Winter Driving Tips

 

The mornings are bitterly cold and are getting colder which could mean only one thing, winter is coming.  With just a little over 2 weeks until we are officially into the festive season we here at Wexford Insurances would like to give you some winter driving advice to help keep you out of harms way.

Preparation

You should always think ahead when you are planning to drive in winter conditions.  Before you set off you should:

  • Warm up your engine – In the cold conditions you should always start your car 5-10 minutes before you set off.  This will give your engine a chance to heat up and allows your windows and mirrors time to demist giving you a clear view of the things around your car
  • Remove ice and snow – You should always clear all windows, mirrors and windscreens of ice and snow thoroughly before you set off.  You should also make sure that all snow is removed from your roof as this could slide down onto your windscreen and completely block your view while you are driving which could easily be the cause of an accident. Remember never to use boiling water when de-icing as this could crack and damage your windscreen, always use de-icer and a scraper.  If you find that your key will not open due to a frozen lock you should heat up your key lightly with a cigarette lighter or by dipping the metal piece into hot water.  Most people make the mistake of breathing on the key but the condensation will just cool and freeze, making the situation worse
  • Check the weather forecast – You should check the weather forecast for the area that you are going to be driving in.  In the event of a sever weather warning you should assess your situation and deem whether it would be safe to drive or not
  • Double check equipment – During the bitter winter months it is advised that you carry the following equipment in your car at all times; high-visibility vest, spare fuel, spare wheel, tow rope, warning triangle, shovel, torch, spare clothing and footwear (dry and warm), blanket, food and water.  This equipment will ensure your safety should your car get stuck. Remember no matter what car you are driving or your skill level you can be stuck on a road blocked by someone else’s accident
  • Antifreeze – Make sure that you have a 50:50 water to antifreeze mixture in the cooling system of your engine.  Also use a winter solution in you windscreen washer as this will stop the pipes and nozzles from freezing up
  • Check your tyres – You should make sure that your tyres are in good condition.  A minimum legal thread dept of 1.6mm is enforced but a thread dept of at least 2mm is recommended for winter driving.  If there is heavy snow or ice on the roads then you might consider purchasing a pair of snow chains for your tyres.  These can be purchased at many car accessory retailers.  You should also check your car manual and ensure that your tyres have correct pressure to ensure maximum control and grip

While driving

Driving in icy or snowy conditions can be very unnerving and dangerous.  You should take the following into account when you’re driving in these conditions:

  • Use your dipped headlights – In vision impairing driving conditions it is highly advised that you have your dipped headlights on during the daytime also.  This increases your visibility to others
  • Drive at slower speeds – You should always drive at slower speeds when driving on slippery or grip impairing roads.  You should also drive in a higher gear than usual and when slowing down you should break gently and gradually while changing down through the gears until you come to a gradual halt
  • Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front and always be aware of what the vehicle in front of is doing – The two second rule applies to driving in dry conditions.  In wet weather that rule is doubled to four seconds.  This should be extended even further in icy or snowy conditions.  We recommend at least six seconds between you and the car in front of yours so that you have sufficient time to bring your car to a halt as breaking takes considerably longer
  • Break gently – Most modern cars have ABS (Anti-lock break systems) which helps prevent you skidding.  If you have ABS in your car then you can hold down your break and it will apply and release your breaks automatically for you, decreasing the chances of your tyres loosing traction.  If you own a car that doesn’t have ABS, when breaking you should apply your break pedal lightly and release and re-apply breaking if you feel the vehicle skidding. This can be more difficult to do than people think as your first reaction is to press harder on the breaks until you stop. You should adjust your driving techniques in bad driving conditions so that you don’t have to break harshly
  • Keep your full attention for the road – You should keep your eye on the road at all times and concentrate on driving.  Snowy conditions are extremely dangerous as there will be many children around playing in the snow.  Always watch for children playing as they could easily run onto the road while playing without thinking about or looking for traffic. Keeping a keen eye on your surroundings can help prevent accidents
  • Pull over if your visibly becomes poor – If you are driving and a sudden change in weather means that you now have very poor visibility then you should always pull over your car onto a safe spot in the road. Remember if you do not feel safe with the level of visibility afforded by the conditions then it is probably not safe to continue. Those who continue to drive are not only putting themselves in danger, but also other motorists and pedestrians
  • Use gentle manoeuvring – Never steer harshly as you can easily loose control and skid.  Heavy steering can put you and the others around you in danger as the chances of you skidding and having an accident is high

If you skid

Experienced, careful drivers have often skidded on snow or ice but the most important thing is to know how to recover from a skid.

  • Breaking technique – If your car has ABS then you can just hold down your break and your car will automatically implement a technique for you.  If you do not have ABS in your car then you should constantly pump the break pedal which will help you gain grip and help bring you out of the skid
  • Reduce your acceleration – If you feel yourself skidding then you should reduce your acceleration.  If you feel that your drive wheels have lost all traction then you should remove your foot completely from the accelerator
  • Steering technique – If you find that the rear of your vehicle has kicked out then you should steer in the same direction that your rear is turning.  This tail kicking is known as over-steer.  If the rear of your car is kicking out to the right then you steer to the right.  Do not over steer as this can make the situation worse
  • In the event of a crash – If you skid and cause an accident then you should immediately park, place handbrake on securely and exit your car.  If another vehicle or person has been hit or involved then you should ask if they need medical attention.  If they do then you should immediately call the emergency services.  Inspect all damage and call the Gardai if needs be.  If you have damaged someone’s property then you should swap insurance details with that person.  If your car is in drivable condition then you can leave the scene of the accident, if not then you should call a professional to remove your car

Breakdown

A breakdown can be unpleasant and dangerous in the best of conditions but what should you do when you encounter a breakdown in bad driving conditions?  The following is a list of instructions that you should carefully follow in the event of a breakdown in bad weather conditions:

  • Pull over – If you can, pull your vehicle into a safe spot of the road so that you are not obstructing any other motorists, then you should exit your vehicle and warn other road users of the obstruction as they approach.  If it isn’t possible you go to the next step
  • Turn on your hazard warning lights
  • Exit your vehicle when it is safe to do so
  • Put on your high visibility vest – This will help other motorists see you standing on the road
  • Place out a warning triangle – You should place a warning triangle behind your vehicle so that other motorists are aware of your situation
  • Stand away from the road – You should stay away from the road at all costs.  Try and find a solid structure to stand behind such as a large tree or bollards
  • Call a breakdown assistant – We don’t recommend trying to repair the vehicle yourself as this can be tricky due to the weather conditions
  • Wait for the breakdown assistant!!

In heavy icy or snowy conditions, if your trip can be avoided or is not absolutely crucial then we recommend that you don’t drive.  If you do drive we hope that you take our tips into consideration and always drive safely.

We pride ourselves in helping you when you need us.  Contacts us today to discuss your insurance needs with your dedicated account handler at

Tel:                 0818-31-30-30

Email:             info@wexfordinsurance.com

Website:        www.wexfordinsurance.com

Drop into us:  Wexford Insurances, 86 South Main Street, Wexford Town, Co. Wexford

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