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A guide to driving during the winter months

Although twinkling icicles and fluffy snow may look idyllic, the icy weather makes road conditions more treacherous and breakdowns more common. Here’s our guide to driving in the winter…

Winter driving

Wear comfortable shoes

It’s important when you’re driving that your soles can feel the pedals so that you can adjust the pressure and stay in complete control without slipping. Wear comfortable, dry, well-fitting shoes, or better still, keep a pair in the car to change into when you’ve been trudging through the snow, ice and puddles.

Adjust your stopping distances

According to the road safety charity Brake, stopping distances can double in the wet and increase 10-fold in snow and ice.

Be sure to leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front so that you can brake gently if needed, rather than slamming on and risking a skid.

Pull away in second gear

When pulling out of a space, use second gear to make sure you have grip of the road and ease your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.

Tackle hills at a constant speed

You could be tempted to tackle steep hills in stages; stopping and starting as you progress up or downwards. Instead, leave plenty of room (ideally waiting until there are no cars in front that could slide back down), and go at a constant speed, in the same low gear until you reach the top or bottom.

Pack an emergency kit

You may be well-prepared for breaking down, but that’s not to say you won’t encounter a lorry jack-knifing or a collision blocking the motorway. Keep an emergency kit in your car just in case, including…

  • A fully charged mobile phone
  • An in-car phone charger or power pack
  • A first aid kit.
  • A road atlas or a print-out of the route in case your GPS signal is lost
  • The membership card for your breakdown cover
  • Medication – particularly if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, asthma, or an illness that may need treating within 24 hours 

Prepare your car

  • Antifreeze - a frozen and cracked engine costs hundreds of pounds to repair or replace. Comparatively, antifreeze only costs a few pounds and protects your engine in conditions as low as -34°C.
  • Winter tyres – change your tyres to winter or all-season ones that give a better grip of the road in icy or wet conditions. As a minimum, make sure your tyres have 3mm of tread.
  • Check your battery – It’s rare that your car’s battery will last longer than five years, and with lights, heating and wipers all getting extra use in the cooler months, your battery may be under even more pressure.

Have your battery checked by a professional, and if it’s on its last legs then replace it. It will be a lot less hassle than having to get a jump start on a dark, cold night.
 
Are you the designated driver this Christmas season? Here’s how to stay behind the wheel and not behind bars this Christmas.

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