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Winter Driving Guide

How to Drive Safely in Bad Weather

Winter is rapidly approaching, and with it a range of weather conditions that make driving – particularly long-distance driving – far more dangerous. From snow to ice, heavy rain to fog, winter driving conditions are far from ideal in many regions.

Alongside cold weather and poor visibility, winter brings with it a staggeringly high accident rate. More than 6,300 extra accidents occur during winter than in summer, making it important to be aware of how to drive in the winter conditions.

Snow, ice and heavy rain can make driving in winter dangerous for the unprepared.

In this guide, we’ve looked at two of the most hazardous driving conditions on UK roads during winter – heavy rain and snowy/icy weather– and put together a safe driving guide to ensure you’re prepared for each one.

If your region is frequently hit by heavy rain, snowfall, black ice or any other winter weather conditions that affect road safety, read on to make sure you’re prepared for the weather and aware of how to respond to driving safety threats.

How to drive in heavy rain
How to drive in snow/ice
How to drive on roads with black ice

How to drive in heavy rain

While light drizzle is generally nothing to worry about, driving in heavy rain can be a scary experience. As rain builds up on the road surface, it can reduce your vehicle’s connection with the road and, in some cases, cause your car to aquaplane and slide.

Heavy Rain re-sized
Image Source

Heavy rain reduces the amount of friction between your car’s tyres and the surface of the road, resulting in less responsive steering – as well as the potential for your car to slide – and much less effective braking than normal.

This means that objects that would rarely be a safety concern in normal conditions – trailers, buses and even the vehicle driving in front of you – need far more space and attention.

Combat the negative effects of rain on visibility by switching on your headlights and making your vehicle as visible as possible. Even during the daytime, your headlights will make your vehicle more obvious and increase your forward visibility.

Rain reduces your car’s stopping power, increasing the amount of time it will take for you to slow down. Reduce your speed and give the vehicle in front of you some extra space – five car lengths is a good rule of thumb – to make stopping easier.

Aquaplaning – coming out of contact with the road and losing control of your car – is a major safety risk during heavy rain. Keep your speed low and easy to control to reduce the risk of your car losing contact with the road’s surface. If the rain is too heavy for you to feel safe and comfortable behind the wheel, stop at the next services and take a break until the weather improves. Driving in heavy rain is tiring, and stopping is often the best response for your personal safety.

How to drive in snow/ice

Driving in show can be hazardous, particularly if your vehicle doesn’t have all – wheel drive or winter tyres. The key to safe snow driving is preparation – winter tyres and knowledge of how to drive in snow can help you avoid having an accident. Before you drive on snowy or icy roads, you’ll need to prepare your vehicle for the cold winter weather:

  •  Replace your summer tyres with winter tyres that have deeper treat depth. If you’re not sure if your tyres are suitable for winter driving, get them checked by an expert mechanic to ensure they’re safe
  • Schedule a check-up for your vehicle to make sure the radiator, defroster, oil and brakes are capable of operating safely in winter temperatures without any performance issues
  • If your car has broken down in summer (or in previous winters) make sure it has been recently serviced. Breaking down in winter, particularly in a remote location far from assistance, isn’t a pleasant experience

Just like rain can build up on the road and cause your car to aquaplane, show builds up on the road surface and massively reduces the amount of contact your tyres have with the road surface. This makes slipping and sliding far more commonplace. Drive safely by limiting your speed and maintaining rolling traction with the surface of the road. The slower you go, the greater the amount of vehicle weight pressed into the road and subsequently, the greater your vehicle’s stopping and turning power. Keep your speed low and avoid sudden turns and braking. Stop smoothly to reduce the risk of your car sliding. When you come to a corner, turn the wheel slowly and keep your car at a low speed to avoid letting the tyres spin on the slippery surface.

How to drive on roads with black ice

Black ice is a thin layer of transparent ice that can form on the road surface during winter. Since it’s completely transparent, black ice is impossible to see and is one of the biggest causes of winter road accidents. When your car comes into contact with black ice at speed, the friction with the road surface that allows it to brake and turn is reduced. Instead of responding, it slides on the road and – in some cases – can slide off the road or into oncoming traffic.

Black ice forms in shady areas where there isn’t enough sunlight to melt snow that forms on the road. If you approach trees, slopes or other objects that cast a shadow onto the road, reduce your speed and focus carefully on the road conditions.

If you come into contact with black ice and lose control of your car, don’t panic. Act calmly and carry out the following steps:

  •  Don’t brake or steer suddenly, as this could cause your car to lose control and slide
  •  Lift your foot off the accelerator to reduce your car’s speed without using the brakes
  •  If your car is sliding left or right, carefully turn the steering wheel in the same direction to regain control of the vehicle
  •  Never steer against the direction of your vehicle – this could cause your car to spin and crash

Black ice normally forms in small patches, usually five metres or less in length. By driving slowly and focusing on regaining control of your vehicle, you can pass over the black ice and return to the road.

Are you prepared for winter?

If your region is hit by snow, hail or heavy rain during winter, it’s important that you prepare your vehicle in advance. Schedule a check-up to make sure your car’s tyres, brakes and engine are in good condition and ready for the incoming cold weather.

With basic preparation and safe habits behind the wheel, you’ll be able to avoid the road safety threats of winter. Keep calm, drive safely and enjoy the winter holidays, whether you’re embarking on a road trip or spending the season at home.

For extra protection, consider buying an extended warranty for your vehicle. We’ve helped thousands of UK motorists enjoy extra peace of mind and confidence in their vehicles, and we can help you too!

Thanks for reading. Make sure to stay tuned to the Warrantywise blog, Facebook and Twitter for more great content throughout 2015!

1 Comment

  1. Colin Jones

    Many thanks for your clear practical instructions regarding driving in bad weather conditions, easy to understand, timely reminder, trust that many will take notice of this good sensible advice even those of us who have been on the road for many a long year through many like conditions. Keep a cool head don’t be in a hurry, stay safe. CJ.

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