A Guide to Driving in Wintery Conditions
The days may be get longer, but January and February are the months when we can expect the worst ice and snow of the winter. Our customers still talk about the 2010 snowfall which happened in January and brought much of Bedfordshire to a halt for weeks. This winter has brought arctic temperatures, so it’s worth laying down preparations for driving in snow and ice.
Driving in snow and driving on ice are both hazardous and require different techniques to remain safe. The Country Vehicles team in Shefford all have their own tales to tell of being stuck in snowdrifts and terrifying skids on icy country lanes. So, we’ve come up with a number of driving tips for the wintery conditions.
Is Driving in Snow and Ice Necessary?
It’s always a good idea to ask yourself this question before you set off in cold or snowy weather. It could be that you feel you have the skills and experience to handle prevailing conditions, but there will be others on the road who aren’t. The less people on the roads in dangerous conditions the better, so if you can put off your journey, err on the side of caution.
Driving on Ice
1. Stopping Distance in Ice
The stopping distance when driving on ice is ten times that of normal braking distances. Your tyre grip is less effective on icy roads which is why you need to be extremely cautious when braking. Winter tyres offer a better performance, but even so, it’s worth assuming that you need to leave the maximum distance you can between you and the person in front.
2. Driving on Black Ice
Black ice is caused by rain falling on a frozen surface. It’s invisible, so the first many drivers know about black ice is when their car skids on it. If you do hit a patch of black ice, there are 3 things you need to do:
1. Avoid the instinct to brake sharply; this will worsen the skid.
2. Use your brakes gently to slow the car down and bring it to a stop.
3. Stay calm. Take your foot off the accelerator and keep your steering straight. If your car is veering to the left or right, don’t try to right it too quickly. Attempt to right the steering gently.
3. Managing a Skid
Feeling yourself skidding in a car is perhaps one of the scariest experiences you can have as a driver. So, it’s well worth knowing how to manage a skidding car in order to regain control. Your instinct will probably be to ‘right’ the car, but what you need to do is gently steer with the skid. Resist the urge to slam on the brake; instead, depress the brake gently and keep you hands firmly on the steering wheel.
4. Driving in Hail
There have been a number of hailstorms this year and experiencing on in a car can feel like you’re under attack. It’s best not to drive in a hail storm if you can avoid it; visibility is poor and large hailstones can cause damage to your vehicle. Find somewhere to pull over – sheltered, if possible – and sit it out.
Driving In Snow
1. Preparing for Driving Through the Snow and Ice
If there’s no alternative to driving through snow and ice, you’ll need to prepare carefully. Assume that conditions can change for the worst, and that your journey will take longer than normal. Don’t put yourself under pressure to arrive at a certain time. A few tips for tackling a snowy journey:
- Take time to clear your car of snow, and check that your windscreen wipers are working properly.
- Clear snow and ice from your windows thoroughly before setting off. The Highway Code requires that you are able to see through every window of your vehicle.
- Use main roads wherever possible as they are likely to have been gritted.
- Check that you’ve got plenty of fuel. If you’re caught in gridlock, you’ll need it.
- Have warm clothes and boots in the car in case you have to trudge through snow.
2. Checks to Carry Out Before Driving in Snow
There are 3 important checks to your vehicle that should be carried out before making a journey in the snow:
- Windscreen Wipers.Often windscreen wipers get frozen to the windscreen in icy and snowy weather. Loosen them with warm water. Don’t turn them on until you’re sure they’re free of ice as this could blow the fuse.
- Screen Wash. In very cold temperatures water freezes on the windscreen, or in your screen wash reserve, both of which can impair visibility. During the winter months invest in a good quality screen wash which protects against freezing end guarantees good visibility for driving.
- Tyres. If your tyres are worn, they won’t grip the snowy or icy surfaces.
3. Driving in Falling Snow
Be prepared to take your journey slower than usual, and keep ten times the normal stopping distance between you and the car in front. If the snow is falling heavily, use dipped headlights, and avoid driving in the wheel tracks of other cars as compressed snow can be slippier than fresh snow. Apply pressure to the brake gently at all times and try to keep a constant speed that gives you plenty of time to react to problems.
3. Driving on Settled Snow
Taking it slowly is key to driving on snow that has settled. Avoid any rapid manoeuvres and keep the car in a low gear at all times. You want to allow your tyres maximum grip on a slippery surface, so give time for this to happen. Keep ten times the normal stopping distance from other cars, especially if you are approaching an incline. There’s no way that you want to be forced to stop on a hill!
Use Local Garage Services to Stay Safe
The UK doesn’t often experience extreme weather during our winters, but sleet or freezing temperatures can create poor driving conditions regularly at this time of year. At Country Vehicles we believe in looking out for local drivers and helping everyone to stay safe throughout the winter. If you have any worries about your vehicle, just pop in and ask us to check it out. We’re a friendly bunch; we’ll always offer you a cup of tea!
If you would like to book in a vehicle service or repairs with Country Vehicle in Shefford, call us on 01234 381555, contact us online, or simply call in.