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Winter driving tips
The roads are at their most treacherous in winter and that's largely the weather's fault but we can all do our bit to make travel safer and less stressful. Below are some top winter driving tips.
Winter Motoring Guide
1. Plan your journey
First things first, before you go anywhere remember to take a few simple precautions to help your journey run smoothly.
The weather: Always take the weather into account when planning your journey. That doesn't just mean having a quick glance out of the window before you set off. Look-up the weather forecast and if you're travelling long distances, remember to check the likely weather for your route and destination.
Do you need to travel?: If the prognosis from the Met office looks particularly grim, ask yourself the all-important question. Do I really need to make this journey? If there's an alternative to heading out onto the roads in treacherous weather conditions, the best advice is to take it.
Route planning: If what's forecast to be coming out of the sky isn't too serious or the trip is an essential one, go for it - but plan your route carefully. Program your trusty satellite navigation system if you have one but take a conventional map too for back-up. You don't want to be out on the roads any longer than necessary so getting lost should be avoided.
Use main roads: In bad weather, stick to major roads where possible. They should have better lighting, clearer road markings and are more likely to have been gritted in icy or snowy conditions. If traffic is bad on your chosen route, think twice before taking to the back roads. They might be empty but could be dangerous or even impassable due to flooding, ice or snow.
Stay in touch: Keep up to date with the latest traffic reports before and during your journey. There are more accidents and hold-ups in winter and staying informed could save you lots of hassle.
Be prepared: Take items with you to ensure you're well prepared in the event of a breakdown or hold-up. Our winter motoring checklist will help.
Prepare your car: Allow an extra few minutes at the start of your journey to prepare your car. Make sure your windows are completely clear and remove any snow from the roof, it could slide down and obstruct your view. Use your air-conditioning to heat the car, this will reduce condensation on the insides of the windows.
2. Adjust your driving style
Winter weather places a unique set of demands on drivers and their cars. Failing light levels, reduced visibility and slippery road surfaces are not the conditions anyone would choose to drive in but by adapting the way we drive to the conditions, everyone can get around safely when the elements do their worst.
Keep 'em peeled: Observation is always at the heart of driving safely but when the weather's bad, it becomes even more important. Think about the road you're driving on. Is it high up where temperatures can be lower? Is it low and prone to flooding? Is it exposed to strong winds? Are there bridges or other shady spots where ice could form? By watching and being aware of the conditions, you can take the appropriate steps to stay safe.
Slow down: Give yourself more time to properly appraise the conditions by reducing your speed. This is particularly important if light levels are low and when visibility is reduced by rain or fog. Controlling your speed through corners or when descending hills is particularly important as there's a greater risk of skidding.
Fog: Use dipped headlights in fog, switching to fog lights if visibility is less than 100m. Lower your speed and resist the temptation to go faster if the fog clears. Fog is usually patchy and visibility could suddenly fall again further up the road.
Rain: In the wet, stopping distances increase dramatically so leave a larger gap to the car in front. If your car starts to aquaplane on surface water, lift off the accelerator and resist the temptation to brake or make sudden steering inputs.
Floods: When driving through flood water remember that it's usually deepest near the kerb. Keep the engine revs high and your speed low but maintain your forward momentum. If at all possible, don't drive into flood water unless you can gauge how deep it is.
Wind: In strong winds always be on your guard, powerful gusts can have a sudden and dramatic effect on your car. Watch trees and bushes at the roadside to gauge the severity of the wind and reduce your speed accordingly. High-sided vehicles are particularly vulnerable to being blown off course so give them extra room and take care as you pass them. The same goes for cyclists and motorcycles. Watch out for debris being blown across the road too.
Ice: In snowy or icy conditions use as high a gear as possible and make smooth, gentle inputs with your steering, accelerator and brakes. Avoid braking at all if possible, control your speed and maintain a safe distance from the car in front. If your tyres stop making a noise on the road surface, this could be a sign that you're driving on ice.
Snow: If you get stuck in deep snow, don't sit there spinning your wheels. The snow around the tyre will simply melt and re-freeze, lessening your chances of escape. You could try digging away at the snow around the wheels, if you have a shovel, or putting down salt to melt the snow, if you have some. Sand and cat litter are also sometimes used to help tyres get a grip.
Failing all of that, you may be able to rock the car out. Reverse then quickly change gear and drive forwards. Repeat this, using the car's momentum to break free of the slick spot. If that doesn't work, you're officially stuck.
