LCH Winter Driving Tips (Driving)
Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at how to prepare your vehicle for winter driving, from exterior to interior preparation. This week, now your vehicle is prepared and ready to go, we will be looking at how to drive in those wintery conditions.
Driving in the Dark
Only a few days into November and the long nights of the Summer seem like a lifetime ago. This time of year sees a spike in injuries and fatalities and the main cause of this is due to the reduced number of daylight hours.
Always ensure you use your lights appropriately, full beam will help you greatly on an unlit road but if there is another driver approaching, dip your headlights immediately to avoid dazzling them. Similarly, if there is a car driving past, even with dipped beams, it may seem obvious but do not look directly at them. This will cause you to become dazzled and can temporarily impair your vision.
If you’re a nervous driver and even more so at night, you may want to take a Pass Plus (or similar) course. One of the modules covers night driving and can help your confidence and experience throughout the winter months.
Although we have windy days in the summer, in winter, it is a common occurrence. If it is dangerous winds, you should avoid travelling altogether but if your journey is necessary, plan your route before setting off. Always choose a route less exposed to the elements and more sheltered if you can. You should also let someone know you are making the trip in case you become stuck without signal.
In windy weather, drive slowly. High winds can get underneath your car and affect its handing and breaking. This can come as quite the surprise when on a motorway! Also, try to avoid overtaking in strong winds as it is gusty and non-consistent. A strong gust can catch you off guard and if you are overtaking a large lorry, it can affect them even more. If you need to overtake, only do so if you are fully prepared and it is safe.
As mentioned above, gusts of wind can catch you off guard. Always keep two hands on the wheel and keep a firm grasp but not grip too tightly. Having a strong grip can restrict your movement or cause you to jerk the wheel. A firm grasp will ensure you have as much control over the wheel and vehicle as possible.
Lastly in windy weather, park your car in a safe place. You can be the safest driver around but park your car by a tree or under telephone lines and you could quickly find yourself carless!
Like windy weather, heavy rain is not a shock to the system in winter but, it is a lot more frequent. Again, like windy weather, the first thing you will need to do on the roads is slow down! Heavy rain can cause standing water on the roads and when driving over larger patches of water, your tyres can lose contact with the road (aquaplaning). If you vehicle starts to do this, ease off the accelerator and do not brake. Allow your speed to reduce enough until you gain full control of the vehicle and steering again.
Keep your air conditioning on. This may seem like the last thing you wish to do in winter but this will stop your windows from steaming and misting up during heavy rain.
If you need to drive through a rather large puddle, ensure it’s clear for your car to get through, this includes an exit and any potential objects that may cause damage to your vehicle’s wheels, tyres or suspension.
When you start to manoeuvre through the puddle, keep your vehicle in a low gear (second, ideally) and keep your revs up. This will help you keep momentum going through the puddle, creating almost a ‘bow wave’ so you don’t get bogged down.
Once you’re clear of the puddle, gently pump your brakes, this will cause friction and dry off any excess moisture. Some newer vehicles do this automatically for you but there’s no harm in doing this also.
The Serious Stuff
Snow. Depending on where you live in the UK, this may be a rare occurrence for you but for others this may be a winter inevitability. Again, like with any serious conditions, think before you go out. Is this journey really necessary? If it is, again let someone know your route and that you’re going out.
Move off in second gear as this will help reduce wheel slip and if your car has winter mode, enable this as it does the same job.
Once you’re out on the road, like a broken record, drive slowly! Accelerate gently, use low revs and as soon you can, change up to a higher gear. Braking distance on ice and snow can increase tenfold in comparison to a dry road so speed really plays a big part here. You should also leave 10 times the normal recommended gap between you and the car in front when others are around.
When approaching an uphill, leave plenty of room in front so you can maintain a constant speed without having to change gear. When going downhill, use a low gear and try to avoid braking as this could cause you to skid. If you do skid (on a hill or flat ground) steer gently into it. For example, if the rear of the car slides to the left, steer to the left and do not take your hands off the steering wheel or brake hard.
Finally, keep your car clear of snow at all times. Although there is no road law to say that it is illegal to drive with snow on your car or roof, the Highway Code does stipulate that when driving in adverse weather, you must by law be able to see out of every glass panel of your vehicle.
Similarly, if snow from your roof falls off onto your windscreen whilst driving or into the path of another vehicle, you could be charged with ‘using a motor vehicle in a dangerous condition’ or ‘driving without due consideration’. Both of which are not worth the risk.
Hopefully our mini-series of Winter Driving has been a helpful read to get you ready for those winter months again! If you’ve missed any, click to read and catch up on our Preparation and Packing tips.
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