Increasingly unpredictable weather could throw anything at us over the coming months as winter arrives, which is why drivers need to be prepared for the worst.
Follow our top tips to stay safe this winter.
- Do you really have to drive?
If the weather conditions are looking risky – and that could include heavy rain, high winds, ice or snow – it might just be best for drivers to avoid hitting the road, if that’s possible. If you’re due to meet face-to-face, opt for teleconferencing or Skype to avoid the worst inclemency and minimise on-road risks.
Planning is the key to any safe journey. Drivers should check the weather forecast and consider their routes, choosing major roads as much as possible, because these will be the ones that are best maintained, gritted, or cleared of snow.
- Allow plenty of time
The last thing that drivers want to be doing when on the road in poor weather conditions is to be rushing. They should, therefore – after checking the forecast – think about how long the journey is realistically likely to take. And then add some time, to avoid any stress or feeling the need to rush and take unnecessary risks.
- Get kitted up
Drivers should gather up the components for a winter survival kit and keep them in the boot, to help you out if the worst happens and they get stranded.
Kits can be bought complete or put together separately. Items should include a spade, tow rope, a backup charger for a mobile phone, blanket, food and drink, sunglasses, spare clothes and a pair of stout boots. Warm clothes, gloves and hats and sturdy boots are also a must to help drivers keep warm while digging their car out.
A torch – better still, a head torch – is essential. Drivers should make sure they have at least one set of spare batteries.Handheld mechanically powered torches can be a good alternative as they require no batteries (making them better for the environment as well as more practical) and turn on simple by shaking them or pressing a handle.
Another useful item, if snow is forecast, is cat litter or gravel, which can be placed under the wheels to help provide traction if a vehicle gets stuck in snow.
- Check it out
Before setting off, especially in bad weather, drivers must ensure that their vehicle is in as good a condition as possible.
The key phrase to remember is Flowery:
Fuel: is the tank full?
Lights: working and clear of mud, dirt and snow?
Oil: correct level?
Water: are the coolant, anti-freeze and washer fluid topped up?
Electrics: battery in good condition?
Rubber: are tyres in good condition and at correct pressure?
You: are the driver and any passengers ready for what could be a long journey?
- Be observant
Ice and snow especially bring with them numerous hazards, so drivers should look out for black ice, especially in shady, wet and exposed areas. In snowy conditions, reference points such as road markings and potential dangers such as verges, ditches and solid objects can be covered, so look for hints.
Drivers also need to be conscious of other vehicles (and other drivers), keeping well back, especially if they haven’t been cleared of snow. Pedestrians walking in the road or on slippery or blocked pavements are another hazard, as is sunlight reflecting off snow, wet surfaces or water (which is why a pair of sunglasses is useful).
Finally, drivers should look for changes to the road, including the surface and gradient, which can affect the level of grip and the stopping distance of a vehicle.