Today’s advice guide is regarding safe driving in the cold and icy weather that is expected to hit over the next week.
Winter driving tips
- Your car is likely to use more fuel over winter. Don’t risk running the fuel tank low, as you could be vulnerable if you run out of fuel on a dark road or in bad weather.
- It’s especially important to plan your journey in advance if the weather is likely to be bad.
- Look at weather forecasts for a various locations on your route and consider taking an alternative route if particularly bad weather is forecast.
- Stick to main roads, as they’re more likely to be kept clear, and keep away from rural or hilly areas if possible.
- If you’re concerned that the weather is going to be bad enough to prevent you completing your journey, such as if weather warnings are in place, consider whether your journey is really necessary.
- Plan alternative routes in case you encounter an issue on your journey and keep friends and family informed of your location. You can share your location using apps (available in your phone app store) so people can kept track of your journey in case there’s an issue. Make sure your phone is charged in advance, and consider buying an in-car phone charger.
Most journeys will be straight-forward and you don’t need to worry but it’s always best to make sure you and your family are safe in the event of being stranded by having a grab bag in the boot of your vehicle. Your emergency bag can contain:
- a torch
- a blanket/warm clothes
- food and drink
- a spade
- reflective jacket/vest
- a phone charger.
Driving in snow
- In snow and ice, stopping distances can increase by as much as 10 times compared to dry conditions.
- Drive slowly, allowing you to stop within the distance you can see in case of any obstacles in the road. Be smooth – braking, accelerating or turning harshly can unsettle the car, leading you to lose control.
- Keep the car clear of snow. All windows need to be clear for maximum visibility, while snow on the roof can fall and cause problems for you or other drivers. The number plates need to be visible, too.
- Use a low gear for going downhill and try to avoid braking unless necessary, make sure you leave plenty of space between you and the car in front.
- If you do encounter a skid, steer gently into it – for example, if the rear of the car is sliding to the right, steer to the right. Do not take your hands off the steering wheel or stamp your foot on the brakes.
- Sunglasses can help to reduce the glare of low winter sun on the snow.
What to do if you get stuck
- If you are stuck, it is recommended that you turn your wheels from side to side to push the snow out of the way.
- Do not try to keep moving if the wheels spin – it will only dig you in deeper.
- Use a shovel to clear snow out of the way. Pour cat litter, sand or gravel in front of the wheels to help get traction.
- Shift from forward to reverse and back again. Give a light touch on the accelerator until the vehicle gets going.
- If you can’t move your car, you can stay warm by running the engine. However, it is vital that the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow as highly toxic carbon monoxide gas could enter the car.
- If there is any risk the fumes can come into the car, do not run the engine. Even if it is safe, do not run the engine for more than 10 or 15 minutes in each hour. If need be, open a window.
- If help is less than 100m distance, stay in your car. If you do leave your vehicle, be aware that it is easy to get disorientated in heavy snowfall.
- In your car, keep moving to maintain body circulation and put on as many clothes as possible. Avoid overexertion as cold weather puts added strain on the heart.
- If possible, alert friend, family or colleagues to your situation and location. If conditions do not improve consider calling your breakdown provider or the emergency services.
Driving in rain
- Wet weather can be just as problematic as snow if you don’t drive to the conditions.
- Slow down, as stopping distances in the wet can be twice what they are in the dry.
- Watch out for flooding: dips in the road can hide areas of water, especially in the dark. If you’re not sure how deep a puddle is, don’t risk driving through it.
- Doing so could cause serious damage to your car and leave you stranded if it’s deep.
Try to remember and use the acronym FORCES for the regular ‘DIY checks’ you should carry out through the winter and especially as we head into another icy blast.
That’s Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics, Screen wash
Check you have plenty of fuel in your tank for your journey.
It may sound obvious but you would be surprised how many people run out of fuel and with temperatures as low as expected you really don’t want get stranded.
Our patrols check the oil level on every vehicle they attend and surprisingly they find one in three are dangerously low on oil. This can cause a breakdown or lead to catastrophic engine damage at worst.
You should check your oil level is between the minimum and maximum mark on your car’s dipstick and top up if necessary.
For the type of oil you need to use, you should refer to your owner’s handbook or speak to your local dealer.
You’ll need to check your tyres and your wiper blades before you set off.
Check your tyres for general wear and tear racks, splits of bulges, and more importantly, tread depth.
Although the minimum tread level is 1.6mm, during winter it’s advisable to have 3mm of tread on your tyres to help with traction and grip.
Also ensure that you have the correct pressure in your tyres – check your owner’s handbook for the correct inflation levels.
Your tyres are your car’s only connection to the road and it is vital that they are in good condition and correctly inflated for good traction and grip.
Next check your wiper blades. They are not everlasting and will need replacing from time-to-time, so check them for splits and cracks.
Check whether they are effective at clearing your screen and replace as necessary.
Wiper blades can get frozen to the windscreen in freezing conditions and when there is snow. In colder winters, RAC patrols see a big increase in callouts to members’ cars which have blown a fuse or broken the motor/mechanics when operating the wipers when they are frozen to the screen.
So clear your windscreen and ensure that they will lift off the screen before switching them on. Use de-icer (never hot water) to free them if necessary.
Cover your windscreen with a blanket or an old sheet to keep it ice and snow free and wrap the wipers up in the sheet to avoid them sticking to the screen.
Check your car’s coolant level. The last thing you need is a frozen engine or for your car to overheat.
Although it’s a sealed system and shouldn’t need to be topped up, you should always double check, especially before a long journey.
Check your coolant levels when the engine is cold and look in your handbook for the correct coolant and mix to use should you need to top it up.
Check your lights – they are essential for you to see and be seen.
It’s vitally important to make sure not only that you can see where you’re going but also that other drivers can see you. Walk around your car and make sure all lights are working and that they are free from dirt, grime and snow.
Lights get extremely dirty during the winter months so clean them on a regular basis.
With a cold engine, check the battery terminals under the bonnet are clean and tight.
If your car struggles to start and the engine ‘labours’ when you turn the key you should get it checked by a garage. If your battery is over four years old it may be getting to the end of its life and it could let you down.
If you are having your battery tested, ask a garage to check the charging system and the drain on your battery – this will give a better picture of your car’s overall electrical health.
6. Screen wash
Check your screen wash level and top up with a quality screen wash additive or pre-mix which is effective down to at least -15 degrees Celsius.
There’s more muck and dirt on the roads during the winter, as well as salt, so it’s important to make sure you can keep your windscreen clean. And remember to keep checking and topping up the level as you use the screen wash up.
All details above were found from the RAC UK website and the Kent Police website, you can find more information at: https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/ or https://www.kent.police.uk/advice/driving/winter-driving-advice/
Other useful websites:
- Met Office – Get ready for winter (travel, at home, staying well, being prepared)
- KCC – Winter services (health, travel, gritting/snow clearance, closures).
Hope you all find this guide useful and this helps you to stay safe in the cold weather that has been forecast.
PSE 59753 Adam Sackett
Volunteer & Neighbourhood Watch Liaison Officer
East Kent Police
Police Station, Fort Hill, Margate, Kent, CT9 1HL
Email : email@example.com