Make Sure You’re Driving Safely This Winter

7 01 2013

As winter approaches, it’s time to start preparing for a dramatic drop in temperature. Ice, snow and sleet can cause hazardous driving conditions. Take the time to ensure you have taken all necessary precautions to help you complete your journeys safely during the long winter months. You can find below our handy guide for top tips on safe driving in winter.

Before you commence your journey, make sure you check the traffic and weather reports. If the forecast is for inclement weather, ask yourself, is it really necessary to make this journey? It’s much safer to stay at home in the warmth, than to risk driving in such awful conditions. You could also check out the local public transport; it would be far easier, not to mention less dangerous, to take a train, rather than drive. However, if driving is your only option, it’s important to ensure you’re fully prepared.

Ensure you’re fit to drive by getting a good night’s sleep beforehand. Avoid driving if you’re taking any medication that causes drowsiness. Always make sure you have regular stops to give yourself a break from concentrating so hard.

Check the following on your vehicle to ensure it’s in the correct condition for winter weather:

  • Petrol (or diesel). Ensure you have enough to complete your journey and make yourself aware of where the petrol stations are on your route
  • Oil – check the oil level once a month
  • Water – regularly check the radiator and screen-wash levels
  • Damage – look for signs of damage to wipers and lights and clear any snow from windscreens, windows and lights to ensure clear visibility
  • Electrics – check lights, indicators and dashboard controls are fully functioning
  • Rubber Tyres – need to be well inflated with good tread and free from damage

You may also want to invest in some snow socks or snow chains for your tyres. Snow socks are a relatively new concept; they pull over your tyres in much the same way as normal socks. They have a strong textile surface giving increased grip on the roads. Unlike snow chains, they don’t have any metal parts, and are much easier to pull on and off.

It’s a good idea to stock up your vehicle with an emergency kit; this will help to get you out of any scrapes you may encounter along the way.

– First Aid Kit, stocked with plasters, antiseptic wipes, antiseptic cream, any medication you need, safety pins, dressing, bandages
– Mobile Phone Charger – avoid the inevitable loss of battery
– Torch and spare batteries
– Boots, gloves, warm clothes (because it can turn cold very suddenly)
– Water, snacks and thermos (in case you’re stranded for a while)
– Music and games (to keep you and passengers occupied on long journeys)
– Jump leads – you never know when you’re going to need them
– Ice scraper and de-icing spray

If you’re travelling with young children and babies, it’s essential that you have a child car seat; the Law states that until a child reaches 135cm in height, or the age of 12, they must use a car seat. There are different types of child car seats available depending on the weight of your child. It’s important to choose the correct type of seat in order to prevent injury to your child.

– Babies up to 13kg = rear-facing baby seats
– Children from 9-18kg = forward or rear-facing baby seats
– Children from 15-25kg = forward-facing child car seats (also known as booster seats)
– Children over 22kg = booster cushions

It is safe to put the car seat in the front passenger seat of all vehicles, providing it fits correctly.

Ice and snow cause roads to become slippery; as such, it is important that all drivers reduce their speed in such conditions and avoid breaking harshly, as this could cause the vehicle to skid and spin. Remember also to increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front of you. Winter weather can cause stopping distance to increase 10 fold, no matter how fast your reactions are. Main roads are likely to have been gritted, so wherever possible use these and avoid some of the more treacherous narrow lanes.

It’s important to always take your time, not to rush anything and to be well prepared. Driving faster won’t get you to your destination any quicker; you’re more likely to crash. Think of the story of the tortoise and the hare – slow and steady wins the race.

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