’re nowhere near a garage, especially if it is freezing outside!

    5. Avoid Common Slipping Hazards

    Leaves are one of the biggest causes of skidding during wet or icy weather conditions. During the Winter months, we experience roads and paths filled with fallen leaves, which are unlikely to be cleared, meaning a slippery layer of rainfall or ice forms on top. If you’re driving in one of these conditions and notice a pile of leaves, aim to decelerate slowly or if you can, drive around the heap rather than through.

    leaves covered in snow

    6. 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 gear aside from first, it dramatically decreases 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 skidding, so instead, gently press down on the brake while moving down gears one after the other.

    7. 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 essential 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. You can find an easy tutorial on how to change wiper blades in 3-steps on Family Handyman.

    tyre driving in snow

    8. 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.

    9. 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 a valid breakdown cover means that recovery will aim to get to you as quickly as possible and will also arrange transport home for you.

    woman broken down in the snow

    10. 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 that you are 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 the risk of dangers. If you know that adverse weather conditions have been forecasted, then ensure that you have planned your route ahead. Stock up on the essentials and bring along additional layers just in case you are stuck in traffic or worst-case scenario, breakdown.

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