One of the biggest challenges when it comes to driving in winter is snow and ice. Some of it you can see and some of it you can’t which makes it trickier to navigate. The first rule is to maintain a large gap between you and the car in front as stopping distances increase on snowy, icy roads. Try to drive smoothly and reduce speed by going down a gear early rather than relying on hard braking which is more likely to cause you to skid.
While rain isn’t exclusive to winter, like snow, it reduces driving visibility and increases the stopping distance so keep well back. Particularly heavy rain can lead to a lot of standing water on the road surface which can affect the steering, so slow down gradually until the car feels fully responsive again. Never attempt to cross deep water as it takes far less than you might imagine for your car to float. Similarly, if you come to a flood, think hard before attempting to cross because a flooded engine is likely to be an expensive fix. If you are confident that you can get through, be sure to keep the revs high so that you don’t stall. Also, wait for any approaching car to get through first and for the water to resettle as their bow waves can submerge your car’s engine. Once you have got through, apply your brakes to dry them off. And remember – if in doubt, turn back.
Along with heavy rain, high winds can also be unexpectedly hazardous. Strong gusts, particularly on stretches of open road, on bridges, and through gaps in hedges or fences can be unnervingly powerful, causing you to swerve or overcompensate. Keep a tight grip on the steering wheel to correct and maintain your course.
Whilst fog might not feel as extreme as snow or heavy rain, it can be extremely dangerous and one bump can soon turn into many in a row of moving cars. It’s a good idea to listen for approaching vehicles at a junction and it is essential to keep your distance – at least 3 seconds – between you and the car in front. Caution is crucial when driving in fog and, according to the Highway Code, fog lights are only to be used when visibility is reduced to 100m or less.
Finally, remember that winter driving doesn’t necessarily mean no sun – in fact, winter sunshine can be dazzling and is often low in the sky which can be distracting and make it difficult to see. As well as avoiding condensation and having a clean windscreen to reduce glare, use the visor to create shade or even wear a cap to keep the sun out of your eyes.
As winter draws on, weather conditions can deteriorate quickly requiring us to review our approach to driving and take sensible steps to maximise our safety.
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