Driving in winter inevitably means that bad weather can make driving more hazardous and especially so for drivers with disabilities and WAV users.
The most obvious solution to minimising risk is to avoid non-essential journeys but this may be neither practical nor possible so, should a journey be necessary, what’s the best way to manage driving in bad weather and what changes in usual driving habits might be required?
Before you set off, check the weather forecast. If really bad weather such as a blizzard or storm is forecast, if you still have to go, then you won’t be caught out unexpectedly.
Next, make sure that you have suitable extra equipment for a bad weather journey in case you are stuck: food, drinks (hot if possible), blankets or throws, warm coats, hats, scarves and gloves, a torch (fully charged or with spare batteries), a spare phone charger, a warning triangle, a snow shovel, and high-vis vest or jacket.
Then, check the WAV’s tyre pressures as cold weather can reduce them by up to 10psi. Also, check their condition – good grip and traction is essential and they are your only contact with the road. Check windscreen wipers are clean, heater and lights are working, and make sure that the windscreen wash reservoir is topped up with suitably diluted anti-freeze.
Obviously, before setting off, the first thing to do is to defrost the windscreen and windows otherwise your visibility will be poor. Do not tip very hot water on them as the rapid change in temperatures can cause them to crack or even shatter. Similarly, cold water may simply re-freeze and make the job even harder. If you can, turn the vehicle on for 10 minutes before departure so that the heater can begin to defrost the ice, and then use a proper, quality scraper that has been specifically designed for the task.
Dress appropriately for the actual driving. Understandably in winter, we tend to wrap up in thick clothing to keep warm, but when we drive, these garments can become restrictive, impeding the ability to drive safely. Whilst you should have these items for if you are stuck, when driving in the cold, wearing a few thinner layers is less restrictive but still generates warmth.
As a WAV driver, its vital to stay safe and in control when driving – something made harder for everyone in bad weather. When you are on the road, remember that other drivers can see as little as you can so be extra careful of other vehicles.
Your following distance and stopping distance are hugely affected by bad weather be it snow and ice, or heavy rain and high winds, so ensure you leave extra room and have enough time to slow down.
As your visibility decreases, your reaction time increases as it may take longer to spot a hazard so be wary of this throughout the whole drive.
Don’t be in a hurry, always drive more slowly than you think is necessary.
Try to accelerate and decelerate at an even pace – sudden starts or stops are when you’re most likely to skid.
If you need to warn other road users of your presence, don’t be afraid to use your horn.
Never stop going up a hill, but don’t power up them either – if you can, increase your speed before you reach the hill in order for inertia to help carry you up. Similarly, when going down an icy or snowy hill, use your gears to slow down rather than relying on brakes.
And remember that using a phone while driving is illegal whatever the weather.
For WAV drivers, as the conditions make it harder for everyone out on the roads, keeping safe is even more important. Unfortunately, some people are more likely to misuse Blue Badge spaces if they can’t find a spot of their own so remember to bring your Blue Badge parking permit, especially during bad weather.