Last weekend saw parts of the UK blanketed in more than 12 inches of snow. Hazardous weather conditions of ice, snow and heavy rain greatly increase the risk to drivers on roads. Ice causing an 11 car pile-up on the A19 reminds us that this is as important time as ever to reiterate how best you can stay safe when driving in these dangerous conditions.
Highways England, the body responsible for keeping England’s motorways and major ‘A’ road clear of ice and snow, have been urging drivers to drive slowly and to leave plenty of space between them and the car in front. It is vital that road users remember that stopping distances double in wet conditions and increase by ten times the distance in ice and snow. It is therefore no surprise that driving in such conditions can be grossly dangerous.
The UK is still set to suffer a rollercoaster of temperatures over the coming weeks and there is potential for further downfalls of snow. This, coupled with the fact many road users have very little experience of driving in such extreme conditions, makes it important to take some time to consider how you may have to adjust your journey preparation and driving.
How should you prepare to stay safe on the roads during these conditions?
- Plan ahead! Carefully plan for your journey and ensure you look at local weather reports.
- In very bad conditions then reconsider the necessity of your journey and only travel if absolutely necessary.
- Allow much more time for your journey than you normally would.
- Ensure your vehicle is well maintained and has had an up-to-date MOT, regular service and regular walk-around checks.
- Pack a winter driving kit which could be essential in the event of becoming stuck in the snow. This should include a torch (preferably a wind up torch to prevent a battery running out), de-icer, ice scraper, a charged mobile phone (although do not become tempted to use this whilst driving), phone charger, warm clothes, blanket, food and drink, first-aid kit, a warning triangle and a hi-vis vest.
- Keep a pair of sunglasses in your vehicle all year round (prescription if required).
- Before you leave ensure you have cleared your vehicle of snow from its windows, mirrors, lights and roof.
- Check your wipers – This is vital to ensure you can clean your windscreen effectively. If you have auto wiper control then ensure this is turned off before you turn on the ignition to avoid the control fuse being blown.
- Check your tyres – These should be checked for adequate tread to ensure grip is as sufficient as possible. If conditions are really bad then consider whether you require snow socks or snow chains.
- Check your screen wash – You will need a good quality screen wash capable of protecting down to at least -35 to prevent water from freezing.
How can you drive safely in snow and ice?
- Accelerate gently using low revs and change into a higher gear as soon as possible.
- In order to reduce wheel slip, move off in second gear.
- Leave a much bigger gap between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you – remember stopping distances in ice/snow should be 10 times the normal recommended gap.
- If your vehicle does begin to skid, try not to panic and steer gently into it – Do not take your hands off the steering wheel or stamp your foot on the brakes.
- If you are driving along a road which has not been gritted, be very wary of driving in the wheel tracks of other vehicles as compressed snow is much more slippery and dangerous.
- Ensure you have a pair of sunglasses handy to help reduce the glare of low winter sun on the snow
- Be extra alert for people and hazards as visibility is greatly reduced in adverse weather conditions.
- Finally, keep your speed down and allow more time to stop, steer and manoeuvre your vehicle.
We hope everyone stays as safe as possible throughout the winter season.