Tips for driving in icy or snowy conditions

The idea of venturing out into cold, slippery conditions with the possibility of hugely decreased visibility is daunting for any driver, and driving in very bad winter conditions is of course, best avoided. However, if you really must brave the weather, there are several alterations you can make to your driving style, which can help you reach your destination safely.

If you can’t get your car fully serviced by a professional, then check the following yourself. Make sure your lights are all clean and working and your battery is fully charged. Car batteries have a life of around five years, so if yours is old it might be time to invest in a new one as the darker conditions of winter will put much more strain on your battery than it had to cope with during the summer months.

When driving, use the following advice. Don’t try to keep up to speed limits, in very bad weather these are often much too fast to be safe; if you don’t feel in control of your car, you probably aren’t. To avoid sliding and skidding drive smoothly, allowing up to ten times the normal distance for breaking, avoiding sharp steering and keeping a good distance between yourself and the next car. Braking on an icy or snow covered bend is extremely dangerous. The centrifugal force will continue to pull you outwards and the wheels will not grip very well. This could cause your vehicle to spin. To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use your brakes gently.

Ideally, a skidpan-driving course should be taken to prepare the driver for icy and slippery conditions, if this is not possible however; here are a few tips for handling ice and snow. Use second gear to start on a slippery surface, not first, this helps stop wheel spin. You may need up to ten times the normal breaking distance to stop or slow down, so apply pressure slowly and gently to minimise the chance of skidding, the same goes for cornering – always drive slowly and gently to avoid losing control.

However experienced you may be at winter driving, don’t take silly risks such as starting off with only a small portion of your windscreen clear, or not allowing adequate extra time to prepare your car and allow for possible delays on route. Be prepared to be late to arrive at your destination, your safety is more important that your punctuality.

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