Driving in the winter can be particularly hazardous and extra care should be taken to ensure the safety of yourself, your vehicle and other people sharing the roads.
No matter how long you have been driving and how good a driver you may be, it is important to remember that winter driving is very different to driving in the summer. The roads become slippery with ice and frost, while snow and fog can greatly reduce visibility. When you take this into account, it is important to be more cautious than ever to ensure the safety of yourself and any passengers you may have on-board, as well as pedestrians and other motorists. So be prepared for the adverse weather that our unpredictable Scottish climate will inevitably deliver.
Your tyres will need to be able to handle the road and this means gripping well when there is snow and ice present. You should check tyres are fit for purpose before you begin your journey and for an accurate reading, always check them when they are cold. It may also be worth considering tyres with a deeper tread at this time of the year, as they will be more effective in icy conditions. When weather conditions are poor, you need to pay attention to your acceleration so that your tyres don’t slip on the surface. Drive slower than normal to give yourself a better chance of being able to stop before it’s too late.
As well as reducing speed, also widen the gap. The minimum safe distance between vehicles is two seconds, but during the winter this should be increased to as much as ten seconds. The wider the gap, the easier it will be to brake safely in poor conditions, especially if the vehicle in front suddenly grinds to a halt.
When the snow and ice has made an appearance, it is time to switch up the gears to avoid skidding on the road. Instead of taking off in first gear, it may be a better idea to go up to second. If you want to stay gripped to the road, a higher gear is the safer option.
Keep an eye on the weather conditions and make sure you use your lights when necessary, which will be a lot more frequently as visibility worsens. Keep an eye out too when you are parking in bad weather conditions. For instance, don’t park under trees where snow or branches could fall and damage your vehicle.
If you do venture out in to the cold, especially on long distance drives, it is important to ensure you have plenty of time for your journey, as rushing around and speeding can easily lead to an accident. Cautious drivers, vehicle breakdowns and accidents will also cause congestion and delays so plan your journey prior to setting off and know an alternative route if possible. It is also important to be prepared for the worst, always keep a blanket or coat in your car in case you are involved in an incident that leaves you standing by the side of the road waiting for help to arrive.