Driving is an activity that most of us do every day without really thinking about it. It’s a generally safe and pleasurable activity. Yet there are dangers on the road at any time and the problems are increased in winter when severe weather conditions may affect your journey plans. By following a few simple tips, however, you can ensure that you and your passengers arrive at your winter destination safely and avoid accidents.
“Weather” or not
The first thing you should do is check on the weather before you set off. Have a look at the forecast or call one of the road condition hotlines to see what it’s going to be like along your route. If things look bad it may be best to postpone your trip or find an alternative route to avoid the worst of the weather conditions.
If you do decide to travel make sure you have food and drink in the car with you. Avoid sugary snacks like chocolate bars that offer a fast energy release, it’s better to take sandwiches, fruit or a thermos flask of soup. Take bottled water too and make sure keep it in the passenger compartment where it won’t freeze. Your body needs more nourishment in cold weather and dehydration can lead to reduced alertness so food and drink is vitally important.
On long journeys it’s a good idea to be prepared by assembling a winter emergency kit to keep in the car. You should include an ice scraper, a can of de-icer, a shovel, a tow rope, a blanket and a flashlight – remember to check the batteries. It’s also a good idea to take a bag of rock salt or cat litter to use as a traction aid. It’s worth ensuring you have appropriate clothing: a waterproof jacket a warm fleece, plus hat and gloves. And of course you should have a mobile phone, ideally with the means to recharge it from the car.
Check your vehicle before setting off too. Make sure the coolant system is topped up with anti-freeze and put an additive in the screen wash to stop it from freezing. Check your tyre pressures and tread depth, if you’re in an area that regularly suffers from bad weather it’s worth investing in a set of winter tyres.
Drive Under Conditions
Now you’re ready to go but do remember that you need to adapt your driving to the conditions. Reduce your speed in snowy conditions, don’t go too slowly though as you need momentum to help you get up slopes without getting stuck. You need to do everything more smoothly in bad weather. Avoid hard acceleration and braking and keep a light touch on the steering wheel, this will help you keep control in slippery conditions. If you do start to skid, lift your feet off the throttle and brake pedals – in a manual car press the clutch to disconnect the drive – and steer gently in the direction you want the car to go. When the tyres regain grip you can gently reapply the power. Be aware that modern cars with anti-lock braking systems will actually take longer to stop on icy roads, plan your braking earlier and allow a greater distance to the vehicle in front. Driving in winter is harder work than in good conditions so make sure you plan your journey with frequent stops. Get out and stretch or walk around to give yourself a break and keep your circulation moving.
If you’re unfortunate and do get stuck stay with your car and wait for help. You can run the engine to keep warm but make sure you keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow to prevent carbon monoxide from building up inside the vehicle.
All of this sounds like a lot to take in. But if you do need to travel in the winter months following these tips will help ensure you arrive at your destination safely and avoid getting stuck or having an accident along the way.
If you are unlucky enough to suffer an accident on the roads this winter then make sure you find a good car accident attorney to take on your case.
Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oregondot/2646735439/