When winter hits and the bad weather arrives, for many, there’s no choice but to tackle driving to go about daily life. Of course, this often involves driving in heavy rain, wind, ice and even snow, so what can we do to ensure that we are as safe as possible on the road, both for ourselves and fellow road users? The advice may be to avoid driving wherever possible in adverse weather conditions. Still, sometimes it can not be avoided, or you may get caught out after you have already left home, so understanding some simple precautions you can take is always a good idea.
Take confidence-boosting lessons
Driving requires confidence and ability. You may have recently passed your test or been driving for many years, but it always pays to know as much as you can before driving in poor weather conditions. Having a skilled instructor by your side to point out things to be aware of and allow you to practice safely may be a good idea. A personalised lesson for your circumstances, such as those offered by Beverly Slater Driver Training, will help you be safer on the roads, whatever the weather.
Ensure your vehicle is in a safe, roadworthy condition. Carrying out checks routinely throughout the year and more so in winter is essential. Check tyre treads. If they are close to or on the legal limit, you should consider fitting new tyres before your journeys. In fact, when winter bad weather is about to set in, check all your tyres and make changes sooner rather than later. Ensure that you set off with sufficient warm clothing and, for longer journeys or where you are away from home, carry appropriate warm drinks, snow shovels and emergency survival kits with you. Check oil and tyre pressures routinely. Make sure your vehicle fluid levels are topped up regularly. You don’t want to break down or face window wiper water running out mid-journey when foggy or wet outside.
Slow and steady
As the saying goes, it is better to arrive late than not to arrive at all. You may be short on time but don’t be tempted to rush if adverse weather hits. Leave early and give yourself plenty of time for your journey or get there late if that ensures you drive safely. The speed limit is a maximum, so don’t be afraid of the weather dictating a lower speed than that indicated on road signs. If you struggle with visibility, you will need longer reaction times. You may also meet unexpected obstacles, such as fallen trees, stranded vehicles and road gritting crews that, if approached too fast, could see you unable to stop in time. If you can, avoid smaller country lanes, or roads with little traffic. Staying on main roads wherever possible is always safer, as these are most likely to be gritted and have more room to keep safely distant from other road users.
Learn your vehicle’s capabilities in all weathers. Look around and constantly assess the likelihood of danger or unexpected happenings, such as a tree in the road or a slow or poorly lit vehicle appearing. Allow extra space at junctions to stop and be aware of other drivers who may struggle to control their vehicle and overshoot junctions. Early controlled braking is always safer than a last minute slammed stop. When there is standing water, ice or snow on the road or verges, stopping times will be more significant and your vehicle will respond differently. Remember, you will not always see ice until it is too late. Be aware of the general environment, take note of weather warnings and follow safe driving techniques to get a feel for where problems may arise and be better prepared.
And our last word, if you are taking non-routine or longer journeys, let someone not travelling with you know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and your expected arrival time.