Winter Road Safety: Driving in the Cold Months

Driving in winter presents more unique challenges to the rest of the year. The cold weather can make it difficult for anyone getting behind the wheel, no matter how experienced they are.

According to the AA, “breakdowns and accidents are more common in the winter when road conditions are challenging”.

That means you need to take more care when you’re on the road during the colder months. Check out our tips for staying safe in winter.

Winter driving challenges

Winter brings with it two main elements that pose hazards to drivers: weather and light. The colder weather can mean snow, ice and fog – all of which can make driving a dangerous pursuit. With fog, your vision is obscured, while snow and ice mean you risk your car spinning out of control.

Meanwhile, the shorter daylight hours make it more difficult to see, potentially putting you and other road users around you at risk.

Some of the specific challenges you might face in winter include:

  • Low sun

The sun is lower in the sky in winter, meaning that it can often be right in your line of sight when you’re driving. Although you can’t remove the sun from the solar system, you can make sure your windscreen is as clean as possible to avoid anything interfering with your vision. You might also want to keep a pair of sunglasses in the car to block some of the glare.

  • Stopping distances

When the roads are slippery from rain, snow or ice, you not only risk spinning, but your stopping distances can increase significantly. According to the Highway Code, you should stay at least four seconds behind the car in front of you when it’s wet and even further behind when it’s icy.

  • Gritted roads

Although the roads are gritted for safety, they can cause damage to your car, potentially making it less safe to drive. To prevent the corrosive effect of the grit, keep your car clean. And keep your distance from cars in front of you, which could kick up grit and other debris onto your windscreen.

Staying safe in winter

During lockdown, most of us are driving less than we normally would. But we do still have to make those essential journeys, while delivery services have only seen their workloads increase. So we still need to make sure we’re keeping ourselves safe on the roads.

Some important actions you can take to keep yourself safe on the roads are:

  • Get a winter car check

You can do it yourself or you can head to a mechanic or auto retailer but the first thing you should be doing in winter is making sure you check your car over. Ensure everything is working as it should be and that your car can withstand what winter throws at it.

  • Be prepared

Make sure you know what’s coming weather-wise. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts – both local and national because you never know when a storm from a nearby area will move towards your region.

  • Carry an ice scraper

Even though you de-ice your car before you set off on your journey, you may find that you need to do it again before you come home. So make sure you’ve got some de-icer and an ice scraper in your car.

  • Drive slowly

Apart from making sure your car is in good condition, the most important thing you can do when the roads are treacherous is to slow down and drive as carefully as possible. Going too fast may mean you can’t slow down in time to avoid a collision. You should also carry out any manoeuvres slowly and gently.

  • Know your car

The risk of skidding is handled differently by different cars. It depends on whether they’re front or rear-wheel drive as well as the systems fitted to the car, such as anti-lock braking systems. Make sure you check your vehicle’s handbook to see how these might affect skidding.

Other road users

But it’s not just drivers who need to be more careful. If you’re walking around in winter, make sure you’re dressed appropriately. The sun rises late and sets early, so you should try to avoid dark clothing – especially if you’re going to be crossing any roads.

You should also make sure you’re taking extra care when stepping out between parked cars and that you always wait for cars to stop at pedestrian crossings before going ahead – they have longer stopping distances when the roads are slippery.

If you’re cycling, make sure you’re dressed in bright, reflective clothing that also keeps you warm. You’ll also need the right lights – a red one at the back of your bike and a white one at the front.

It’s up to individuals to keep themselves and others safe on the roads in winter. But if you’ve been involved in a road accident that wasn’t your fault, you could be able to claim compensation for any injuries you’ve suffered.

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