No matter how experienced you are behind the wheel, driving during the winter months brings with it some quite unique challenges. In a single journey you can face blinding sunlight, falling snow, sudden ice patches and flooded roads. Sadly, too many drivers either fail to take the right precautions or are caught out by sudden changes in the weather. So as the temperatures begin to fall, what can you do to stay safe on the roads?
The first, and most obvious step is to always check the weather forecast before you set out. Whilst this might seem a case of simply stating the obvious, research suggests that up to half of us simply venture out whatever the forecast says. Remember, no trip is so vital that it is worth taking unnecessary risks for. Being prepared for winter includes being prepared to change your plans if severe weather is expected.
And, if you do decide to drive, always remember your COAST skills:
Concentration: Driving requires your full attention at all times. Phone calls, eating or applying makeup should all be done before or after your journey
Observation: Check, check and check again before making any manoeuvre
Anticipation: A precautionary step is always safer than an evasive one
Space: Allow plenty of space and time to brake gently and remember that other road users may suddenly skid or change course
Time: Allow extra time for your journey and be prepared to take an alternative route if necessary
Remember, never just jump in your car and start driving but take an extra minute to check these key things:
Battery: During winter your battery needs to work much harder, as windscreen wipers, fog lights and heating all get extra use, so ensure it is regularly serviced.
Tyres: Make sure there is at least 2mm tread depth and that the tyres are properly inflated. If your vehicle has low profile tyres, be extra cautious before setting out in snow or ice.
Cooling Systems: Add anti-freeze into your cooling system, but remember to check the instructions and make sure the right strength of formula is being used.
Wipers & Washers: Use high strength screen wash and replace damaged or faulty wiper blades. Do not use them to clear a windscreen of ice and never be tempted to use warm or hot water to clear a frosted windscreen – the ‘shock’ factor of hot water to cold glass will weaken it. And you should always ensure you
have cleared the full screen – not just enough to peer through.
Lights: Check that your lights are fully working (including fog lights if you have them) and that they are clear of any dirt or obstruction.
Roofs and windows: Make sure your roof and windows are completely clear of snow and ice before attempting to drive even the shortest of distances. If you notice any chips on the glass, repair them as soon as possible to avoid the cold weather causing them to crack and spread.