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Winter driving advice

Winter is the season requiring most care and preparation if you’re to stay safe and avoid an accident or breakdown.

Although forecasting systems have improved, sudden weather changes still occur and motorists should be aware that:

  • it takes time for the salt to become effective after roads are gritted
  • rain can wash salt off roads leaving them prone to re-icing
  • in severe weather even salt will not prevent roads from icing up

Before setting off

  • consider if the journey is necessary
  • check the weather forecasts
  • consider alternative routes
  • allow sufficient time for the journey

See and be seen

If visibility is poor during the day due to heavy rain, snow, fog or mist, turn on your headlights so that your vehicle can be seen. Use dipped headlights in poor conditions. If visibility is seriously reduced, turn on your rear fog lights but remember to turn them off when visibility improves so as not to dazzle other road users.

Check:

  • your windscreen and all windows are clear and unobstructed
  • windscreen wipers and washers are working effectively
  • washer bottle is topped up with screen wash suitable for the time of year
  • all lights and indicators are clean and working properly
  • you have a screen scraper and de-icer

Get a grip

In wet and freezing conditions the grip between your tyres and the road is severely reduced.

Check:

  • your tyres (including the spare) have plenty of tread depth, are in good condition and are inflated to the correct pressure
  • your vehicle is well maintained and serviced for winter conditions
  • the cooling system contains sufficient anti-freeze
  • the battery is in good condition, topped up and fully charged

When driving

  • observe your speed and drive with regard to the road conditions and the speed limit.
  • watch for cold shaded spots and road bridges
  • be aware it may be difficult to read road signs in poor weather conditions
  • avoid harsh braking and sudden acceleration
  • travel in the highest gear possible in icy conditions to avoid wheel spin
  • maintain a safe stopping distance at all times, remembering to increase this in wet or icy conditions
  • give space to gritters and snowploughs. Salt is spread over the whole road width (DO NOT overtake)
  • watch out for other road user – motorcycles, cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders
  • take regular breaks as driver fatigue increases in adverse weather conditions

Equipment to take on a long journey

  • mobile phone (only use when legal and safe to do so)
  • additional warm clothing
  • torch
  • rug, blanket or sleeping bag
  • shovel
  • flask of hot drink or food
  • radio

If stranded

  • pull as far off the road as possible if your vehicle breaks down. Your greatest personal danger at this point is being hit by passing vehicles
  • try to ensure that your vehicle will not block access for emergency vehicles (abandoned and stationary vehicles are the main causes of gritters being obstructed)
  • remain with your vehicle unless shelter is nearby
  • maintain your circulation by moving your body
  • use the engine to keep warm, unless the exhaust cannot vent in which case switch off the engine
  • ensure that airways are maintained if snowed over

Further advice on driving in severe weather conditions is available from the Met Office.

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