Now that the first bout of snow has finally hit us in the UK and more bad weather is due, it’s a good time to consider safety behind the wheel in hazardous conditions. Whether it’s more preparation in the morning or a careful approach to your driving, these top tips will help you reduce the risk of being involved in an accident.
Before setting off
Even before setting off on your drive, there are a lot of steps you can take in preparation, to ensure your drive is safer.
- Fully de-ice your windscreen, and ensure the inside of your windscreen is clear and demisted, as it’s illegal to drive without full visibility through your windows.
- Test your wipers to make sure they’re working properly. Do this after you’ve de-iced your windscreen, so you don’t risk breaking them if they’re frozen stuck.
- Make sure your screenwash can handle the temperature. Using an inadequate screenwash could damage your windscreen wipers.
- Consider if your tyres are appropriate for the conditions you’re going to be driving in. Switch to winter tyres if the weather is particularly adverse; these offer better grip in ice and snow. If there’s deep snow, consider using snow socks or snow chains. Snow socks, which fit around your wheels, are the cheaper of the two, and will handle moderate snow. They should be removed once clear of the snow. Snow chains are designed to tackle deep snow, and offer the best grip. They’re more time consuming to fit than snow socks, and they must be removed once clear of the snow, as they can cause damage to both the road and your car outside of snowy conditions. When using snow chains, do not drive above 30mph, and switch off traction control.
Now that you’ve taken all the necessary precautions before setting off, and evaluated the sort of conditions you’ll be driving through, it’s essential that you understand how to be safe on the road itself.
- Drive slower than you would in normal conditions. Accelerate and decelerate slowly and gently and change up to a higher gear as quickly as possible when accelerating to ensure maximum grip. When setting off, or starting and stopping, use second gear to increase your wheel grip as well. If going downhill, stay in a lower gear as well, at a slow and steady speed to alleviate the need to brake too often.
- Rather than adopting your usual distance between you and the car in front, leave extra space to allow for the slippery conditions. Use this mentality of clear space in front of you to prepare for going uphill in the same way, keeping a consistent speed that will get you up the ascent, without the need for sudden or drastic acceleration.
- When encountering a bend, ensure your speed is reduced and you’re braking before you begin to turn into the bend. Don’t put your foot on the accelerator if your car is moving through the bend without it.
If your car does loose grip and begin to slide, steer into the direction that the car is sliding. Do not brake, as that will only cause your car to skid further.
- If it’s snowy conditions you’re driving in and you can’t see further than 100 metres, use your fog lights. Use sunglasses if the sun is reflecting off the snow.
- If the road hasn’t been gritted, don’t follow in the tire tracks of the car in front if you can avoid it, as this will be more slippery than untouched patches.
- Don’t use cruise control when driving in slippery conditions.
- Try and avoid using your parking brake in snowy or icy conditions.