Winter driving safety is serious business, because while some of us feel confident in our ability to tackle traffic jams on icy roads, or low visibility during a snow storm, there are many drivers out there who fear taking the car our in adverse conditions.
Although January is almost behind us, we’re most certainly not out of the winter danger zone yet, and we want to help all of our Liftshare memebrs stay safe until the thaw comes.
So here, for your consideration are ten things you need to consider to win at winter driving.
Winter driving can prove difficult because there are so many factors to consider. Luckily, the RAC has provided a great checklist of points drivers of all experience levels should consider before and during the cold months. Chiefly, you want to make sure your car battery is in good working order, that your car’s coolant is topped up and includes anti-freeze, and that your tyres have enough tread to properly grip the road.
Screenwash is also important because the last thing you want is to lose control of your car on black ice while the windshield is snowed over or freezing over. We’ll touch on all of these points individually in this guide, but we definitely recommend checking out the RAC tips page as there are video tutorials to help anyone who is unsure.
Preparation really is the key to safe winter driving, so it is best to ditch the ‘hop on the car and go’ mentality during cold months. Rushing to get around – be it in urban or rural areas, is a large contributor to road accidents and in the end it really isn’t worth the risk. So then, let’s start diving deep into these areas and many more…
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) is a great resource when it comes to road safety, and its winter tips guide is also worth a read. Interestingly, while most of these guides focus heavily on car preparation and upkeep, it’s nice to see the ROSPA taking a look at the human element behind winter accidents. After all, there’s always a person behind the wheel.
We’ve already mentioned that winter driving can be daunting for new drivers or those who simply feel uncomfortable on the road during adverse weather, so it pays to brush up on your know-how and to build up confidence in your own ability. The internet is full of resources to help improve your own knowledge of driving risks, and if you still feel unsure, it’s probably best to ditch the car for day.
Another intersting point of view refers to sickness. In short, if you have a raging cold or you feel unfit to drive then this is another strong case for using an alternative mode of transport. Remember: only you will know if you are truly up to the task or not. All it takes is a momentary lapse in concentration or a terrible coughing fit to cause a crash, so be smart and act accordingly.
We touched on the issue of frozen cars that refuse to start back in October, and we unearthed a few rather surprising tricks to help combat iced locks. This really is a problem that can make people late, cause them to rush and increase the risk of having an accident.
Our favourite solutions came from this Reader’s Digest guide, which suggested – among other thing, that rubbing half an onion over your windshield and locks the night before can actually reduce the chances of them freezing over. Apparently this one does work, so we’d be keen to hear from anybody who has successfully tried it.
There’s also a common sense solution, which is to use a lighter to warm up your car key then insert it into the lock to help melt any ice blocking the way. Failing this, a cloth doused in a little rubbing alcohol can help thaw any build-up around your vehicle. We’re now wondering how many ‘household remedies’ there are for this particular problem.
This is a major issue during winter, as low visibility and slippy roads are a recipe for disaster. Gritted roads help improve wheel traction when it’s cold, but there’s also a chance that stones will fly up and chip your windshield. Anything that hampers your vision – be it frozen wipers or mud thrown up from the tarmac, is potentially hazardous and should be taken seriously while driving.
Should the worst happen and your windshield needs repaired you might find yourself without a vehicle, which isn’t ideal in winter. However, AutoGlass offers a quick repair and replacement service to keep you moving without blowing a hole in your monthly budget.
This next point might sound odd, but you should also take a pair of sunglasses with you when driving in snowy conditions – particularly when the snow is starting to lie. It’s quite reflective, so you don’t want to catch a face-full of snow glare when navigating down busy or slicked motorways.
Here’s a great common sense driving tip from Kwik-Fit, which is to simply keep your mobile phone charged ahead of your journey. If you do crash or find yourself in need of breakdown assistance it always pays to have your phone topped up and nearby to call for help.
Always be mindful of potential signal blackout spots in rural areas, as you may not be able to put a call in to your breakdown cover provider in the middle of the countryside. This is a simple, yet sensible step in the winter driving checklist that sounds obvious, but should be considered at all times.
If the weather really starts coming down in force, you will be required to adapt your driving methodology to suit the road quality, grip and many other factors. The AA has produced a great winter driving guide that features some insight into how drivers should approach snow and ice driving.
The tips are superb and advise drivers to wear grippy shoes, as flats might slip on wet pedals. It’s also recommended that drivers pull out of their parking space in second gear while easing their foot off the clutch gently to stop their wheels from spinning.
Uphill driving should be tackled with caution, as stopping mid-way up an incline could see your vehicle sliding back down. Maintaining speed and choosing a sensible gear is definitely advised when driving uphill, and brakes shouldn’t be used when going back down the other side. If brakes must be used, then they should be applied gently to avoid spin-outs.
Car batteries can freeze over or run dry quite easily in winter months for several reasons. Autocar’s winter driving guide covers this in some detail, and advises drivers to look into trickle chargers to keep them topped up while alarms and other electronic systems are on standby over night.
Drivers should also turn off everything electric before starting their car in the morning, because the huge surge of power from your heater, radio and other devices can cause immense strain on the battery. Also refrain from using unnecessary gadgets in your car such as DVD players and novelty chargers. You ideally want to conserve battery life as much as possible when it’s cold.
It’s not a solve-all miracle cure but anti-freeze really is essential in the winter. Keeping your screenwash topped up with a degree of anti-freeze can help stop your windshield from becoming obscured, and it’s always best to consult your car’s manual or the bottle’s instructions to see just how much you need. Be sure to stock up on anti-freeze before and during cold months, and if in doubt – be sure to check a stockist like Halfords, which has a huge range of bottled solutions to suit your needs.
We’ve stressed this a few times now but it bears repeating. Don’t rush when it’s cold, or you only leave yourself open to accidents when conditions worsen. As this great AutoExpress guide suggests, drivers should create both ‘time and space’ before setting off, and if that emans getting up half an hour earlier than usual then so be it. Is it worth rushing if you run the risk of crashing your car? Absolutely not.
We’re at the end of January now, but as Volkswagen advises you should get your car checked ahead of winter to make sure you are fully prepared. They recommend looking at your wiper blades, windscreen washer, brakes, tyres and battery in particular before it’s too late. This final point brings our guide full circle, and we hope it has been useful. Remember: stay safe, stay smart and if in doubt leave the car at home.
Want more winter driving tips? Check out our guide to getting your car started in cold weather here.