Hazards over the Holidays: A guide on what to know while driving during winter.
As the harsh winter months draw in and the risk of snow, sleet and ice increase, there are added driving hazards that all motorists must consider.
Although an element of common sense will factor into how you should be driving differently in winter conditions, there are a lot of important factors that even experienced drivers need to remember.
Hazards to be aware of:
Black ice: Black ice is where a transparent coating of ice sits on the surface of a road, and this is considered one of the most dangerous winter driving hazards. Black ice is unpredictable and dangerous due to it almost invisibility, making the risk of skidding and unexpected loss of traction incredibly high.
Battery failure: Car batteries can be affected by the cold temperatures making them lose their ability to recharge quickly or fail completely if they of a certain age.
Dark conditions: Winter brings nightfall earlier meaning many 9-5 workers will travel home in the dark. A 2017 survey by ROSPA revealed that 40% of all collisions occur in the hours of darkness and it is important to take care when driving at night due to reduced visibility and increased difficulty in judging speed and distance.
Other drivers: In the UK we are not cursed with icy or snowy conditions often, so it is understandable that inexperienced drivers will be on the roads. Leaving enough room in case of skids and accidents from other road users is a must and may be the difference in saving yourself from an accident.
How to stay safe:
Service the vehicle: If your car is due a service, make sure to get it done before the winter weather sets in. Drivers also have a duty of care themselves to inspect the vehicle before heading off on a journey by checking the condition of the tyres, cleaning the lights and washing and clearing the windscreen of snow and ice thoroughly.
Prepare an emergency kit: When extreme weather is a possibility, an emergency kit located within the vehicle could be a lifesaver. It is recommended for an emergency kit to have de-icing equipment, warm clothes, a hazard warning triangle, a shovel, tow rope and a first aid kit. Also keep in mind how you intend on contacting for help in an emergency so an in car mobile phone charger may come in handy.
Maintain visibility: It doesn't matter how skilled you are at driving if you can't see where you're going. Lack of visibility is one of the top reasons for winter driving accidents. Take the time to clear all snow and ice from windows, mirrors, headlights and roof before driving.
Be extra vigilant for people and hazards: Drive slowly and cautiously so you can spot vulnerable road users in plenty of time and not put them in danger. Breaking harshly in snow or ice is extremely dangerous because wheels will not grip well on the ground, causing a vehicle to spin and significantly decreasing driver control. To slow down on ice and snow, drivers must instead lift the throttle early to allow the speed to drop gradually in order to select a lower gear.
Avoid driving altogether: If possible, avoid driving in snow and other treacherous conditions altogether. Never set off when it's snowing heavily or if it’s forecast to snow.
Had any interesting experiences while driving in winter? Let us know in the comments!
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