How to stay safe on the roads this winter

Posted on Dec 14 2016 - 7:48am by Desk of Editor

As winter approaches, comparison website confused.com suggests that we need to be preparing for when the rain, snow and ice hit the roads. Recent research revealed that 1 in 4 drivers find themselves involved in an accident or have a near miss when driving in poor wintry conditions.

safe-on-the-roads-this-winter

Following this research, Amanda Stretton, the motoring editor at Confused.com, commented: “When the weather turns and you’re out in your vehicle, it can be tempting to put your foot down and drive home as quickly as possible.

“However, icy roads and excessive speeds spell trouble. As well as being more vigilant in these conditions, drivers need to plan their journeys in advance.”

Whilst 10% of motorists choose to completely avoid the roads when the weather strikes, there are many who have no choice but to drive, and for those, Van hire and leasing specialists Northgate want to pass on their best advice to ensure that all motorists have the best knowledge to keep themselves safe on the roads when winter hits.

Be prepared

The Express, has revealed that the Met Office has circulated a caution that the UK is set to face a glacial blast that will cause the coldest winter in 35 years. You have been warned!

But before the worst of this wintry weather hits, we advise carrying out these checks on your car to make sure you can safely make it from A to B this winter:

  • Get your car battery checked by a specialist: Wintry conditions can have damaging effects on vehicles that are slightly older. If you have equipment which may be on its last legs then we strongly recommend getting it checked at your local garage to be safe, so that the cold and damp don’t cause your vehicle to stop working.
  • Top up your engine’s cooling system with antifreeze: This is very important, as antifreeze works to prevent the water in your car engine’s cooling system from freezing.
  • Top up your screen wash bottle with screen wash: In wintry conditions, your windscreen can have a lot thrown at it, especially dirt and grime. You need to make sure you have a clear view through your windscreen, so ensure your windscreen wipers don’t become smeared with grime by filling your car’s screen wash — which also achieves a lower freezing temperature than water alone, so you will have less worry of frozen washer jets too.
  • Have a look at your car’s exterior lights: No matter what conditions you are driving in it is vital that all your exterior lights are working. In wintry conditions, you are likely to use them more often as the days become shorter and the weather deteriorates. Clean them regularly so that a build-up of dirt and salt doesn’t limit visibility.
  • Measure the tread depth of your car’s tyres: By UK law, tyres cannot have a tread depth below 1.6mm. However, the greater the tread the more improved your car’s steering and braking will be.

Emergency checklist

In the event that you get stuck in out on the roads in snow or ice, we recommend that you have these items on board to keep you safe and warm until rescue arrives:

  • A warm change of clothes (this should include a coat, hat, scarf, a pair of thick gloves, some thick socks and wellington boots)
  • A hi-visibility vest
  • A warm blanket
  • A foil or emergency blanket
  • A first aid kit — take a look at this NHS Choices guide on what should be kept inside these
  • An ice scraper
  • Plenty of de-icer
  • A shovel
  • A warning triangle
  • A tow rope
  • A torch
  • High-quality car mats — not only are these useful accessories for your car’s interior, but can be wedged under wheels to help you when you’re stuck in snow.
  • Spare bulbs for your car’s exterior lights
  • A physical map — your sat-nav won’t be of much use if the device’s battery runs flat
  • In-car chargers for your mobile phone
  • Plenty of drinking water
  • Any medication that you or your passengers require
  • Some food

Driving courses

If you are going to be driving regularly when the cold and wet weather hits, it might be a good idea to develop your current driving knowledge and skills to keep you even safer when driving in the snow and ice.

Luckily, there are plenty of options for you if you want to top up your knowledge ahead of winter. BMW provides snow drift training in the Austrian ski resort of Solden, Lapland Ice Driving is an experience recommended by WTCC champion Yvan Muller that takes place in Arjeplog in Sweden, while Ice Drive Sweden has a Drift Academy that offers comprehensive lessons on a frozen lake.

Whilst travelling to a location that is known for its cold wintry conditions is beneficial, the travel could be costly and time-consuming, so there are worthy alternatives here in the UK to help you.

The Goodwood Extreme Weather Driving course, located at the West Sussex track, gives you the opportunity to get to grips with driving on a slippery terrain, training you to handle the vehicle in slippery conditions.

Transport for Bucks are also running free winter driving workshops in Chesham, High Wyconbe and Aylesbury throughout late November and early December. The workshop is split into two parts, the first a talk with a former police response driver to guide you on driving safely in the winter, followed by garage technicians showing you the basic vehicle checks to make sure your vehicle can is up to fighting the cold. To book your place at one of the workshops, simply email roadsafety@buckscc.gov.uk.