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Winter driver training
As drivers, it's tempting to think that we know it all. Most of us drive our cars every day and cover thousands of miles each year, so some level of confidence in our own abilities is understandable. In winter, though, overestimating our skills behind the wheel can be a costly mistake. Good winter driver training is one way to minimise the risks.
Winter conditions have a nasty habit of exposing the over-confident and under-prepared. Snow, ice and standing water all present their own particular dangers and a little tuition on how to handle them properly could pay dividends. But what sort of training should you get and how can you get it?
Research by the AA has shown that as the country was gripped by snow and ice in January 2010, road accidents increased by almost 50% compared to the same period a year earlier. In the wake of that unusually prolonged cold snap, more companies and organisations have started offering training courses focused on driving in winter weather. There's quite a bit of choice out there but all of the courses are not the same.
Winter Motoring Guide
Learning the basics
At one end of the spectrum, some councils offer winter driving workshops that give basic instruction on how to prepare for and drive in cold weather. You can typically expect these to involve a presentation on how to prepare your car for winter and how to drive on winter roads.
There's unlikely to be any practical tuition but the course should be inexpensive. Visit your local council website to see what's on offer in your area. Some local car dealerships may also offer a similar service.
If you'd like to get out on the road for some more practical tuition, many driving schools are now offering specialist training in winter driving. A few hours with an instructor running through the dos and don'ts of negotiating icy roads could make all the difference if things turn chilly.
There's a limit to what a driving instructor can show you in good conditions on public roads but these hands-on courses can be a real benefit. Many fleet management companies will offer similar courses which company car drivers should be able to get their employers to pay for.
If you really what to learn what it feels like to lose control of your car on a slippery road surface and then, hopefully, regain it again, you'll need to venture off the public road. There are a number of specialist driver training companies and car manufacturers that run winter driving courses right here in the UK.
These usually take place at specialist test tracks with skid pans where drivers can learn how to deal with understeer and oversteer situations. You can also learn first-hand how to work with the car's stability control and ABS braking systems. The price of such courses might put some people off but you should come away as a more confident and safer driver in hazardous conditions.
Ultimate winter driving experiences
For the ultimate winter driving experiences, you can't wait for the British weather to come up with the goods. You'll need to head off to far flung locations where they know what real wintery conditions look like and know how to handle them when behind the wheel.
The costs associated with this top echelon of advanced winter driving courses can be prohibitive but they're really only for the experienced driver looking to hone their skills - and have some fun.
Many performance driver training companies run trips to the Arctic Circle where you can drift your way around frozen lakes and tackle snow-packed rally stages. Some manufacturers also offer similar events with winter trips to Scandinavia or Canada that will really put the dustings of snow we get here into perspective.
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