Cold weather is something that, here in the UK, we are obviously pretty used to! This doesn’t take away from the vital need to act sensibly should you have to drive in this kind of weather.
The idea of driving while admiring crisp, white snow or hearing raindrops on your windscreen could initially seem…well, fun. But there’s nothing fun ending up in a ditch.
As careful as you might be when on the road in frosty weather, it’s imperative for you to have a backup plan in case your car breaks down. So, you need to prepare a breakdown kit to take along for the ride.
RAC lists what it considers “breakdown kit essentials”. All items recommended for use in emergency situations, they include a first aid kit, ice scraper, empty fuel can, shovel, reflective warning sign, road atlas, phone charger, high-visibility jacket and torch. Also deemed crucial for inclusion are warm clothes and blankets, good-gripping boots, jump start cables, sunglasses, food and drink and – for that torch – spare batteries.
An ice scraper is crucial, because you are legally required to clear your front and back windscreens of ice and snow before you drive. Make sure you keep it in the car as you may need for your return journey if the weather is still bleak.
Before any journey in cold weather, consider whether you genuinely need to make this trip. If you reach the conclusion that, yes, you do, then now could be a good time to get your car’s tyres replaced. The RAC notes that icy roads significantly reduce grip levels; which is pretty obvious seeing as it’s like driving on glass.
Arranging for your tyres to be replaced doesn’t have to be effort. You could find a local company that’s capable of travelling to you to get your new tyres fitted, rather than you making your way to their premises instead. A good example of a company like this is Wiltshire Tyres, they can fit tyres in Salisbury, Chippenham, and other areas in Wiltshire and nearby.
“Black ice” is a term used for thin-layered ice that, due to its smoothness and transparency, can actually look identical in colour to a road that it rests on. Black ice can be particularly dangerous to drivers because if its near-invisibility. So, how can you prepare for something so hard to spot?
If it’s cold out and the road looks particularly wet you should be careful as you could be driving over black ice. While black ice might sometimes look like a glossy sheen or glint in sunlight, you likely won’t be able to see it at all. Exercise particular caution when on shaded parts of roads, in tunnels and on bridges.
Should you end up driving across black ice, keep calm and the steering wheel straight. Continue at the same speed and resisting braking. You’re best off using your gears to slow the car down if needed, you want to keep the car as stable as possible.
It’s extremely dangerous to drive in a hail storm, which could not only impair visibility, but it can extensively damage your car.
If you’re driving in very heavy, or large hail, stop driving and pull over to somewhere safe. When travelling in hail, you should try to keep your car facing the hail, so it hits the vehicle’s front. Windscreens are reinforced for withstanding pelting objects, this isn’t the case with rear glass and side windows, which can be broken far easier.
There’s a few things you can do to enhance your safety when you drive in snow. Make sure you accelerate gently and, if your car allows it, move off in second gear; this will stop the wheels from slipping. Automatics often have a ‘snow’ mode for this reason.
You should also leave a bigger distance between your car and the one ahead; in fact, this gap should be ten times longer than what is normally recommended. Another reason to leave lots of space in front is that when you go uphill, you can keep your speed constant without needing to change gear. When preparing for heading downhill, make sure that you are in a low gear.
When on a non-gritted road, resist the temptation to drive in existing wheel tracks; the RAC warns that compressed snow will likely be icier than snow that has freshly laid. Obviously continue to use all the controls slowly and smoothly.