With severe winter weather forecast over the coming months, here is some information about all-weather driving which will help you stay safe on the roads during the winter months. Winter weather presents challenges in general. Here are some of our recommendations for things to look out for to keep your vehicle in tiptop condition throughout the winter season:
- Car battery - Cold and damp weather can drain your battery. If your battery has problems, it most likely needs replacing
- Antifreeze levels - This will stop the water in the engine coolant system from freezing
- Screen wash - You will use this more during the winter to keep your wiper blades clean to avoid a smeared windscreen. Screen wash has a lower freezing temperature than water, so your jets should not freeze
- The condition of your tyres - particularly tread depth. The more your tyre tread is over the minimum 1.6mm, the greater it will improve steering and braking
- Bulbs/lights – Check all bulbs are working. It is important you use the correct lights for the different weather conditions
ICE & SNOW
Driving in icy or snowy weather can be dangerous.
Before any trip, ask yourself; Do I really need to make this journey?
Unnecessary journeys can put yourself, your passengers and other road users at unneeded risk.
When driving in icy or snowy conditions, take great care and allow plenty more time for your trip.
In line with the Highway Code term 229, you must check the below before you set out on your journey:
- you MUST be able to see out of all of your windows, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows
- you MUST ensure that lights and lenses are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible
- make sure the mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly
- remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users
- check your planned route is clear of delays and that no further snowfalls or severe weather are predicted.
Highway Code Rule 230 states that when driving in icy or snowy weather:
- drive with care, even if the roads have been treated
- keep well back from the road user in front as stopping distances can be ten times greater than on dry roads
- take care when overtaking vehicles spreading salt, particularly if you are riding a motorcycle or cycle
- watch out for snow ploughs which may throw out snow on either side. Do not overtake them unless the lane you intend to use has been cleared
- be prepared for the road conditions to change over relatively short distances
- listen to travel news and take note of variable message signs that may provide information about weather, road and traffic conditions ahead.
TOP TIP - Using boiling water to remove ice can crack your windscreen!
Sometimes referred to as clear ice, this is a thin layer of ice on the road surface. Despite its name, it is actually transparent but appears black as you can see the road beneath it. As it is difficult to see, it can present a significant danger. Black ice tends to form at night or early in the morning when temperatures are at their lowest. It frequently forms on roads that are less travelled on. Also, bridges, underpasses and overpasses as the cold air has more surface to cool which brings about faster freezing.
Sliding on ice
If you are sliding on ice, it likely means you are going too fast. It is important to avoid any sudden braking, turning or accelerating. If you drive slow and sensible, you should be able to correct the slide. If you oversteer, do not hit your brakes. Make sure you turn your steering wheel in the direction your vehicle is sliding. It is imperative that you do not panic if this incident occurs. Overcorrecting your wheels can cause you vehicle to spin out.
Driving in the rain may not seem very concerning but it can bring poor visibility, particularly in heavy wind and rain. It is important you have no distractions when driving in this type of weather i.e. a loud radio, as you must pay even more attention to the roads and cars around you.
The Highway Code Rule 227 states that in wet weather, stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads. This is because your tyres have less grip on the road. In wet weather you should:
- keep well back from the vehicle in front. This will increase your ability to see and plan ahead
- if the steering becomes unresponsive, it probably means that water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road. Ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually
- the rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen
- be aware of the dangers of spilt diesel that will make the surface very slippery (see Annex 6: Vehicle maintenance, safety and security)
- take extra care around pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders
Hydroplaning occurs when a layer of water comes between the wheels of the vehicle and the road surface, leading to loss of traction. This usually happens when a vehicle is travelling too fast in heavy rain. This has the potential to make steering and braking difficult and could even lead to losing control of your vehicle.
Follow these tips to help you prevent aquaplaning in heavy rain:
- Take your time. Slowing down is the only way to prevent your vehicle from aquaplaning. Remember that one of the most dangerous times to drive is soon after it begins to rain, as oils on the roads make for slippery conditions. Waiting a few minutes, rather than rushing to your destination, can be a safer plan when it is raining
- Turn your headlights on to help other vehicles see you
- Give other vehicles more space. As stated above, it is double the stopping distance in wet weather
TOP TIP - Don’t forget to keep an emergency kit in your car!
According to AA, one in ten drivers say their car has automatic lights and that they rely on them all the time. However, automatic lights will not come on if it is foggy but bright because the lights rely on light-level sensors.
Using the correct lights during foggy weather is vital. The below rules from the Highway Code show you which to use and what to look out for in foggy weather conditions:
Before entering fog check your mirrors then slow down. If the word ‘Fog’ is shown on a roadside signal but the road is clear, be prepared for a bank of fog or drifting patchy fog ahead. Even if it seems to be clearing, you can suddenly find yourself in thick fog.
When driving in fog you should:
- use your lights as required (headlights when visibility is seriously reduced)
- keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front. Rear lights can give a false sense of security
- be able to pull up well within the distance you can see clearly. This is particularly important on motorways and dual carriageways, as vehicles are travelling faster
- use your windscreen wipers and demisters
- beware of other drivers not using headlights
- not accelerate to get away from a vehicle which is too close behind you
- check your mirrors before you slow down. Then use your brakes so that your brake lights warn drivers behind you that you are slowing down
- stop in the correct position at a junction with limited visibility and listen for traffic and wind down your window. When you are sure it is safe to emerge, do so positively and do not hesitate in a position that puts you directly in the path of approaching vehicles.
- You MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves.
WINTER DRIVING ADVICE FOR EMPLOYERS
RoSPA encourages employers to have a winter driving policy for their employees who drive for work purposes. The main question at the centre of the policy is whether, when conditions are very severe, journeys need to be undertaken at all. The best thing to do in extremely bad weather is to stay off the roads altogether, and firms should ensure that their drivers listen to any warnings - either from official external sources or from within the company - not to continue their journeys.
When conditions are not bad enough to prevent travel entirely, there are various aspects of journey planning that ensure trips are undertaken more safely. Every journey should be managed and those responsible for planning routes/journeys should take account of; the road type (i.e., can rural roads be avoided?), hazards (such as accident ‘black spots’, ungritted roads or stretches of road that might be unsuitable for high-sided vehicles in high winds), traffic times (avoiding peak traffic hours) and high-risk elements, such as steep hills or bridges.
It is also vital that journey preparation allows time for sufficient rest stops. This will make sure that company drivers take account of reasonably foreseeable weather and traffic conditions and comply with speed limits. Good practice would be to pre-consider potential time delays. It should always be considered that journey routes and schedules might need to be changed during the winter months. This should prevent drivers from rushing to make up for any delays.
Employers should review their emergency arrangements with their staff to ensure they know the procedures in the case of an accident or breakdown and ensure that vehicles hold adequate equipment. Also, part of the winter driving policy should also focus on how vehicles are prepared for winter.
Does your company have a Winter Driving Policy?
If your answer is no or your current policy needs revising, we can assist you with this!
Contact us today for assistance on 01278 550270