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As the British weather can deteriorate quite significantly at times between autumn and spring, some drivers suffer anxiety and a loss of confidence when driving in adverse conditions. However, as it’s inevitable that journeys have to be made, it’s worth taking sensible precautions and adapting to challenging weather.

  • Many drivers are not confident about driving in adverse weather conditions.
  • Sensible precautions can help minimise risk if a journey is necessary.

According to a recent survey, around 54% of drivers feel anxious about driving in rough and stormy weather, 62% about driving in icy conditions, and 60% about driving in snow. This suggests that over half of us feel anxious about the potential driving conditions for quite a few months of the year. And even when February has passed, there can still be sudden and unpredictable bouts of surprisingly wintery weather.

Add to that the discomfort of fog, or glaring headlights, as well as harsh, bright sunlight on crisp, clear days, it’s understandable that many people don’t like driving during challenging conditions at times from autumn to spring.

High winds can be unexpectedly hazardous. Strong gusts, particularly on stretches of open road, on bridges, and through gaps in hedges or fences can be extremely powerful, making drivers more likely to swerve or overcompensate.

While heavy rain isn’t exclusive to winter, it reduces driving visibility and can significantly increase stopping distances – while prolonged rain can mean standing water on the road surface which may affect steering.

In addition to high winds and heavy rain, although fog might not feel as extreme, it can be particularly dangerous as both the vehicle’s visibility and a driver’s ability to see other vehicles can be badly affected.

Of course one of the biggest challenges when it comes to driving is ice and snow.

When ice is frosty white and clearly visible, it provides a visual reminder for drivers to remain vigilant, but when it’s a thin coat of transparent ice – known as black ice because it looks the same as colour as the surface it forms on – it can be difficult to notice and so a lapse of concentration becomes more likely.

Snow is always a risk in winter and can range from a quick smattering to a full-blown blizzard. Whether falls in a thin layer that quickly melts but reforms as ice, or a thicker layer that potentially blocks the road, it can pose problems. Just like rain it can be hazardous to drive through and affect stopping distances.

So as weather conditions can deteriorate quickly, it’s worth taking steps to maximise safety:

  • In stormy, windy weather keeping a tight grip on the steering wheel makes it easier to correct and maintain course.
  • In heavy rain, decelerating gradually allows a driver to feel the car’s responses more fully. By avoiding deep water or flooding, the chances of ruining the engine or floating the vehicle reduce.
  • In fog, remaining at least 3 seconds behind the car in front and listening for approaching vehicles at a junction maximises safety and reduces the risk of a collision. Fog lights should only be used when visibility is below 100m.
  • In ice and snow, tyres should be correctly pressurised and have sufficient tread, and there should be plenty of screen wash. Clearing off snow or ice from the vehicle’s windows is a legal requirement, and remaining well behind the car in front helps mitigate the increase in stopping distances on snowy, icy roads. Driving smoothly and reducing speed by using the gears is a more controllable method than simply relying on the brakes.
  • In dazzling winter sunshine that is reflecting off snow or thick frost, or low in the sky, keeping a clean windscreen, using the visor to create shade, or even wearing a cap and sunglasses reduces glare.

Sometimes a journey is unavoidable so allowing extra time, packing spare drinks and food, taking extra clothes and blankets, and trying not to be one of the 33% of drivers who ignore red weather warnings for snow, is recommended.