Winter conditions can cause many difficulties for drivers.
As well as the obvious hazards – ice and snow – the simple facts that the days are shorter and the sun low in the sky also present problems. Some days it never seems to get properly light, meaning driving with headlights on all the time, while the low winter sun can blind the driver and hide road markings at times. Ice and snow can make the road surface unpredictable, calling for gentle braking and acceleration, and slowing down well in advance of corners and other hazards.
Black ice is particularly dangerous as it is not immediately visible to the driver. It may appear as just a shiny patch of road, so it is important not to speed up suddenly when there appears to be no ice on what has been an icy road.
Of course, in ice and snow, stopping distances and times will be increased even more than in rainy conditions, so it is important to leave a larger gap between you and the vehicle in front. When large accumulations of snow thaw, floods can result, causing additional hazards for drivers.
Perform checks as part of your routine before driving
Before setting off from home, you should always check that you can see clearly out of the car and that you can be seen by other road users. Any ice or snow should be cleared completely from the windows and you should also ensure that the windows and lights are clean. Be careful to clear away snow that is lying on the rest of the car – this can cause a hazard if it flies off the car as you are driving along.
The lights should be checked to see that all bulbs are working. Keep the windscreen washer reservoir topped up as the washers tend to be used much more frequently in winter. Your tyres should be properly inflated and in good condition. A good tread depth on your tyres is important for good grip on the road as at any time of year. Special winter tyres, designed to give better grip in slippery conditions, can be fitted to the car if desired.
It is important to check the weather forecast and travel reports before setting out on a long journey and heed any warnings against travel given by police. It is wise to take a shovel, blanket, spare clothing and a warm drink in the car if you think you may encounter snow, and make sure that your mobile phone is charged in case you need to summon help. It may be better to stick to main roads, as smaller ones may not have been gritted or ploughed.
So, if you have to venture onto the roads in nasty winter conditions, remember – be prepared and keep your speed down.