Driving in winter - what you should know?

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The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has given few guidelines on how to minimise the accident risks while driving in winter.

In order to minimise accident risk, drivers need to fully adapt their driving to the different conditions. Extremes of temperature (even those experienced in the UK) will soon show up any deficiencies both in your vehicle and in your skill as a driver.

The following tips may help you cope better with the various seasonal weather hazards. However, as we all know, many of these conditions can occur at any time of year.

Reduced visibility and slippery road surfaces make winter driving particularly hazardous. Good observation is essential so that you can interpret conditions accurately and adjust your speed accordingly. 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. This is a simple and fundamental principle of defensive driving.

In winter, road surfaces are frequently covered by frost and ice, but often not uniformly. Isolated patches and certain gradients will remain icy when the other parts have thawed. The good driver will therefore be on the lookout for these areas. If you drive too fast on a slippery or wet road surface your tyre grip will be substantially reduced and the risk of skidding increased. Remember - it is better to arrive a little later than not at all!

Smooth control is another essential element of safer winter driving. You should always aim to plan your action early and brake, steer and change gear as smoothly as possible so as not to affect the grip of your tyres on the road surface.

In poor weather especially, better, safer driving is about good preparation, good self-maintenance, good vehicle maintenance, the right knowledge, the right attitude and a thoughtful driving plan.

Prepare your vehicle for winter -
Have your vehicle fully serviced before winter starts and have the anti-freeze tested.

Check that your lights are clean and working. Make sure your battery is fully charged. A faulty battery will let you down, probably at the most inconvenient time - so if in doubt change it before it fails!

Always keep the windscreen and windows clean and the washer bottle filled with screenwash to the correct concentration. This will prevent the solution from freezing.

On the road in snow and ice
Hail, heavy snow and rain all reduce visibility - use dipped headlights. Only travel at a speed which you will be able to stop within the distance you can see to be clear.

Driving in windy conditions is stressful and tiring. RoSPA recommends 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 full on can quickly make you drowsy.

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.

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