Top tips for winter driving
By Frances Waight
Making sure your car is winter-ready ought to be at the top of every driver’s to-do list, and it’s an even more important consideration if you are the driver of, or a passenger in, an adapted or wheelchair accessible vehicle.
Every winter we hear stories of motorways clogged by snowbound cars and HGVs and motorists having to be rescued from their vehicles by the emergency services, but it is simple to prevent yourself becoming one of the statistics – in fact, it’s often as easy as checking the weather forecast before you embark on a journey.
However, sometimes you have to travel and even the most attentive of weather-watchers can get caught out by fast-changing conditions. Here, are a few simple steps you can take to raise your level of preparedness.
First, your car must be in tip-top shape to tackle the worst of the weather. If you are at the wheel of an AVH-supplied vehicle, you can rest assured that all safety and durability checks have been carried out on the battery, tyres, brakes and other areas essential to safe winter-weather driving.
The pressure in your tyres is critical to road-holding: too high and you will lose traction in corners and bends; too low and on a wet surface your car is likely to swop ends under braking. Use a calibrated tyre gauge regularly to be certain.
It is vital to ensure that your car’s screens, lights and side windows are free from snow and ice before you set off. If you are unable to apply de-icer and scrape your glass, just start your car 10 or 15 minutes ahead of time and let it warm through. It’s not environmentally friendly advice, perhaps, but the safety of the car’s occupants and other road users should be your first consideration.
Despite all these precautions you could still be unlucky and find yourself car-bound for a while until the gritters get things moving again. In which case it is helpful to have – inside the car – a fully charged mobile phone, a torch, warm clothing, a blanket, food and drink, and any medication.
Also while you might not be able to use them yourself, a shovel, and maybe a tow rope kept in the boot could be just the tools needed to help get your car going again should a good Samaritan – and there are a surprising number out and about when it snows – be available to assist.
Driving safely in slush, snow or ice is about measured movements and no sudden manoeuvres. All-round observation is the key to safe driving, especially in winter. For example, don’t start driving up a hill until you can get to the top without stopping.
Hill starts in icy conditions can be tricky so keep calm, ignore any impatient drivers and only set off when it’s safe. Second gear is best when starting on icy surfaces and if your car is an automatic, first release the brake to break the friction and then gently touch the accelerator to get moving.
Tips for driving in snow or ice:
- Watch your speed so you can stop within the distance you can see ahead.
- Avoid harsh braking, acceleration and aggressive steering.
- To slow down on ice and snow, get into a low gear early; foot off the accelerator, allow your speed to fall, and use brakes gently.
- Increase the gap between the vehicle in front up to 10 times the normal distance for braking.
- A road will often have isolated patches of ice after the road has thawed, commonly under bridges so proceed with care.
Approached carefully, driving in winter need not be a concern. When the vehicle is looked after correctly, you have sufficient fuel, and an emergency kit, you concentrate confidently on the road ahead.