3. Emergencies - what to do if you breakdown.
Should the worst come to the worst and you find yourself stranded at the roadside this winter with the weather closing in, here's what to do.
If possible, position your car so that it doesn't obstruct the road and isn't in a dangerous position. Stopping immediately at the bottom of an icy slope or on the outside of a slippery bend is never the best idea.
Turn on your hazard lights, leave your headlights on and if on a busy road, exit the vehicle through the passenger side, staying well away from oncoming traffic. Putting out a warning triangle is a good idea to give traffic advance notice of your position.
You can prop the bonnet open to indicate that you've broken down but don't do this in heavy rain, wet electrics are bad news.
If on a motorway or other major road, call for help using the emergency telephones at the roadside rather than your mobile phone. That way, your position can be more easily pinpointed.
Don't abandon your car unless there's no alternative. Cars left at the roadside in bad weather can obstruct the emergency services and gritting lorries.
4. Drinking and driving
Christmas, New Year and the associated party season crop-up in the middle of winter and hot on their heels each year, the issue of drinking and driving is launched back into the headlines.
The best advice is always to abstain completely from drinking if you intend to drive. Stick to that and you can't fall foul of the UK's drink-driving limit which currently stands at 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. Nominate someone to drive who isn't drinking or, better still, take a taxi.
Research has shown that even a small amount of alcohol can affect your driving and that's true as long as it remains in your bloodstream. Many motorists believe that they're safe to drive the morning after a night out but the reality is that alcohol can linger in your system for hours.
Leave at least twelve hours between having a drink and getting behind the wheel to ensure you're safe to do so.
MSN Cars Winter Motoring Guide
Winter car checklist
Preparing your car for winter
Choosing a car for winter
Winter driver training
Best winter cars
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There is no bad weather...... just bad drivers....
7.30 am the country road I travel every morning was blocked by a huge fallen tree..... I managed to stop just in time.... put the hazard lights on..... called the emergency services and as I am on the phone I can see in my rear mirror 1 car approaching ... at high speed.... and guess what... exactly.... it went past me and drove straight into the dam tree..... the driver was very very lucky ... apart from being wide awake all over sudden and feeling like a idiot.... not much damage done....
Local Farmers came to cut the tree into pieces and cleared the road as all emergency services are stretched to the limit... so do them a favour and drive with care... and if you are not comfortable with driving in bad weather.....stay at home or get a taxi or take the bus.....it not just makes your life safer but ours as well.....
A driver's biggest fault in any conditions on the road is 'driving too close to the vehicle in front' 'keep back where you are safer and can see' especially if it is a large vehicle in front of you, you won't get there any faster and sometimes you will not arrive at all.
Diploma in Driving Instructor.
The only safe issue for any car or van when snow conditions are set on untreated roads is the garage.
Note garage not parked at the side of the road creating additional hazards to essential emergency vehicles.
Having spent over thirty years dealing with essential high voltage electricity outages, the most dangerous experiences was the general motorist.
Unfortunately most of the general public have never been trained to drive in snow, or icy conditions !
Furthermore they all consider that a normal car or van will succeed were four wheel drive is a basic requirement.
Also, we all suffer by their incompetence because of accident damage to their own vehicle or other properties.
Be sensible use the garage and leg it, it will keep all our insurance costs down
Well, well, well, i thought that was taught on taking a driving test!
People round my way dont even understand a simple permit parking sign - ignorant b*****d motorists who dont care who they kill on the roads.
Lets do 70 in a 30 limmit why are the roads not policed as they used to be?
I drove home from work yesterday from East Midlands Airport to Birmingham. Most drivers where clueless or where already victims of their own clueless driving. Simple rule is if you don't need to drive then don't do it, that could be in any weather condition. Too many people driving far too close, its not a 2 second gap its a 10 second gap, problem is they hadn't even a 2 second gap , Braking ? Why so many people using their brakes to control their speed, plan ahead and keep a gap will help and use as high a gear as possible, if you need to slow down use engine braking (lower through the gears) and if breaks need to be applied then tap them. Avoid making swerving movements if you need to overtake start well early and drift into the other lane not turn....so simple yet the lack of intelligence and information given is a joke, driving like miss daisy doesn't help either as crawling speeds are more likely to cause you to skid .
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