As we head towards January, we have yet to see the worst of the winter weather. Here we offer 10 top tips for driving safely in snow, sleet, ice or hail.
Stay at home, if possible
Good advice. If the weather is really bad you will be safer and happier if you stay at home. Ask yourself which sounds better, sitting in endless traffic before having to abandon your journey or never setting out in the first place, staying in the warm and using this time more productively?
Check your car well in advance
Winter driving makes many more demands on a vehicle, and certain components become more crucial than ever. Make sure you check your lights, fluid levels, tyre depth, tread and pressure. Make sure your wiper blades are not worn and that your screen wash is topped up. Checking your battery and the concentration of anti-freeze is something your garage will do for you and can make the difference between being able to venture out or not!
Packing an emergency kit will ensure that you are safe in the event you are stranded. You will need a snow shovel, a foil blanket, a wind-up torch, a tow rope, de-icer, bottled water, long lasting snacks – and if possible a bag of sand or road salt. If you can also manage to include a spare mobile phone – which is fully charged – this is also a sensible idea.
Snow chains are helpful in extreme situations, but snow socks are a better idea as they are easier to fit and won’t damage the road surface if it is not entirely snow covered. Winter tyres are by far the best alternative and can be easily swapped to normal tyres once the temperatures climb again.
Know where you are going!
Know your route – Google maps is excellent for this, and check the road conditions as well as the traffic before you leave home and plan an alternative route to avoid road blockages etc. Don’t just rely on satnav, have a paper map or printed directions with you as well. Avoid the back routes and country lanes which will not have been cleared of snow.
See where you are going
Now often do you just see people trying to peer out of a small porthole which is cleared of ice on their windscreen? This is absolute madness. Make sure you leave enough time to thoroughly de-frost and de-mist your car, and this includes all the windows, you need 100% visibility at all times.
Take the snow roof off!
If your car has a covering of snow on the roof, make sure you brush this off before driving. If you don’t do this, the warmth of the car will loosen this and it will start to come off. This can cause an accident as it can slide over your windscreen, blinding you – or chunks fly off and cause a danger to other road users. The police will prosecute if they see anyone driving with a snow laden vehicle.
Turn on your lights
Turn on your lights, even if there is a low sun in the sky because in winter it is all about being seen, as much as being able to see. In winter, it is worth turning your lights on whatever the weather as you will then be covered if the light or climate changes during your journey.
Drive to the conditions
You can take up to twice as long to stop on a wet road and ten times longer on an icy road – so leave a large gap between vehicles. In foggy weather, slow right down so that you can stop should an obstacle appear in your path. In snow, make sure you drive slowly and gently – with no sudden movements: steering or breaking too violently can cause the car to break traction and send you into a skid. Get into a higher gear as soon as possible as this will make it harder to spin your wheels.
Try not to spin your wheels as this will either melt the snow, which will then refreeze and make your job even harder, or you will just dig yourself deeper into the rut you have now created! Try to dig away the snow in front of the drive wheels, sprinkle salt, and if you have lose floor mats in the footwells of your car, place these in front of the wheels as extra traction. If this fails, try rocking the car back and forth by shifting from first to reverse and driving forward and backwards. Always remember that if you are stuck, make sure that you clear the snow from the exhaust pipe as if it gets blocked it could cause a deadly build up of carbon monoxide within the car.
We may be lucky and not need to put into practice any of these tips, but forewarned is for armed! Common sense is the most useful tool in many situations, so a cool head and a few simple precautions will ensure your journey is safe. However, should you find yourself with an insurance claim required, it pays to make sure you have a good broker to help with the process.
Breakdown and recovery insurance provides peace of mind, especially when the roads are bad – and makes a perfect present too! Call us at Westhill to learn more, it’s affordable and a great way of making your journeys less stressful.
At Westhill Insurance Services we are experienced in all types of vehicle insurance and will shop around to find the best possible policy for your budget. We will promise to help you should you need to claim and will help wherever we can. One quick call to our friendly team will allow you to check you have the right insurance for your motoring needs (and indeed any other insurance requirements) and we won’t let you down.