Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Driving in the snow: What you need to know

Snow can be pretty to behold, blanketing everything in sight with a fluffy white layer. Nobody enjoys watching heavy rain fall from the sky, but as soon as winter’s first snowflakes are spotted, it can feel quite magical; until you’ve got to drive in it, that is.

Cars driving in the snow


Wise decisions - When snow is forecast or has begun falling, motorists need to decide whether their journeys are essential. If they are, the most sensible routes need to be chosen, avoiding unsalted, isolated roads if possible.


Be prepared - Assuming your car is suitably maintained, with correctly functioning lights, indicators, heating and so on, it’s also wise to take spare, warm clothing, a torch, shovel, blanket and perhaps a flask and some food on car journeys in snowy conditions, in case you get stuck or break down.


Tyres - Although they provide an extra measure of reassurance if your budget allows, snow tyres aren’t essential, snowfall in the UK isn’t especially deep every winter. But your tyres need to be in good condition with plenty of tread, 3mm and above being the recommended depth during winter, which is double the legal minimum.


Remove snow - Clear your car of snow using a soft broom, as snow falling from your car’s roof onto the windscreen could suddenly block your vision, or even result in an accident if it falls into the path of another vehicle.


Setting off - If your car struggles to gain traction at first, resist accelerating keenly. Drivers of cars with manual gearboxes should try setting off in second gear, which may help the car grip the road and get moving more successfully. Vehicles with automatic gearboxes often have snow or winter modes activated at the push of a button, enhancing traction and slowing the car’s responses. Temporarily switching off a car’s ESP, or stability control, can sometimes help overcome problems setting off.


Gentle movements - Steering and braking should also be executed much more smoothly in snow, as vehicles are increasingly prone to sliding around when road surfaces are significantly less predictable. Excessive speed should be avoided, your emphasis instead focussed on maintaining steady progress.


Skidding - If your car begins to slide, the natural reaction may be to panic, braking and steering jerkily, with potentially dangerous consequences. Try to keep calm, your eyes focussed on where you want your car to go, and gently steer the same way your car is sliding. For example, if the rear of your car is sliding towards the nearside (passenger side), you should also steer towards the passenger side, to counter the slide.


Adjust your driving style - Maintain increased distance when driving in snowy conditions, in case one or more vehicles in front loses control. Drive with your headlights on, and make good use of your windscreen wipers if the snow continues to fall. Blizzards can prove disconcerting even for more confident drivers, and if visibility becomes impaired to the point of being dangerous, it’s wise to stop your vehicle as soon as it’s safe to do so.


Snow needn’t be intimidating to drive in, providing you make the recommended preparations and heed safety tips like these, helping you and your car arrive at your destination safely.

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