There’s no doubt about it; taking to any of Britain’s roads in wintry weather means having to draw upon all of your skills as a driver. If you need to navigate your way across country this winter, make sure you know how to adapt quickly to the conditions:
Snow and Ice: These are the most challenging conditions to be driving in, bar none. The most common cause of accidents is skidding. Ice is practically invisible in any light; hit a patch of it at speed and you’ll feel your wheels lose their surface grip, your steering wheel lose all directional control and your buttocks clench. So…
- Slow down. Forget the speed limit, 50mph might be acceptable for routine drives but this is not one of them.
- Test your brakes and your stopping distances before you actually need them.
- Turn and brake slowly; give your tyres plenty of time to grip the tarmac.
- Never assume that just because you’re a great driver, anyone else on the road is. Leave plenty of space between you and other vehicles.
- Take regular breaks. Driving in hazardous conditions can make you incredibly tense or sleepy if you have the heaters on. Take a breather and use it to clear any snow or ice from your mirrors, wheel arches and lights.
Heavy rain or floods: Those people you see on the news, trapped in their car as it floats away in a flash-flood never thought it would happen to them. Don’t let it happen to you.
- Rain and surface spray massively reduce visibility. Learn to love the squeal of your wipers and keep them on at all times.
- Keep your distance from other cars and give their tyre spray a wide berth.
- Never assume that that puddle up ahead is a shallow one, water can accumulate quickly, especially on B roads, making anything like potholes or debris from windswept trees invisible. Slow down, stick your car in a low gear, keep the revs high and keep going until you’re out the other side. If you stop mid puddle, you’re likely to stall and have to wade out.
Fog: This is the creepiest of all weather conditions to be driving in. Lock your doors if it makes you feel better, but most of all:
- Do not use your high beams, this will just light up a wall of fog. Use your fog lights instead, which light up the road.
- Slow down. You might know the road like the back of your hand, but you won’t see those rabbits that normally skip about on the verge creeping onto the tarmac, not to mention cyclists, pedestrians or any other hazards that are suddenly in your path.
- Keep your wipers on to prevent moisture collecting on your windscreen.
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So – stay alert, slow down, make journeys during daylight hours if you can and if in doubt, avoid a journey altogether or pull over until the worst of it has passed.