Winter safety advice


The winter season brings many variations in weather type and as a result driving hazards increase considerably. This is statement is backed up by statistics which show that there are nearly 7,000 more accidents involving cars on the UK’s roads in winter than there are in summer. Wet road conditions can be just a dangerous as snow and ice, not least because drivers tend to slow down when it snows but often drive just as fast in the wet. The number of accidents caused by wet road conditions increases nearly threefold in the winter, whilst drivers are five times more likely to skid in snow and ice than in dry road conditions.

It therefore pays to make sure that your vehicle is properly prepared for the British winter. Here gives you some handy hints and safety advice to make sure you and your family remain safe on the roads over the winter period. One thing to strongly consider first of all though, is the fitting of winter tyres during the winter months.

Preparing Your Car

  • Make sure your car is well maintained – keep it serviced.
  • Check your battery. Keep terminals corrosion free and coated with vaseline.
  • Check your tyre pressures on a regular basis. Incorrectly inflated tyres affect vehicle handling, whilst underinflated tyre increase fuel consumption. Make sure that your spare tyre is also correctly inflated - make sure your tyres have plenty of tread depth.
  • Check your engine oil level every two weeks and before long journeys.
  • Check the coolant level and make sure you have enough antifreeze. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze to water will protect the engine to a temperature of –34 C.
  • Regularly top up your screen wash.
  • Check windscreen wipers and replace if they are smearing
  • Check windows are clean and lights are in good working order. Make sure windows are free of snow and ice. Driving with “portholes” is dangerous and can get you a hefty fine.
  • Keep a tool kit in your car - a jack and wheel removal tools are essential
  • Consider fitting cold weather/winter tyres. The idea that winter tyres only give benefits on snow or ice is years out of date as modern rubber compound technology and advances in tread pattern design means the modern day winter tyre also provides higher levels of road safety on cold and damp road surfaces too. Cold weather tyres give superior grip at temperatures below 7°C which are common in Britain between October and March especially at peak times for travel in the early morning and evening. The compounds used in winter tyres contain a higher proportion of natural rubber and coupled with extended use of silica technology they minimise the hardening effect at low temperatures allowing the tyre to key into the road surface, resulting in higher grip levels. When combined with the highly siped tread patterns used on winter tyres, levels of performance are reached which cannot be matched by summer tyres. 

Driving in the Winter

  • Avoid travelling in severe weather conditions unless it's an emergency
  • Carry an emergency kit in the car. Food, a hot drink, a blanket/coat are essential as are equipment such as an ice scraper, de-icer and a warning triangle. Take a spade if it’s snowing or if snow is likely.
  • Keep your distance. Stopping distances are ten times longer in ice and snow
  • Use gentle manoeuvres when driving in ice and snow. Use second gear when pulling away to avoid wheel spin and use the car’s controls as gently and progressively as possible. In general use the highest gear possible. To brake on ice or snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use the brake pedal gently. If you start to skid, ease off the accelerator but do not brake suddenly.
  • If you get stuck straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels. Put an old rug or something similar in front of the wheels to give the tyres grip. Once moving, don’t stop until on safer ground.
  • Clear snow from roof and windows. Snow on the roof can be a danger both to yourself and other road users.
  • Keep to the main roads wherever possible.
  • Don’t use speeding drivers as a measure of what speed it is possible to drive at. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security.
  • Keep a tool kit in your car - a jack and wheel removal tools are essential.
  • Use dipped headlights and reduce your speed to suit the conditions.
  • In wet weather, stopping distance will be at least double those required on dry roads. Keep well back from the vehicle in front. If the steering becomes unresponsive it means the tyres are not gripping the road (aquaplaning). Ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually.
  • In floods, drive through the flood in first gear without stopping. Once through the water test your brakes. If the water looks too deep, don’t attempt to go through at all. When assessing the depth of water allow for waves caused by vehicles coming the other way.
  • If you do get stuck in snow don’t leave your vehicle unless safety is nearby. Never sit in a sealed car with the engine running – you could asphyxiate yourself with carbon monoxide fumes.

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