Winter is the most dangerous time for drivers with a number of hazards causing sometimes fatal accidents. Alongside icy road conditions effecting car traction and breaking distances, the low sun is also a danger and can blind drivers to oncoming vehicles and dangers.
And with the extra cold an ice damaging windscreens and affecting car performance in general, it is a good idea to follow a quick checklist before you leave the house each morning to ensure a safe journey. Here’s a winter driving checklist:
Before Setting Off
- Ensure all ice is removed from the windows
- Remove any snow from the vehicle, including the roof
- Fully de-mist the windows BEFORE setting off
- Check your petrol level – if it’s low, fill up sooner rather than risk getting stuck in the colder weather
- Antifreeze: Look at your engine coolant levels and add anti-freeze if necessary to stop this important liquid freezing over night. This same approach should be used for screen wash too
- Your battery will be the most likely cause of a breakdown during the winter months. Get it checked at a garage if it’s older than five years old
- Check your lights haven’t dulled over time. Road markings and road studs may be covered by snow in winter and so good visibility is even more important
Even when you’ve made all necessary checks to your vehicle, crashes and other unforeseen breakdowns can happen, which are a nuisance at the best of times, and potentially dangerous during the festive period and New Year.
Keep in the Car
Here’s a checklist of things you can consider keeping in your car or truck during the winter:
- Carpet offcuts or cardboard for traction when stuck in snow and ice
- In-car phone charger and phone to call for help
- Torches in case the car battery runs flat and you’re stranded at night
- A blanket for extra warmth, again a must-have in case of battery issues or low fuel and the heating can’t be left on
- Sunglasses to help with the glare of the sun
- Details of your breakdown recovery dealer
- Keep a bottle of water and a chocolate bar in your car, just in case you do get stranded for a long period
- All personal medication for potentially life-threatening conditions
- Warning triangle for breakdown safety
Winter Driving Tips
With potential icy road conditions, the way you drive during the winter months needs to alter to ensure safety of yourself and other drivers on the road.
Here are some winter driving tips:
- Leave up to 10 times more space to the car in front of you whilst driving, and also leave a bigger gap than usual when pulling up to junctions.
- Use low revs and then switch to higher gears quicker during acceleration to help reduce wheel slip. Try moving off in second gear if you’re struggling.
- Automatic drivers should accelerate at a slower rate than they would in dry conditions to avoid wheel-spin and lost control.
- If you do skid, don’t break heavily. Instead, go with the skid. If the back of the vehicle slips right, turn your steering wheel right as well to avoid turning sideways on the road.
- Tyre tracks on ungritted roads can gather ice. On rural roads in particular, it can be safer to drive on snow as opposed to marks left by other vehicles, even with the temptation to follow if road markings are covered.
- Breaking should be done gradually so leave yourself plenty of time to stop whilst approaching junctions and lights.
- It’s an obvious one, but there’s no shame in driving slower if the roads are slushy, ice could be present and driving conditions are not ideal