Harsh weather and longer periods of darkness can make winter driving more hazardous. Sometimes conditions can be extreme as we have found out over recent winters, with prolonged periods of heavy snow and floods.

Throughout the winter, different weather conditions create unique hazards across each area of the country. Meaning, in one single journey, you may encounter various adverse weather, road and traffic conditions. So there’s a need to be prepared for each one. Preparation takes the form of planning, packing essentials, along with the willingness to adapt your driving style to the individual conditions. With that in mind here are our top tips for safe winter driving…

Carry out winter vehicle maintenance

It’s a good idea to have your vehicle fully serviced before winter starts and have the anti-freeze tested. If you can’t have it professionally serviced, then do your own checks…

  • Are lights clean and working?
  • Is the battery fully charged?
  • Are wiper blades in good order, windows clean and the washer bottle filled with screen wash?
  • Is tyre tread depth within legal limits and is the tyre pressure correct (including spare)?
  • Are the brakes working well?

Prepare and carry an “emergency kit”

When extreme weather is a possibility, keep an emergency kit in your car, especially if you’re planning a long journey. Your emergency kit should contain anything that seems necessary should you find yourself stranded in your car overnight…

  • Blanket plus warm clothing
  • Food (non-perishable) and drink (non-alcoholic of course!!)
  • Tow rope
  • A shovel
  • Wellington boots
  • Hazard warning triangle
  • De-icing equipment
  • First aid kit
  • Torch
  • Mobile Phone (fully charged) or separate battery pack

Plan your journey

When weather conditions are very bad, the emergency services often recommend that people don’t travel. In which case you should avoid making your journey unless it is absolutely necessary. So ask yourself “Can I postpone this road trip?” or “Is there an option to travel by any other means?”, “Could a phone call or e-mail make the journey redundant?”

If you decide you really must travel…

  • Let someone know where you are going and when you hope to arrive.
  • Listen to local/national weather broadcasts and travel bulletins.
  • Be prepared to change your plans if conditions on your route get worse.

Adjust your driving to the conditions

Many of us feel a little under the weather at some point over the winter months, so if you are suffering from cold or flu then your driving may be affected – it’s best not to drive. If you have to, then be sure to adjust your usual driving style.

  • If you are driving on icy or snow-covered roads, avoid harsh braking and acceleration.
  • Always reduce your speed smoothly and in plenty of time.
  • Slow down carefully before bends and corners.
  • Keep a good distance between you and the vehicle in front.

Check your car before you set off – every time.

Make sure everything is in good working order, especially the lights, switch on headlights and fog lamps if visibility is reduced. If you can see the vehicles to your rear, the drivers behind can see you – switch off your rear fog lamps to avoid dazzling them. In winter, the angle of the sun in the sky will frequently be too low for your visor to help.

If you wear sunglasses, either standard ones or with prescription lenses, take them off whenever the sun goes in. Many people don’t realise they should not be worn in duller weather as they seriously reduce the ability to see.

Finally, if the worst does happen and you get stranded, don’t panic! Stay with your vehicle, call the emergency services from your mobile phone and wait for help to arrive. For more in-depth winter driving safety tips visit www.TheAA.com or RAC.co.uk and remember to #StaySafe.

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