We usually get a weather warning from the Met Office when freezing conditions are expected, but of course you shouldn’t rely on this. Always take extra care when travelling in winter, and follow these tips from the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ Road Smart Division:
- Stopping distances double in wet weather and it can take ten times longer to stop in snowy or icy conditions. Approach all junctions expecting to stop well before the STOP or GIVE WAY line. Every steering, acceleration or braking movement should be as smooth and gentle as possible.
- Just because the winter sun is out doesn’t mean the roads might not be icy. Icy patches will often linger in areas such as bridges and exposed sections which the sun has not yet reached.
- Avoid overtaking a gritting lorry as the road ahead is likely to be untreated.
- Salt can make windscreens, headlights, number plates and rear parts of vehicles very dirty. When travelling long distances, stop at a service station to clean your windscreen and headlights with a clean cloth.
- Keep your vehicle clean throughout the winter, as the salt in grit can cause corrosion to any exposed parts. Wash your vehicle regularly to stop any salt from settling.
- Any warning lights on your vehicle should be actioned as soon as possible. Being stuck on the side of the road is never good, but breaking down in freezing conditions is a real high-risk situation.
- We tend to use our screenwash a lot more in winter, for clearing grit and other dirt, so make sure it is topped up or checked regularly.
- Carry a winter driving kit including an ice scraper, de-icer, blanket, torch, shovel, something to eat and fully-charged mobile phone. These are all essential items for anyone who breaks down in winter.
- Keep the tread on your tyres above 2mm (ideally 3mm). The more tread you have, the more water they can cope with. Letting your tyres get down to the legal limit of 1.6mm is not recommended, and don’t forget you can always consider winter tyres if you are in an area where they will benefit you.
“Preparation is the key to avoiding a dangerous situation whilst driving in snowy or icy conditions,” Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Driving & Riding Standards, said. “Don’t rely on the performance of your vehicle safety systems to get you out of trouble – allow time, make sure you have good visibility all round and carry the right equipment. If conditions are extreme, remember the best advice is not to travel.”