The article was produced in collaboration with Keith Michaels, business car insurance brokers with over 30 years’ experience.
In wintertime roads become even more hazardous – ice, snow, strong gusts and winds, floods and thick fogs are all commonplace challenges that limit the safety of road conditions. Winter road users may be familiar with the kinds of weather patterns that become more of a hindrance than a help, but adjusting to the wintertime is no small feat.
Darker mornings and evenings, receding sunlight, coupled with freezing temperatures and risky weather patterns can make driving more hazardous. Motorists, then, need to take precautionary steps to negotiate these risks and protect not only themselves but other road users too. In fact, it is estimated that up to 48% of winter car accidents are the result of skidding, according to the recent research by Kia.
While not every accident can be avoided, motorists can increase their safety by preparing their vehicle for the journey ahead. Here’s our top tips for staying safe on the roads in colder weather.
1) Prepare for the (unpredictable) weather
On frosty mornings, the habit of clambering around a near-frozen car can seem unpleasant and all too familiar. Yet, with modern technology and the right kit, making key preparations could minimise risk and ensure your mornings routines aren’t delayed. Safety should, of course, be at the heart of any preparation.
For drivers of cars featuring modern technology, the likes of heated seats and windows, these can be helpful in warming up and safely preparing your vehicle before a long journey or morning commute. Many modern vehicles are fitted with easy -to-use features that will help a car remain safe on the roads.
For those looking at alternatives, consider keeping safety supplies and equipment near your vehicle, such as antifreeze or a scraper for frost-rimed windows, or use an overnight thermal sheet to safely protect your car from frost. Many car hacks, such as pouring hot water on windscreens, might damage a car and are not safety-first measures that help drivers.
2) When should you wash your car in the winter?
Whether it’s a morning chill, or overnight frost, the winter can cause chaos for a car. Not only will girt on the roads clog up and erode at the wheel arches and the chassis, but wintry debris will obscure headlights and general visibility, reducing your view. Road conditions are normally worsened by the risk of hidden ice, or fallen snow, rain, or a low, thick fog.
You should aim to keep your car clean weekly, or as often to this as possible. In the daytime, it’s safe to wash and dry your car with a microfibre cloth. It’s critical to avoid damp, as overnight frost can deteriorate a car’s condition and road-worthiness.
3) Skid recovery
If your car goes into a skid, it can be tricky to take evasive action and resume control. The best option is to try to prevent skidding in the first place. Yet, skids are accidental and exacerbated by unfavourable weather and road conditions.
Unseen ice on the surface or snowy roads can send a car into a skid. You could recover from it, depending on the type of skid. If your car gets locked in a rear wheel skid, then you should steer into it to recover. Yet, for a front wheel skid, try lessening the steering angle, or gently brake in a straight line. Avoid knee-jerk, aggressive action, as this can worsen a skid and further loosen your control over the vehicle’s steering.
Many modern cars feature safety equipment designed to limit these risks on the road. Skidding, even though a common occurrence in tougher road conditions, can be limited by safety features such as traction control and electronic stability control.
4) Drive with extra caution
When the weather toughens and the conditions worsen, such as low visibility from snowfall, or unforeseen black ice on bridges, your best option is to drive slowly and with extra caution. When you drive through rain, you should drive with more caution. When it snows, this caution should become even more alert and aware of the worsened conditions on the road ahead. Stopping distances, for example, should increase by 10 seconds when there’s ice or snow on the road.
Where some of the most hazardous weathers are unpredictable or hard to identify, the best way to maximise safe travel is to reduce your speed and stay alert.
This comes with the expectation that every driver should be alert. According to last year’s data, in December 2019, drink driving offences rose by 16%. This trend, if continued, is alarming. The road conditions in wintry weather is unpredictable enough, but without proper attention, a driver could be risking much more than just their own safety. Seek an expert on convicted insurances for more guidance.
5) Plan your journey
For any journeys – long or short trips – always plan and prepare ahead of time. Plot the key points of a journey before travelling, such as mapping out your destination. It also helps to ensure that you have plenty of fuel and are secure in the knowledge that your car’s condition is roadworthy, your tyre treads are safe, and your insurance has the best coverage.
Getting behind the wheel of a safe and reliable vehicle in harsh conditions can influence how safe you feel driving on wintry roads. With ice, snow, fog and rain, drivers often lose confidence on the road. Yet, a reliable car with modern features can empower you to take control in tough conditions, no matter the weather.