Winter Driving: 5 safety tips for new and learner drivers
Winter brings all sorts of problems for drivers, especially learners and those who have recently passed their test. In this article, Mark Barclay from http://www.gsfcarparts.com shares his tips for staying safe while driving in cold weather.
Did you know that you are 20% more likely to have an accident in winter (Insure the Box)? Rain, ice, snow, or simply just cold air can cause serious issues for your driving, and even experienced drivers must take extra care on the roads.
New and learner drivers are more at risk though, with over 26% admitting to being involved in an accident in their first year of driving (ALA). This is partly due to inexperience dealing with real-life road hazards, and with the worst weather in 30 years expected to hit the UK this winter (BBC), it’s important that you know exactly how to deal with less than ideal driving conditions.
So, just in time for Road Safety Week this 18-24th November, here are five top tips for staying safe in cold weather this winter.
Winter-proof your car
Before the winter months, you can prepare your car for cold weather by making sure it’s had a service, and everything is working as it should be. In particular, your tyres should be in good condition and pumped with plenty of air. You could invest in some winter tyres, which have more grip than regular tyres when the road is wet and slippery, but you should be aware that they won’t make you immune to snow and ice. You will still need to take extra precautions when snow hits the roads, such as fitting snow chains, socks, or mats.
Perform a weekly walk-around
You should get into the habit of checking your car at least once a week to make sure the cold weather hasn’t caused any damage. Check that your tyres are full of air, your oil levels are good, and all your lights are fully operational. You’ll also have to make sure your antifreeze is topped up in your engine’s cooling system so that the freezing temperatures don’t cause your radiator to crack. You should make sure all hinges and seals are well sprayed with a rubber-safe lubricant, so your doors don’t stick. Finally, check the windows, especially the back, for frost and scrape it away before you intend to drive anywhere.
Pack an emergency kit
It’s a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your boot just in case you break down or become stranded in cold weather. It should include a blanket, a torch (with batteries if necessary), jump leads, and a shovel so you can dig yourself out if you’re trapped in a snowdrift. You should aim to always bring fresh drinking water with you on car journeys and you could even consider stocking some emergency food, such as biscuits, in case it takes a while for help to arrive.
Check the weather
Even if everything seems fine, bad weather can often come out of nowhere and the only way to tell that it’s coming is to check the weather forecast. So, whether you get your weather news from your mobile phone, your TV at home, or from the infotainment system in your car, get into the habit of checking it as often as you can — especially if you’re planning any long drives. If you know bad weather is coming you can prepare for it or even change your travel plans to stay safe.
Expect sudden changes
If you do experience a sudden change in weather, there are a few things you can do to stay as safe as possible until you can stop driving. Although you’ll want to reach your destination quickly, it’s important that you reduce your speed and keep enough distance between you and the vehicles in front of you in case you need to brake suddenly or you start to skid on the slippery road. Don’t feel any pressure to speed up from impatient drivers around you — it’s better to be safe than sorry. You should also resist the urge to turn the heating on full as it can make you drowsy and your driving could become unsafe as a result.
The tips in this guide can help you stay safe when you’re driving this winter. It’s important that you only drive when you feel confident enough to do so. Avoid travelling in snow and heavy rain as much as you can — even experienced drivers can get caught out in these conditions.