As winter approaches and the weather takes a turn for the worst,
it is time to check our vehicles and prepare for
driving in a variety of extreme weather conditions. Some basic
vehicle care and maintenance coupled with raised awareness of the
additional challenges that winter driving brings, should ensure
that we remain safe this winter.
Firstly, make sure you car is ready for the
extra demands that are about to be put on it.
- Check to make sure that the battery is in good working
order. Constant use of lights, wipers, heating and
demisting fans will put additional strain on the battery.
- Check the condition of your tyres. Your tyres
are the only part of your car that is in touch with the road and
are absolutely essential in maintaining grip on the road surface
and keeping control of your car. Ensure you have sufficient tread
depth, the legal limit is 1.6mm
but in winter, we recommend at least 3mm.
Tyre pressures are equally as important as tread
depths. Make sure you know what they should be and check regularly
to ensure maximum grip
- Check your lights and indicators are in good
working order and clean. Lights not only ensure that you can see,
but just as importantly, that you are seen by others.
- Check fluid levels and make sure that there is
enough anti-freeze in the engine cooling system to
prevent freezing. Also check the windscreen washer bottle is full
and has enough additive to prevent freezing and keep the windscreen
- Keep you windscreen clean.
Winter driving is not only about poor weather. In winter time, the
low sun can often dazzle drivers and a dirty windscreen will make
the effects of the low sun worse.
Driving in extreme weather
If it is foggy, raining, snowing or icy, make sure you
slow down and keep well back from
the vehicle in front of you. Many collisions are caused through not
braking in time when the roads are wet or slippery; allow
sufficient distance between you and the vehicle in
front. Watch out for locations where you may need to drive
more carefully, either because of side winds or a greater risk of
ice. Look out for:
- Changes in road elevation or
- Where the road passes under or over a
bridge, or where traffic is lighter (e.g.
- Bends in the road where there is a greater
risk of losing control.
- Roads that may not have been
Driving through ice and snow
- Thoroughly clear your entire windscreen and
all other windows of snow, ice and condensation.
All round vision is required at all times.
- Clear any snow off the roof and bonnet of the
vehicle before you drive away.
- Watch out for icy conditions - look for clues
such as ice on the pavement or on your windscreen before you start
your journey and take extra care.
- Look out for winter service vehicles spreading
salt or using snow ploughs. They have flashing
amber beacons and travel at slower speeds - around 40mph.
Stay well back because salt or spray can be thrown across the road.
Do not overtake unless it is safe to do so - there may be uncleared
snow and untreated ice on the road ahead.
Driving in rain and floods
- When the road is wet it can take twice as long to
stop. Slow down and maintain a safe distance from the
vehicle in front.
- If your vehicle loses grip, or "aquaplanes", on surface water
take your foot off the accelerator to slow down. Do not brake or
steer suddenly because you have less control of the steering and
- Try to avoid driving through surface water as
you might flood your engine.
- If you have to drive through floods, drive
slowly, use a low gear and try to
keep the engine revving at a high rate.
Move forward continuously to avoid stalling the
engine. When driving an automatic vehicle, engage and hold in a low
- Test your brakes after driving through water;
they may be ineffective.
Driving in fog
- Use dipped headlights so that other drivers
can see you.
- If it is foggy (less than 100m visibility), then switch on your
fog lights. Do not forget to turn them off when
- Fog is often patchy so try not to speed up as visibility
improves. You could suddenly find yourself back in thick fog
further up the road.
Driving in windy weather
Though high-sided vehicles are particularly affected by windy
weather, strong winds can also blow other vehicles off course. This
can happen on open stretches of road exposed to strong crosswinds,
or when passing bridges, high-sided vehicles or gaps in trees.
Above all, in any poor conditions
reduce your speed and increase the
distance between you and the vehicle in front. Try to
avoid harsh braking, acceleration or
steering movements as this is more likely to lead to lose
In extreme conditions, only make the journey if it is
absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, allow
extra time and make sure someone knows your route. Make
sure you have your mobile fully charged in case of
emergencies and that you carry warm, waterproof clothing