Having been hit by most of the weather conditions we can imagine so far in 2021, many parts of the country are now experiencing heavy snow and plummeting temperatures. We all think we know just what we would do if we skid, but the truth is that we so rarely have to drive in icy or snowy conditions that it is easy to forget how to act – and react.
Here’s a quick look at top driving safety tips for cold conditions.
Before you go
We have said it plenty of times before, but we will say it again: if the roads are very icy or heavy snow is forecast, think twice before you travel. Especially in a time where only essential travel is recommended, do think before you get behind the wheel.
If your trip really is essential, leave extra time so that you can take it slowly – rushing is a bad idea at any time of year, but it is twice as hazardous in icy conditions when your stopping distance can be ten times longer. Check your car before you plan to leave, too so that you have time to deice it; driving with a porthole cleared in your windscreen isn’t just dangerous, it’s illegal. Use de-icer or a hot water bottle to clear the windscreen and windows fully.
Make sure that you have ample fuel and that you have your mobile phone, fully charged with you. It’s also a good idea to make sure that someone knows where you are going, which route you're taking, and when you can be expected.
On the road
Once you get going, pull away slowly and go easy on the clutch to avoid wheel spins. The key is to be cautious and gentle; if you need to brake or change gear, do so slowly and gently. If you are driving uphill, you want to avoid having to stop as starting again on an icy hill can be a challenge. Keep a good distance back from any vehicles in front so that you won’t have to stop for them, and maintain a slow, steady pace – you want to avoid changing gear if at all possible. Use just as much caution if you are going downhill; choose a low gear, slow down before you start going down the hill, avoid accelerating and avoid braking where possible.
If you skid, your instinct may be to fight your vehicle and steer against the skid. Try to remain calm, take your foot off the accelerator, and steer into the direction that your back wheels are skidding; this will help your vehicle to correct itself.
With the turbulence of the Great British Weather, we are as likely to have a heatwave next month as prolonged sub-zero temperatures, ice and snow. However, it always pays to be prepared. If you are worried about driving in different conditions, it may be worth taking a few driving lessons with a trusted instructor to boost your confidence, particularly if you have moved to a new, colder area.