Winter motoring can be tough and frustrating, whether you face ice and snow, flooded roads, freezing fog, storms or low sun. 22% of accidents in the UK are caused by weather conditions and accidents spike by 7.45% between November and March. So how can you try to keep out of trouble on the roads?
Winter motoring is about leaving the depot prepared and the first thing any driver should do is to ignore the fact that it is dark and conduct the daily vehicle check in as thorough a manner as possible, regardless. It is a legal requirement to do so and, if you actually make sure your tyres have sufficient tread, that your wipers work, that your mudflaps are in place to suppress spray and that the windows are clean and clear, you will be off to a good start.
Other tips are:
- Slow down in all adverse weather conditions and make sure you brake earlier than you would in good conditions, allowing sufficient space to stop, if you need to. Allow 10-times your normal stopping distance if roads are icy and at least twice the distance in wet conditions.
- Don’t tag on to another driver and their tail-lights if you are driving in fog. Fog can affect your judgement when it comes to speed, so do not race and remember that fog can drift and be patchy
- Remember that your vehicle could have impacts on other drivers, throwing up spray on to their windscreens and reducing their visibility. Be considerate to those trying to overtake you, particularly through smart motorway works with narrow lanes
- Do not enter into flood waters if you are uncertain how deep they are. You and your vehicle could both be stranded. If you are carrying passengers, they may need to be rescued and if you are carrying goods, they could be ruined.
- If gales are anticipated, plan your route carefully, avoiding exposed and high roads, flyovers and other roads that you know are always problematic for larger vehicles when it is windy. Be extra vigilant if driving a high-sided vehicle and take extra care if you are not carrying a load, as this can make you more unstable and more likely to topple.
- Beware low winter sun. In 2018, this was deemed the most dangerous weather condition for road users, leading to 2,700 reported crashes. Slow down and drive carefully, bearing in mind that the glare may make other road users invisible.
- Communicate with your customers, if you believe that travelling in certain weather conditions is the wrong thing to do. They may be happy for you to delay a delivery, if necessary to do so.
- If it is extremely windy, remember that gusts can be strongest just after you have passed a vehicle, trees or a building that was providing some shelter. Gusts blowing through a gap can catch many a driver out, so take extra care as you travel through exposed areas.
- Be in tune with the feel of your steering wheel. If it starts to feel lighter, you could be travelling on black ice. Do not hit the brakes and gradually ease off the accelerator. Watch out for ice under bridges and trees.
- If travelling in snow and driving uphill, make sure you only make a move to overtake if you have a clear road ahead of you. If you get stuck in snow, it can be tricky to get out. Keep some sacks at hand or invest in snow tracks, which you could put under the wheels to improve traction. If you have nothing to help you get out of snow, do not spin the wheels and rev the engine, as you could make the rut deeper. Go forward and then backwards, alternating between the two gear modes, to try to improve your traction.
If bad weather conditions cause you to have to follow a diversion, ring the office immediately, to check on whether or not you are likely to encounter low bridges, under which you cannot pass. Our bridge strike story tells you why!