During winter we can expect to see ice on the roads and even snow on our drives. It may be a surprise to some to discover that road fatalities fall during the winter months as drivers as drivers take extra precautions. However the winter weather can catch us off guard, which can commonly result in minor incidents, and frustratingly, an unwanted claim on the insurance. So here are some simple tips to avoid an accident:
An obvious method to prevent an accident is simply to avoid driving altogether. Look at alternatives such as public transport or, if possible, working from home. However for many of us this simply isn’t an option.
If you do need to drive it is always better to plan ahead. Brian Hensby, from the Highways Agency, advises that “you can’t have too much information before you set off.” This may be a case of leaving earlier to give yourself more time to get to your destination, or keeping a closer eye on how the weather may develop throughout the day.
Never go above 45mph on an icy road, no matter what vehicle you are driving. If you own a 4×4, an all-wheel drive (AWD) or a car equipped with winter tyres you will have an advantage driving on snow, but on ice you are just as vulnerable as every other motorist.
When starting the vehicle, accelerate slowly and take off in a higher gear to avoid the wheels spinning. When stopping, apply the brakes early and gently, to prevent the vehicle from skidding.
Drive cautiously. Compared to driving on a dry road your stopping distance can double in wet conditions and on icy roads it may be up to ten times the normal distance! On icy roads it is recommended that you leave a gap of at least eight seconds.
Do not turn sharply as you could easily find yourself spinning. If you do skid, braking will only make things worse by locking up your wheels. Instead it is suggested that you steer into the direction you are skidding to regain control. Also by changing into a lower gear you can slow down without losing control.
Always drive cautiously. Don’t forget that dangerous driving conditions can catch you out when you least expect it. ‘Black ice’ or ‘clear ice’ is transparent and you may only notice that it is there until the vehicle loses control. Be aware that patches of ice can remain throughout the day in areas that remain in the shade, such as under trees, bridges and overpasses.
Driving over bridges and overpasses is also hazardous and takes many drivers by surprise as they are the first roads to ice over. This is because a bridge is exposed to air on all sides and as a result it cools much quicker and ice forms faster. They can be particularly dangerous as some drivers may be travelling at full speed on a road and then unknowingly be driving over ice. As pictured, ice may be obviously seen on bridges, but sometimes it is not always so clear.
When ice covers our roads the salt-spreaders are sure to follow. Be mindful that only main routes are generally salted and that salt can wash off in heavy rain. Driving on salted roads for extended periods of time can also dirty your lights, so keep your lights clean will ensure that you can see clearly and other motorists can see you.
Summary: How to drive on ice
- Avoid driving if possible
- Do not exceed 45mph
- Accelerate slowly and brake gently
- Keep the car in a higher gear than normal
- Remain vigilant when driving as conditions can vary in different places and at different times
The RAC provides a comprehensive guide to winter driving, as well as tips for vehicle maintenance and essential items to take out with you this winter.
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