Winter was late arriving this year, but it is promising to be an extremely cold one now that it has arrived, with temperatures frequently below freezing and snow showers forecast for much of the UK. Snow is quite a rare phenomenon in the UK, so it is something of a novelty for UK drivers to face snowy roads. Here is how to stay safe this winter, on and off the UK’s busy road network.
Stay at Home!
Avoid unnecessary trips if you can. Obviously, if you are going away for the holidays, you will have to travel, but if you were simply thinking about going for a drive to window shop at a retail centre, or admire the decorations and lights in neighbouring streets, perhaps postpone these plans if the snow starts coming down unexpectedly. Snow can be tricky to drive through, and is, if nothing else, a distraction, meaning that the roads are soon filled with people who are not as focused on the road and other traffic as they usually would be.
Be prepared for anything, even on the shortest trips. Wear clothing suitable for walking in, even on short, relatively walkable drives, and carry an emergency winter pack in your boot from the moment the first frosts are seen. This pack should contain: nutrient dense compact foods, water, a torch or two (with good batteries), a shovel and a blanket or spare coat. You should also have an emergency triangle or two, and a high-vis vest. Ensure your phone is fully charged before each trip and make sure people know when to expect your arrival. Finally, make sure you have added some antifreeze to your radiator water, and popped some de-icer in the glove box, with some warm gloves. Basically, you should be able to survive for a few hours – in or out of your car – should you need to.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
In poor weather, always drive slowly and steadily to keep yourself and your passengers as safe as possible. If your car has winter mode (a feature of some automatics which eschews first gear when starting off) use it when the road is iced up or slippery. For manual cars, you can achieve the same effect by starting off in second gear: this is an effective strategy as it gives you more grip when starting off. When you are on the highways and motorways, maintain a steady relatively low speed (but not too slow!).
Put on your winter tyres when the temperature is reliably below 7°C as this is when they are most effective. Winter tyres are made from a softer rubber, are often slightly wider than regular tyres and have a more intricate tread pattern which is designed to deal with ice, snow and mud far more effectively than all-weather or summer tyres. They are designed to retain their grip and friction even under very slippery conditions and having them fitted can be a very welcome boost to your winter driving confidence.
However, do remember to change your tyres once the weather warms up again – the soft flexible rubber of winter tyres wears away rapidly under normal road conditions. Get new winter tyres this Christmas from Dartford Tyres and drive to your relative’s homes with greater peace of mind.
If you are sensible and careful, there is no reason why you can’t enjoy a fantastic holiday season driving from house to house, even if there is snow lying on the ground. All it takes is a little extra care and attention.