Top 5 tips for winter driving
Icy roads, brutal storms and the low morning sun can all make for treacherous driving conditions during the winter months. Even the shortest journey can be hazardous, and the daily commute to work can become a real challenge. Making sure you know how to handle your vehicle is imperative to ensure you stay safe during the cold snap. Here are our top five winter driving tips...
Get your vehicle prepared
Many areas across the UK have already experienced the wrath of the elements in recent months. So before the weather has chance to wreak any more havoc, make sure your car is prepared for whatever is thrown at it.
Give your car a full health check by checking all your lights and that your brakes are in good working order. Make sure your windscreen is clean and smear-free and your battery fully charged.
Check the condition and pressure of your tyres and ensure they have the correct tread depth – the AA recommends at least 3mm for winter motoring.
Finally, make sure that your windscreen wash, anti-freeze and oil are all topped up to the correct levels.
Avoid snow and ice – or know what to do
A winter wonderland may look pretty but it can be lethal for drivers. So in snow and ice don’t take any chances and avoid all non-essential trips.
However, if it is absolutely necessary for you to drive, then knowing how to manoeuvre your car in the safest possible way is crucial.
Before you set off, plan your route to avoid minor or country roads that are unlikely to have been gritted. If your windscreen is frozen don’t move off until it has completely cleared and remove any snow from your lights, number plate and mirrors.
Don’t forget to check the roof – snow could slide on to your windscreen once you’re on the move and block your view.
Once you’re actually on the road, slow, smooth and gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving in snow and ice. When pulling away, put the car in second gear and ease your foot off the clutch to avoid wheel spin.
If your vehicle skids, depress the clutch and turn the steering wheel into the direction of the skid. While it’s a natural reaction to brake, don’t be tempted – this will cause your wheels to lock and you'll skid further.
Stopping distances increase ten-fold in icy conditions so make sure you maintain a good distance between you and the vehicle in front. And if you need to brake, get into a low gear earlier than normal to bring your speed down – and use your brakes gently.
Prepare for low winter sun
The low winter sun can be particularly hazardous and it has a habit of hitting in the early morning, just as commuters are making their way into work. This kind of sun can significantly reduce your visibility, making it very difficult to judge the road and vehicles ahead.
A smeared windscreen can magnify the problem so ensure it is clean and free from grease and grime both inside and out, and always carry chamois leather.
Use your visor, wear sunglasses and remember that vehicles around you are also likely to also be dazzled so anticipate how they may react. Reduce your speed and increase your distance from the vehicle in front. Try not to slam on your brakes as this could cause the car behind to run into you.
Don’t underestimate flood levels
Flash floods can happen very quickly and seemingly come out of nowhere. If you live in a flood-prone area, be cautions and aware that one could be on its way. Take the necessary precautions and again, only drive if absolutely necessary.
When driving through large puddles, drive slowly and steadily and always test your brakes after leaving the water.
However, don’t attempt to drive through flooded areas, even if the water appears shallow enough to cross. The water could be hiding dips in the road and just six inches is enough to reach the bottom of many cars which could then cause you to lose control or stall.
No matter how good a driver you are, the British weather is unpredictable and anyone can get caught out.
If you are planning on driving home for Christmas or taking a long journey, make sure you pack an emergency kit containing food, a large flask, water, a warm blanket or sleeping bag, shovel and bright reflective clothing. Fill up on fuel before you set off, tell your family and friends an estimated time of arrival and make sure your mobile phone is fully charged.
Regardless of the time of year, never drive without adequate car insurance. And, in winter especially, breakdown cover is also well advised. Don’t pay over the odds though – compare deals on both at MoneySupermarket.
Every week, Clare Francis, financial journalist and editor of comparison site moneysupermarket.com will offer tips and advice on all things money-related to help iVillagers make the most of their hard-earned cash. From energy bills to car insurance; credit cards to children’s savings accounts; mortgages to discount vouchers Clare will show you how to make sure you’re getting the best deal.