You don’t need us to tell you that driving in winter comes with certain challenges, and it’s not surprising that accidents are more common when the temperature starts to drop.
Staying alert and remembering the basics is so important to keep yourself and others safe, so here are some of our top tips to ensure those snowy winter drives are as enjoyable and stress-free as possible!
Allow yourself extra time
We are all guilty of perhaps “pushing the limits” when we’re in a rush. Whether you’re late to school or meeting your friends, when the clock is ticking, we are more likely to make silly mistakes as our mind is preoccupied with the time. Whilst this is dangerous in dry conditions when it’s snowing, or the ground is a little icy these dangers are amplified 10-fold.
Breaking a little later into a corner or going above the safe speed limit the conditions allow you to drive at can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring you leave yourself plenty of time is more important than you may think.
Plan your route
This tip is for those that live in slightly more rural areas or must drive on roads that are slightly off the beaten track. Sadly the local councils can’t grit everywhere and are more likely to prioritise major roads. Therefore, if you know you’ll be travelling in challenging conditions, a slight detour to ensure you are driving on the safest roads possible is probably the best idea.
Whilst it might be longer in distance, it’s likely to actually cut down on the overall travelling time!
Drive in a higher gear
The trick to driving in snowy or icy conditions is to keep everything as smooth and controlled as possible. Keeping your revs to an absolute minimum and changing to a higher gear as quickly as possible will really help. If you’re struggling to even set off, try it in second gear. This will put less stress on the tyres and provide a smoother take off.
Be kind to your clutch
The hardest thing for many of our learners when they first start driving is their clutch control, and trend that continues for many even after years of driving. Poor clutch control can cause wheelspin, and in icy or snowy conditions this is not a good thing! Try and be extra nice to your clutch, easing it up gentle to provide maximum grip.
Keep your tyres in tip top condition
Really, you should be doing this anyway, however when conditions are challenging you want to give your tyres the best chance possible of gripping the road. While winter tyres could be a great option, they can be rather expensive, so even just ensuring your regular tyres have the maximum amount of tread on can be just the difference.
Beware! Black ice ahead
We’re sure many of you have been walking along a road, and out of nowhere, your feet have been taken from underneath you by invisible ice. This is exactly what can happen in cars and is why invisible black ice is one of the most dangerous things when the weather starts to get a bit colder.
If you’re not sure if the road ahead is icy, assume that it is. Slow your speed down and be extra vigilant ensuring all movements are kept smooth and steady. It’s better to get there a few minutes later than not at all!
Driving on steep hills is difficult for many in dry conditions, so when the road is a bit slippy things can quickly turn into a nightmare.
When driving uphill, try to keep your speed at a constant, avoiding changing gears at all costs.
When you’re driving downhill, keep the gears and revs as low as you can. It’s important to avoid braking, so leave yourself extra room from the car in front.
Getting stuck – what to do?
In particularly heavy snow, it’s possible that you may get stuck. There’s a couple of things to do if this happens, and hopefully, you’ll be free and clear in no time.
It’s advisable to carry a shovel in your boot, and a few bits of old carpet. This is so, should you get stuck, you can clear the snow from around the tyres and place the carpet down to provide extra grip.
Make sure your tyres are straightened to provide you with the cleanest getaway and remember…stay calm, don’t panic!
Swap your heels for trainers
As we know, the trick to driving in tricky conditions is to be a smooth and consistent as possible. Any sudden braking or acceleration could end in disaster, so ensuring your footwear is correct and provides the least amount of slippage is critical. So please, pop those ugly trainers on the really good grip…you can always change them when you arrive.
Prepare for every eventuality
Whilst it is unlikely that you’ll be stuck in a snowstorm that means it’s too difficult to drive, it’s not unheard of. So make sure you pack your car with the essentials in case you need to spend a few hours…or even the night in your car. A blanket, some water, non-perishable snacks, a torch and a fully charged phone are good places to start.
There’s a good chance that when driving at this time of the year, you’ll have to use some…or all of the above tips. The really important thing to remember is to stay calm and don’t panic, as that can make things 10 times worse! If you are really nervous about driving in snowy or icy conditions, get in touch with your local My Four Wheels driving instructor who would be more than happy to take you out on a lesson or two to settle those nerves.