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Winter driving 

The winter weather can bring challenging driving conditions. So here are our top tips to help keep you safe on the roads this winter.




Driving in snow & ice

  • Get up 10 minutes earlier each morning to allow yourself more time if you need to remove snow or ice from your mirrors and windows and de-ice the windscreen
  • Check your battery and tyres before you set off on a long journey
  • Tyres do not grip in the ice and snow as well as they normally do. So you may want to consider getting winter tyres, which have a deeper tread
  • Keep a winter survival kit in your boot just in case you break down. It should include a blanket, torch, de-icer, phone charger and screenwash
  • Be sure to remove snow from your car roof. It could drop on to your windscreen and impede your vision if you have to brake sharply
  • Using boiling water to clear your windscreen of ice could crack your glass, so stick to de-icer and an ice scraper
  • Don’t pull away until your windscreen is totally clear. It’s against the law to drive when you can’t see properly
  • Leave more space than you would normally between you and the car in front
  • Go downhill in a low gear
  • If you start to skid, keep your hands firmly on the wheel, don’t hit the brakes and steer gradually into the skid
  • If the back of your vehicle is sliding right, steer the car in that direction
  • The higher the gear the more control you’ll have and pulling away gently in second gear is a good way to avoid wheel spin

Driving through water

  • Drive steadily and slowly in flood water (1-2mph gradually accelerating to 3-4mph) 
  • Be courteous to other drivers
  • Let the car in front pass through first because if they get stuck or stop, you’ll be forced to stop too
  • If possible, drive in the centre of the road
  • If your car stalls, don’t attempt to restart it – you may cause damage to the engine 
  • Avoid driving fast through puddles – this can cause aquaplaning, where the tyre tread is unable to displace the water, and you’ll lose steering capability
  • Test your brakes after leaving the water
  • The Environment Agency recommends not entering flood water more than 10cm deep
  • Remember, a small amount of water can ruin an engine. If in doubt, find an alternative route


Driving in the dark

  • Headlights can sometimes point in the wrong direction, so check your vehicle's manual and make sure your lights are set up correctly 
  • Avoid staring into oncoming headlights. Adjust your view to the white line on the left-hand side if you’re dazzled by the bright lights of an oncoming car
  • Regularly clean your headlights as they can become blocked by dirt or other obstructions and will only produce a dim glow
  • Make sure you can see out of all your windows, particularly your windscreen, and don't set off if they are steamed up or clogged by ice or snow
  • Keep your mirrors clean, and slightly tilt them downwards so they don't catch the glow of bright headlights from cars behind you
  • Have your eyes tested regularly – many people need different prescription glasses for day and night-time driving, so you should get them checked regularly
  • Keep your eyes moving, looking all around you rather than concentrating on just one area. This will make your eyes feel more alert and help them adjust to the dark
  • Take regular breaks on long journeys, especially at night. Look for a suitable place to stop and try to have a coffee and a short nap if you can
  • Take particular care to look out for pedestrians, cyclists and even deer – they are all harder to spot during the hours of darkness
  • If you're nervous about driving in the dark, you can boost your confidence by taking advanced driving courses, many of which include modules on how to drive safely at night

 
Looking after your battery

  • Experts recommend that you should replace your car battery every five years. It may struggle on for longer, but it’s always best to replace it in good time, rather than calling for roadside assistance on a busy road when you’re trying to get somewhere!
  • Check that all electrical equipment – interior lights, phone chargers, wipers and blowers, for example – are turned off when you park up
  • Doing this will prevent your battery being sapped. Some sat navs and MP3 music players can also drain the battery if they’re left connected
  • Dip the clutch to reduce the impact on your battery when you turn the ignition to start your car in cold weather
  • Don’t use the heaters in your car for longer than you need to when you’re driving, as this can drain your battery
  • Get your battery tested at a garage, especially if it’s more than three years old

 
Condensation

  • Damp items such as umbrellas, mats and clothing can cause condensation, so try not to leave these in your car
  • Clean your windows thoroughly inside and out, as dirt attracts moisture, which won't help
  • Switch on the air conditioning to heat, directing the vents at the windscreen. If you don't have air conditioning, turn the blower speed up high and wind down the windows to improve airflow
  • Condensation in your car could mean you have a leak somewhere that is letting water in. This could be around a window seal or door, although finding it could be a mission. Your garage may be able to help
  • Put something in your vehicle to absorb moisture. You can buy special dehumidifiers for your car, or cat litter in a pair of tights can also work well
  • It's vital to ensure you have full visibility before you set off, so clear any build up of condensation on the windows and windscreen, including your back window, before moving off

 
Driving in fog

  • Lights are your best friend – If visibility falls below roughly the length of a football pitch (around 100m), then by law you must switch on your headlights. Also use your fog lights when needed
  • Take advantage of wipers and demisters – A clear screen is essential. But why wait until it’s foggy and you’re driving to discover what works best for your car? Do your preparation when you’re parked up and there’s no rush
  • Drive with your window down – It can sometimes be a good idea to lower your window slightly. It means you’ll be able to see more clearly out of your side windows, while it also makes it easier to hear what’s going on around you
  • Slower is better – Wherever you’re going, allow yourself more time to get there. You should expect to drive more slowly to adapt to the conditions
  • Be prepared – Plan your route, preferably steering clear of busier roads

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