Driving in snow
The coldest season is now approaching, with this comes much tougher driving conditions. Accidents and breakdown are much more likely to happen during the winter, even for the most experienced of drivers. The biggest issues come from driving in snow or on icy roads.
This is why Insurance Revolution have put together some advice and tips for driving in snow and wintry conditions.
Before setting off
There are certain checks you should make even before you start driving.
One of the main things you should do is make sure your vision from the car will be as clear as possible, as well as;
- Make sure you clean your windscreens inside and out
- If you have snow on top of your car you should clear it. If you leave it on it could drop onto your front windscreen when you are driving
- Replace any damaged or worn windscreen wipers
- Make sure your lights are clean. If they have mud or dirt on them it can decrease visibility
- Try setting off earlier than you usually would. This gives you time to de-ice the car
- Check your fuel levels. You should keep your fuel at least quarter of the way full
- Use anti-freeze!
- Make sure your tyres are in good condition. Your grip on the road will be severely reduced, so making sure your tyres are suitable is essential. Legally the minimum tread you can have on your tyres is 1.6mm, however, grip can start to reduce on anything below 3mm
Driving in bad weather
Here are some tips for once you set off and start your journey in difficult winter conditions.
Take your time
This is an important one, during difficult weather conditions you should never drive like you’re in a rush. Make sure you take your time, give yourself as much time as possible by leaving earlier than you usually would. This means there is no need to stress, or panic about being late, which helps concentrate on your driving carefully. You should also be aware of black ice, it is really difficult to notice so can be a hazard if you are not careful.
If you do hit black ice
It is possible to recover from a skid if you hit some black ice. The main things to remember is to keep both hands on the wheel and steer into the skid, and to try to avoid using your brakes. This can be difficult as it is a time you could panic and your instinct will be to brake. Try to stay calm and remember those two bits of advice.
Keep your distance
Driving in any weather you should be making sure you keep enough distance between you and the car in front of you. This is even more important during the winter, when rain, snow or ice could massively increase your stopping distances. If you are driving too close to the car in front of you and they suddenly brake, you will not be able to stop in time.
Use a higher gear when driving in snow and ice
You can have much better control of your car in a higher gear. Setting off in second gear, rather than first can help you avoid wheel spin. This is particularly useful if you are struggling to set off in the ice or the snow.
Rain, wind and fog
It is not just snow and ice you should be wary of, as rain, wind and fog can also make your driving experience more difficult. Again, the best thing to do is drive carefully, keep both hands on the wheel and slow down. If the road is slippy or visibility is poor you should drive to the conditions of the road, not the speed limit. If you are on a 40mph road, that doesn’t mean you have to travel at 40mph. It’s more important to drive safely. During heavy winds it is best to keep overtaking to a minimum, especially try to avoid overtaking large vehicles such as lorries.
Carry a winter breakdown kit
We think it is alway best to be prepared. You might not like to think you will need a breakdown kit, but it doesn’t take much effort to store one in the boot of your car. If you should breakdown you will be happy you have the kit, and will regret it if you don’t.
Here is a list of what we think you should pack;
- Spare warm clothes and blankets – Most people don’t like to drive whilst wearing a coat as it can feel restrictive, but you should still pack one. It is also advisable to pack a hat, scarf and gloves because if you do breakdown in the winter, you will be stuck in your car with no heat. If you have any passengers in your car you should ask them to bring spare warm clothes too.
- High-visibility jacket & torch – After you breakdown, if you need to leave your vehicle for any reason then you should be wearing a high-vis jacket. The reasons should be obvious, it is much safer if you can be seen by other motorists. As well as being safer, in some European countries it is a law that you must have a high-visibility item of clothing. It would help you out massively if you have a torch available too.
- Ice scraper – You should have an ice scraper and a de-icer, such as antifreeze available. Before you leave your home you would have to use these to keep your windscreen clear. The same applies if you have broken down, your windscreen could frost over whilst you are broken down, and if the car is fixed and you are able to set off again, you need these items available to clear your windscreen.
- Walking Boots – You might have driven in more comfortable footwear, but if you need to exit the vehicle after a breakdown it would be safer to put on some boots with good grip. This will help you if the floor outside the car is icy or wet.
- Reflective warning signs – You will need two of these and they normally come in the form of a triangle. If you breakdown you should be putting them 45 metres away from the car, one at the front and one at the rear. You should not use these on a motorway. As well as being safer, carrying these signs is a legal requirement in many European countries.
- Shovel – If you do get stuck in the snow, having a shovel will help you dig your way out of trouble.
- Jump start cables – Batteries are more likely to die during the cold winter season. These can be useful if you are offering help from a fellow motorist.
- First aid kit – It is a good idea to have this in your car all year round, not just the winter.
- Food and drink – You never know how long you will be broken down for. Your experience could be even worse if you are hungry or thirsty and you will be thanking yourself if you have some hot drinks or soup in a flask available.