Snow, ice, rain and high winds. Driving at this time of year can be daunting but there are some simple steps you can take to stay safe this winter.
Staying safe in the snow
When the weather is bad it’s important to plan your journey and give yourself plenty of extra time. Remember, you’ll need to clear your car of snow, and the traffic is likely to be much slower than usual.
The Highway Code says you must clear all snow and ice from the windows, mirrors, lights and number plates, the car must be demisted fully, and snow cleared from the roof.
It also states that ‘clothing and footwear do not prevent you from using the controls in the correct manner’. So, while it’s not illegal to wear wellies at the wheel, you need to make sure you can drive normally.
Where possible, stick to main roads – they’re more likely to be kept clear, gritted and better lit.
Make sure you've packed a cold-weather kit:
Torch Shovel Warm clothing Boots/Wellies Blanket First aid kit Phone charger Snacks and drinks
Before you set off:
- Clear snow from the roof, lights, windows and windscreen
- Check your screenwash level
- Keep number plates clean – an illegible number plate could land you with a £1,000 fine
- Wear comfortable, dry shoes – driving in inappropriate or wet footwear can cause accidents
- Allow extra time – leaving yourself more time for a journey in poor weather conditions will mean you’re more relaxed
When you’re on the road make sure you leave more space between you and the car in front as braking distances could be doubled in wet conditions and be 10 times further on snow or ice. That means, in the snow, it could take you further than the length of seven football pitches to stop from 70mph. And remember to drive smoothly, as harsh braking, accelerating or turning can cause a car to skid.
Winter tyres can make a difference if the weather is cold enough. They provide better grip and braking performance in temperatures below seven degrees. But it’s important to let your insurer know if you fit them as, while most insurers don’t charge additional premiums for winter tyres, they do want to know they are good quality and fitted properly.
Also remember that many insurers have a ‘keys exclusion’ where your policy is invalid if the keys are in the vehicle when stolen. So as tempting as it is to turn your car on to heat it up and then pop back indoors, don’t leave it unattended, even on your own drive. Also, under the Highway Code you could be fined for leaving a car running on a public road.
Don’t drive when drowsy
Driving when tired is dangerous. Road safety campaigners Brake say that driving when tired is a big factor in crashes in the UK – radically affecting driver attention, awareness and reaction times. So it’s important that you stay alert to stay unhurt.
Research carried out for the AA Charitable Trust’s #drowsydriver campaign, showed one in eight drivers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel and 37% said they have been so tired they were scared they would fall asleep when driving.
If you know you have a long journey ahead make sure you sleep well the night before and consider a short nap, so you’re not tired when you set off. When you’re on the road:
- Take plenty of breaks and get out to stretch your legs
- Stay hydrated and make the most of caffeinated drinks
- If you’ve got company in the car, chat to your passengers
Remember, if you’re trying to keep alert by turning up the radio or winding down the window, these are signs that you need to stop and take a break.
Know your limits
Safety campaigners have long championed 20mph speed limits in urban areas, now more local councils are rolling them out.
RoSPA, the road safety organisation, argues that 20mph zones are very effective at preventing injuries and is campaigning wider use in residential areas.
In 20mph zones, traffic calming measures are introduced along with a change to the speed limit. Speed humps, chicanes, road narrowing and other measures, reduce speeds and physically and visually reinforce the shared nature of the road.
20mph limits are simply a speed limit change.