Let’s face it. There’s no way around it. Driving in the winter is treacherous. Many people don’t like going out at night, so you can imagine how many people absolutely loathe going out in the car when there’s snow and ice on the ground. Learning how to drive safely in the winter will make for more comfortable journeys. One piece of advice that’s always worth having is that comfortable shoes can make all the difference in the cold.
Do You Have to Travel?
The snow is coming down, blizzard style. Visibility is reduced. Does your journey really matter that much? Even if you are going out for vital supplies you could always make do with your local mini-supermarket or corner shop for the time being until you can get to the big shopping centre. Sometimes to drive safely we need to delay or even cancel a trip.
Business contacts will understand if there are bad conditions. Family members and friends won’t want you to put yourself in any kind of danger. There are no prizes for soldiering on and crashing. Cancel that trip.
Extra Time for Journeys
It’s likely that you won’t want to rush when you’re out on the road. Conditions will be poor and if there’s any kind of fog, mist or downpour then visibility could be significantly reduced. All of these factors should be enough to make you slow down. Even if they aren’t, the chances are the rest of the traffic will be considerably more cautious. What does this mean? You’ll need to increase your travel time, so make allowances, leave earlier and don’t put yourself in a position where you need to rush.
You’ll also want to give yourself that extra time to de-ice the vehicle’s windscreen and ensure that all the mist and fog has gone from the glass. Nothing is more frustrating than having to drive somewhere staring through a letterbox because you’re on a promise. And if you do take the risk, you’re liable for a fine.
Use Grit to Get Through
Whilst shortcuts and the back roads might be a great way for those in the know to save time and stress in the warmer months, the situation could well be reversed in the cold.
The council are most likely to spend their resources gritting main roads, which means the bigger the thoroughfare, the more likely it is to be free of ice and snow. And if you do have an accident or skid off-road then someone will notice, traffic will stop and you’ll get the assistance you need.
Adjust stopping Distances to Drive Safely
Think you can judge stopping distances in the dry? Well, be prepared for a tenfold increase in stopping times to drive safely in the winter. You don’t have to be an experienced driver to know that this is down to the icy surfaces, which can be hidden beneath the snow.
Apply the brakes slowly and gently when you’re driving in wet, icy or snowy conditions. Even with ABS systems there’s a chance you can slide around badly if too much sudden force is applied to the wheels.
Creep around, drive slowly and leave a big gap between you and the traffic in front. Don’t be bullied by other drivers. Maintain a position on the road that gives you the maximum amount of confidence, safety and comfort.
When you’re pulling out and getting the car moving, try second gear if your car can manage it. This dramatically reduces the engine revs and gives your car a better chance of getting a good purchase on a slippery surface. There’s much more of a chance that the car will wheel spin in first gear, causing your back end to slide around. Which at best is embarrassing and at worst, outright dangerous.
When it comes to climbing up a hill, the art in the snow and ice is to never stop. Leave a significant gap between you and any car in front. Plan your route carefully should a car come down the hill, needing you to move. This should allow you to avoid changing gear. Equally, when you come down the hill, try to use a low gear and avoid braking. There’s a very good chance that gravity and the ice will conspire together to pull your car around.
Have a plan of action that will help you out if you do get stuck in the snow. Do not try to keep moving as spinning the wheels will only exacerbate your problem, digging you further into the ice. The key is to stay calm and not panic. Keep a shovel in the back of your car that can be used to not only dig yourself out – but any car you get stuck behind. Use sand, gravel or even a tough blanket to give the front wheels something to grip onto and shift from forward to reverse to get the car going.
Before you go out on the frozen roads you might want to check your car is ready for the cold. Fortunately, we’ve created a guide to getting your car ready for winter that provides you with everything you’ll need to know. Naturally, it’s normal to be worried when there’s more snow and ice on the roads, and there’s nothing wrong with being cautious. Don’t push yourself in the winter months and remember that good times are not far away on the roads.