How to keep safe on the roads this winter?
With winter upon us, driving has again taken on a whole new level of difficulty. Drivers are forced to grapple with hazardous conditions on icy roads, which can make it harder to keep control of their vehicles than any other time of the year. All of these factors increase the possibility of being involved in an accident, with statistics showing that just under one in four weather-related vehicle crashes in the US occur on icy, slushy and snowy roads.
If you can’t avoid driving during the winter, then you need to do much as possible to keep safe in these challenging conditions. Read on for advice on the best ways to hit the road without fear this winter.
Prepare your vehicle
Before you even get into your vehicle, it’s vital that you prepare it to handle the wintery conditions. For starters, you should take time to clear the snow and ice from your vehicle, as this will help improve visibility and prevent ice from causing any damage.
Next, check your tyres to see whether they’re in need of replacing, especially if you haven’t done so for some time. Older tyres could be losing their grip through consistent use, which will make winter driving even more dangerous. You might even want to invest in winter tyres for extra protection, especially if you drive in snowy conditions on a regular basis. Winter tyres are designed to maximise traction when driving on snow and ice, and can help improve grip and braking performance.
As well as your tyres, it is advisable to keep your windshield wipers in good condition too, so you can always clear ice and snow from your windscreen. Make sure to regularly clean them, keeping the fluid reservoir topped up and frequently inspecting them to check they aren’t damaged. It is also sensible to keep your gas tank at least half full at all times, as this ensures you can continue to run your engine and stay warm if you ever get stranded.
Drive carefully and be visible
Make sure to drive extra carefully during the winter in order to keep safe. Setting off in a higher gear allows you to avoid wheel spin, while accelerating gently on slippery roads and applying your brakes before you turn corners lets you prevent skidding. It also important to remember that speed limits are intended for dry roads, not ones covered in snow and ice. You should therefore drive slower than usual, increasing your following distance, and avoid using cruise control in snowy or icy conditions, as you want to retain as much control of your vehicle as you can. Being visible to other drivers will also help keep you safe during the winter, so be sure to drive with your headlights on, and regularly clean all of your car’s external lights to strengthen visibility.
These conditions are particularly treacherous for commercial vehicles, who need to make deliveries whatever the weather. Many companies who make use of a wide fleet of vehicles rely on telematics systems is an effective way of improving driver behaviour. The system works by tracking a vehicle’s location and movements through GPS, enabling it to keep tabs on how exactly each driver within a fleet is doing on the road. Using algorithms to analyse various different driving manoeuvres, telematics software can identify when any one driver is behaving dangerously—like braking or cornering too hard, for example—and send prompts on how to correct their behaviour to head office.
Pack a survival kit
If worst comes to worst and you become stranded in a snowstorm, or your car breaks down (which is much more likely in cold weather), it is wise to have a survival kit prepared. This will not only help you keep warm, safe and stave off hunger, but will also increase your chances of getting back on the road again in the event of a breakdown. Some of the items you should carry in your car include:
- Warm clothing and blankets
- Food and drink
- Phone charger
- First aid kit
- Boots with a strong grip
- De-icer and a scraper
- High visibility jacket
- Jump start cables
- Reflective triangles
- Road map
From preparing your vehicle to packing a survival kit, this piece has looked at how to keep safe when driving this winter. With icy roads and cold, dark nights here to stay for a good while yet, and the added risks they bring for drivers, it is much better to be safe than sorry.