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Winter Driving


Winter driving tips – preparing for journeys in snow, ice and fog

Reduced visibility and slippery road surfaces make winter driving particularly hazardous. No matter what the other conditions, if you can't see the road clearly, you will need to reduce your speed so that you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear.

Isolated patches and certain gradients of road surface will remain icy after the other parts have thawed and you need to be on the lookout for these areas.

Always reduce your speed smoothly and in plenty of time on slippery surfaces. Avoid harsh braking and acceleration, or coarse steering. Slow down in plenty of time for bends and corners. Black ice, caused when rain freezes on the road surface, will make your steering feel light. Respond by easing off the accelerator and being delicate with your steering movements.

To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use your brakes gently. In icy conditions, increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front. You may need to allow up to ten times the normal distance for braking.

Your risk of skidding increases if your tyres do not have adequate tyre depth. The legal minimum tread depth for cars and light vehicles in the UK is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre tread width and around the entire outer circumference of the tyre. If you are unsure about the tread depth of the tyres, get them checked by professionals. Correct tyre pressures are also very important. Under-inflated tyres will increase your fuel consumption. Over-inflated tyres will reduce your grip on the road, making it vital that you reduce your speed.

Skid correction is a complex subject, full coverage of which is beyond the scope of this web page. However, the first requirement in all skids is to identify and remove the cause, whether it is too much speed for the circumstances, harsh braking or acceleration, or coarse steering. The appropriate response after doing this will then depend upon the type of skid and whether your vehicle is front wheel, rear wheel or 4-wheel drive.

It is better to avoid skidding rather than hope you can control a skid when it happens.

Take care around winter maintenance vehicles. Salting vehicles are extremely powerful and travel at about 35mph spreading salt across all lanes of motorways and trunk roads. Keep a safe distance behind them - do not attempt to overtake.

Driving in windy conditions is stressful and tiring. Experts recommend a stop every two hours, for fresh air and hot drinks - but no alcohol. This is just a general guide - the important thing is that you stop before fatigue steps in, irrespective of how far you have travelled or how long you have been on the road. Keep your vehicle well ventilated. The car heater can quickly make you drowsy. Remember – tiredness kills.

If you get stuck in a snowdrift, try to get out of a rut by moving slowly backwards and forwards using the highest gear you can. Abandoned vehicles can cause problems for rescue vehicles and snowploughs. To ensure that the road is cleared as quickly as possible, you are advised to stay with your vehicle until help arrives. Do not leave your engine running, as this can lead to a dangerous build-up of fumes. If you have to leave your vehicle to get help make sure you can be seen by other vehicles.

The ability to see and to hear clearly is vital for drivers to take in information and to be able to make appropriate decisions. Fog is therefore the most potentially dangerous of all weather conditions. Freezing fog - when poor visibility is compounded by the road surface being slippery - is a driver's worst nightmare. Remember to drive defensively and always to be able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear. If the fog closes in, reduce your speed.

In any conditions of reduced visibility, a collision involving one vehicle can quickly involve many others, especially if they are driving too fast and too close to one another. Multiple vehicle pile-ups reported in the media demonstrate that many drivers do not adjust their driving sufficiently for the conditions.

The best advice is if the weather conditions are bad then don't make the journey unless its impossible to put it off and if you have to go out be prepared.

Tyres have already been mentioned, so make sure your vehicle windows are ALL clear of frost or settled snow to give maximum visibility. If snow has built up on the roof or bonnet that may fall on to or into the  path of other road users clear it before you set off. Make sure that all your lights are working and are clean and always use dipped headlights in poor visibility. If visibility is less than 100 metres, use front and rear fog lights (but dont forget to turn them off if visibility improves).

Take a shovel,blankets,a flask of hot drink and make sure your mobile is fully charged,so if the worst does happen you can call for help and stay warm until it arrives.


Bedford Borough Council Road Safety Team      

 telephone (01234) 228336

Email road.safety@bedford.gov.uk

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