Safety tips for winter driving
GEMMA COLLINS DOYLE
It’s that time of the year again, where we need to be extra careful on our roads and be more mindful of driving conditions. Winter brings with it adverse weather, dark evenings and winter sun. As we all know, the weather can be very changeable at this time of the year… one day you are battling flooding and the next day you could be dealing with black ice. Always check the weather forecast before heading off on a journey. If the weather is in any way severe, ask the question, do I really need to travel right now? The following are some top safety tips for winter driving… “If the weather is in any way severe, ask the question, do I really need to travel right now?”
Maintain your vehicle
First things first! Make sure the vehicle you are driving is winter ready.
One of the main hazards with driving at this time of the year is that the sun sets earlier in the day, which means less daylight. So, make sure all your lights are working correctly providing you with the very best illumination. Make sure all bulbs are replaced straight away, clear any snow or ice from your lights.
Cold weather can sometimes make it harder for your car battery to work. As a result, a battery that might be weak in the summer could turn into a dead battery in the winter. Your local garage can carry out a volt test to make sure it’s still in good working order.
Also known as antifreeze is critical to your car, as it keeps your engine from freezing in cold weather. Check your coolant before the winter sets in and make sure there aren’t any leaks in your engine that could cause the coolant to leak out.
Petrol/Diesel and Washer Fluid
Both of these items must be kept topped up this time of the year. Keep them full as much as you can during the winter. Keeping your fuel tank topped up may prevent accumulated water from freezing inside the fuel pump and will help you stay warm by keeping the engine running if you get stuck somewhere. It is really important to keep your washer fluid tank full too. Roads are dirtier in winter, which in turn can cause a dirty windshield. Visibility is key!
Tyres are your only contact with the road, so make sure all your tyres are in good working order and check the thread depth. Tyre pressure is critical to keep an eye in this weather too as when the temperature drops, the tyre pressure can drop too.
Tracking is another thing to consider, if the tracking if off, it can wear the tyres quicker and make it harder for you to steer the car. If you are unsure about anything regarding your tyres, pop along to your local garage or tyre supplier, most of them offer a free winter check-up.
Of course, there are always going to be times that we have to drive in poor weather conditions and that is when we have to be mindful of the way we drive and what to watch out for:
Driving in snow or ice
- Remember, it can take up to ten times longer to come to a stop when roads are icy, be sure to allow more time to slowdown and brake. Keep well away from the car in front.
- If possible, use the highest gear you can (2nd instead of 1st for example). By doing this, you will avoid a wheel spin, which in turn could cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
- Slow down! You’re not in a race! No one is going to give you a prize for getting to your destination faster.
Sudden braking in icy conditions can lead you into a skid; try to avoid it at all costs. Take sharp corners at a slower speed. To prevent skidding when you brake, try and get into a lower gear earlier and brake gently. If you begin to skid, release the accelerator.
Driving in heavy rain and floods
When driving in heavy rain, leave twice as much space between you and the car in front. It takes longer to stop when the roads are wet. If the steering feels light due to aquaplaning, ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually, do not hit the brakes. If you encounter a flood in the road, try to find another route that will allow you to avoid the flood altogether. It’s not worth the risk as you can very quickly find yourself stuck on the roadside. Don’t drive into flood water that’s moving fast or if you don’t know the depth. It’s easy to be deceived about how deep the water is. If you have no option but to drive through it, following these guidelines:
- Let approaching cars pass first.
- Drive slowly and steadily.
- Stay on the crown of the road, where possible.
- Stay in first gear and keep the revs up.
- When you emerge from the water, dry the brakes by tapping them gently a few times.
Be prepared, be safe!
We all know that you will never regret being prepared for anything, winter driving is no different. Be sure that you and your vehicle are ready for anything this time of the year and keep the following items in your vehicle at all times:
- High visibility vest
- Appropriate footwear in case you need to leave your vehicle e.g. boots
- A hazard warning triangle
- Spare wheel
- Tow Rope
- De-icing equipment (for glass and door locks)
- Spare bulbs
- First aid kit
- A fire extinguisher
- Working torch
- A car blanket, additional clothing & some food and water
- Mobile phone charger
Remember, eliminate the risk completely during bad weather and only travel if absolutely necessary. If you do need to drive, be sure to adhere to all the advice above, arrive alive! Safe travels out there!