Top Tips to Help You Drive Safer in Winter

Winter Weather February 28, 2018

As temperatures drop and nights get earlier, it can present both a challenge and a danger to drivers.

If you’ve gotten used to driving alone in warm, clear weather, it can be shocking when everything changes, so here are some top tips to help keep you safer on the roads in winter.

Windshield washer fluid refill
Giving your car a checkup beforehand is a great idea. (PA images)

Preparation is key in this world and one of the best things you can do is check your car before winter really hits. Colder weather puts more stress on things like batteries, which means they’re much more likely to have problems or fail this time of year than they are in the summer, and the last thing you want is for a car not to start.

So if your battery is having trouble starting the car, it might be time to replace it. Remember to also check the vehicle’s fluid levels. When it comes to windshield washer fluid, you shouldn’t use plain water, as you’ll have a hard time cleaning your windows in the winter months; instead, get a dedicated solution with antifreeze.

Finally, having tires in good condition is especially important in winter, when the roads tend to be wet and grip levels are lower. Make sure they are properly inflated, show no signs of damage, and have enough tread. Although 1.6mm is the legal minimum, we recommend having much more during the winter. You could also think about choosing winter tires, but these are not necessarily essential.

top tips to help you drive safer in winter
Being visible is especially important in winter. (Vauxhall)

If you’ve only been driving while the sun is out in the summer months, it can come as a shock when it’s suddenly close to dusk in mid-afternoon. Being visible on the road is really important, so to begin with, it’s a good idea to make sure all the lights and gauges on the vehicle are working (including the fog lights).

But the most important thing is to remember to turn on your lights at the beginning of every trip if it’s going to get dark. Even if your car has automatic headlights installed, don’t assume that they have been turned on. Also, all new cars have daytime running lights (they’re required at the front, but not at the rear), so you may falsely think you have your headlights on, even if there are no lights on at the rear.

Visibility also extends to making sure your lights are clean (it’s worth cleaning them from time to time to maximize vision) by never going out if your windows are fogged up or still covered in ice or snow.

top tips to help you drive safer in winter
Maintaining a safe distance from the car in front is essential. (Vauxhall)

Winter brings a lot less road grip as temperatures drop and asphalt is more likely to be wet.

One of the best things you can do to improve your driving, regardless of the season, but especially in winter, is to keep your distance on the road. Whether you’re on the highway or in the city, always ask yourself if the vehicle in front of you slammed on the brakes, would you be able to stop in time? The greater the distance you have to the vehicle in front of you, the more likely you are to stop before hitting it, especially in winter when stopping distances are longer.

top tips to help you drive safer in winter
Avoid rough driving on snow and ice. (Seat)

As soon as the temperature drops to a point close to zero, you need to change your driving behavior. You should avoid sudden braking or wheel spin, as this could cause you to skid out of control, and be sure to keep your speed down.

Even if a path has been polished there may be patches that are still icy so you still need to be careful. And even if the temperature has risen well above freezing, there may be shaded areas that haven’t thawed, so always be cautious.

Winter Weather February 28, 2018
Carry supplies in case you get stuck in your vehicle. (PA images)

The last thing any of us would want to happen is to be stranded on the road in winter, whether it’s because of snow or an accident.

That’s why it’s important to make sure you have supplies with you to help out in case the worst happens. This includes having food and drink, but also warm clothing. It’s also a good idea to carry a shovel with you, to help you or a fellow driver get out in bad weather.

Spray de-icer and an ice scraper should also be a must to carry in your car during the winter.

top tips to help you drive safer in winter
Allow plenty of time for travel to avoid rushing on the roads. (Volkswagens)

When the weather is bad or colder, the last thing you want to do is rush, as you are much more likely to cause a collision. That’s why you should allow enough time for each trip, which means you’re less likely to have to rush. If you end up in heavy traffic, it will help too.

You may also want to reconsider your route, especially if there is widespread snow or ice. Try to stick to the most traveled roads, as these will be the ones that are likely to be clear and sandy, as smaller country roads can be treacherous and are often sandless.

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