We won’t discuss winter tires & chains, just simple checks and fixes you can do today to improve your winter driving safety.
One evening I left home on the edge of Bristol heading in for the centre. It wasn’t an unusual drive and should have taken about 12-15 minutes. Still that day it took close to 2 hrs…. only a few minutes into the drive it had started to snow and the whole place ground to a halt. Now there wasn’t much snow – I live in Canada now, and might not even notice the snowfall we had that day – but I still remember the effect it had on that trip and all the drivers. With that in mind, here are our top 5 winder driving trips, straight to you from the great white north.
Be Prepared for Winter Driving
This first tip is probably the one you’ve heard before – be prepared for the winter. So what does it mean? Winter comes round every year, still every time it does some local authority somewhere says they “weren’t prepared” for the conditions. Round here, we prepare in November for the coming winter and that might be a good time for you to check:
- Anti-freeze – do you have the appropriate fluid in your radiator?
- Screen wash – consider adding anti-freeze, or get screen wash appropriate for low temperatures before the whole system freezes. If you do add anti-freeze, beware of its ability to strip paint!
- Tires – Properly inflated and with good tread? Don’t wait to hit ice/snow to find out they’re bald.
- Lights – are all bulbs & settings working and the glass/Perspex clean? It gets dark in a winter storm!
- Battery – is it in good condition? You want it to power your heater, right?
- Wipers – they need to be in good enough condition to clear winter from your glass.
Stay in Control – Speed
It goes without saying that when it’s slippery outside you need to slow down. It also goes without saying that someone will ignore this and go speeding past. Resist temptation and go at the speed you know is safe! If there’s snow sticking to the road, you probably shouldn’t be exceeding 20 in the 30 zones and not more than 50 elsewhere – but you’ll have to judge.
Traction – You Don’t Have Much
- Manoeuvre carefully and preferably at slower speeds than normal.
- Stopping distances can become much longer. Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front.
- No hard breaking or you’ll lock up the wheels and go skating instead. Break gradually, which is (one of the reasons) why you need more stopping distance.
- If your vehicle is fitted with a ‘winter’ or ‘high traction’ mode, use it!
- Lower gears give you more control.
- Move off from parked/stopped slowly and increase speed as you go. Wheel-spins will just dig you deeper into any snow.
- If you really get winter, consider carrying grit/de-ice in the boot. If you find the car snowed-in, use it around the drive wheels to get out after the above wheel-spinning!
Other Road Users
If you read and remember everything here, you’ll be off to a good start (although there’s a lot more to it!). The thing is, most of the people around you won’t have read this – so share this article and the Loot Blog on Facebook and with everyone you know!
Seriously though, remember that other road users may still speed or do dangerous things. Watch for pedestrians, if they are head-down in the snow they may not be watching for traffic properly. If they slip in the road or on a crossing, you’ll have to wait – have sympathy!
Be aware of people travelling too quickly to stop, especially at traffic lights, stop signs, etc. Take an extra moment to make sure they have stopped before you move off, even if the lights are in your favour.
Lighting & Vision
Let’s face it, snow doesn’t often fall from sunny skies. It’s going to be dull, dark and overcast.
- Make sure your vehicle lighting system is working well. Check your fog lights too.
- Use the lights you have – if you’re not sure, turn them on!
- When you’re not using them – turn them off, you need the battery to be in good condition (yes, I know most modern cars do this for you).
- Clean up the windscreen to reduce glare from the winter sun.
- If they’re spreading grit/salt in your area, you may need to clean the light lenses after every trip (check the number plate too, you can be fined if there’s so much muck they can’t read it).
- If you’re scraping snow or ice off the windscreen, check/scrape the lights too.
5 Bonus Quick Tips
- Get up 10 minutes early (sorry ‘bout that) and scrape the snow & ice from the car as needed. Consider leaving longer for your journey too.
- De-icer in your pocket will prevent you getting locked out! Not got any? Use hand sanitizer or any other form of alcohol you happen you be able to get in there. Just don’t drink it and drive!!
- Yes, you can actually clear your windscreen with a credit card. Your fingers probably won’t thank you. Get a cheap scraper from somewhere.
- Clear the snow off your entire car, including the roof. The guy behind doesn’t want that stuff falling on him.
- Consider putting an emergency kit in the boot. This may include food, water (don’t let it freeze!) and blankets. You might also want to get extra training for winter driving.
About the Author: Tony has been teaching First Aid for a couple of decades now, writes a blog about it, provides on-line safety training and generally tries to do whatever it takes to keep your and your family, friends & workmates safe.