We’ve survived the “Beast from the East” (mini version or otherwise) numerous times and now we’re facing “Thundersnow” as the mercury plummets and the newspapers get oh so very overexcited about a few flakes of the white stuff………
But hey, Britain being Britain we only need a fraction of an inch to fall, our road network becomes a thing of nightmares and the country grinds to a rather slippery halt. With this in mind we thought it was worth a quick refresher on best practice for driving in these inclement conditions.
Winter driving tips? Avoid if possible; yes really….
Best advice – avoid driving in the snow and ice altogether. Consider alternatives like public transport if possible. If you drive to work, speak to your employer in advance about home-working arrangements when the weather is bad, especially if you live in a rural area prone to ice or snow. If you would normally collect stock or make deliveries in the course of your days work then consider outsourcing to a professional carrier instead.
As much as we make light of the situation the Landrover at the top of this post was on a tarmac road (albeit it was under 4 feet of snow) less than 2 miles from a major town centre. The occupants had abandoned the vehicle, when it became stuck up to its axles, and almost succumbed to hypothermia whilst hacking through the snow drifts to safety. It can happen to anyone- trust me!
But what if you must drive; what can we put into practice to make sure that we get home safe and sound and with all corners of our beloved motor car? Read on for our practical winter driving tips…
If you really must drive on Icy Roads…
Forward thinking, anticipation and smooth driving are the key to motoring on icy and snowy roads.
Look well ahead for any possible hazards, cars, pedestrians, buses, in fact anything that may make cause to brake suddenly – including, of course, patches of ice and snow – and keep your speed well down.
Acceleration, gear changes, steering and of course braking should be carried out in the smoothest possible fashion in order to minimise the risk of skid and consequently loss of control.
Using a higher gear may be more appropriate to prevent “spin-up” and aid grip on packed ice or snow – particularly on starting off from a standstill. This helps manage engine power delivery, making it easier to find traction. You might need to slip the clutch a little in order to control the take off and stop your car from stalling.
What about stopping on ice?
Perhaps one of our more obvious winter driving tips… stopping distances increase greatly on ice compared with a dry road. For this reason, you should leave up to 10 times the normal recommended gap between you and the car in front.
Remember; tyres grip less efficiently in cold conditions as the rubber compounds from which they are constructed are less supple due to the temperature. This means that even if the temperature is above zero and there’s no obvious ice on the road, you should be extra vigilant.
Winter tyres offer more grip and can significantly increase performance in icy conditions. For more advice on this topic read the RAC guide to buying winter tyres.
Black ice; what’s that then?
Black ice is the term given to a thin layer of ice on the road surface. It’s not actually black but because it is smooth and transparent it appears the same colour as the tarmac below.
Black ice can be almost invisible to drivers making it particularly dangerous. Even more so when it forms and is then covered with a layer of fresh snow. As a guide, if the temperature is low and the road surface looks ‘wet’, be careful and drive with caution as it could be black ice.
If you really must drive on black ice…
You may see it glinting in the sunlight as it often appears as a glossy sheen on the roads surface, or spot cars ahead swerving for no obvious reason.
It’s probable that you won’t see black ice at all, so be particularly cautious anywhere the surface temperature of the road may be lower; under bridges and flyovers, in tunnels or anywhere the road is shaded – tree lined avenues for example.
Remember – if you hit a patch of black ice the steering will instantly become extremely light and vague but don’t panic. Keep the steering wheel straight and maintain your speed – do not be temped to hit the brakes as this will only end up with the vehicle sliding uncontrollably. Use the gears to slow down if necessary but avoid any sudden movements – often you will simply pass over the patch of ice without incident.
If you find yourself in a skid take your feet off the pedals; stop braking and stop accelerating. Turn the wheel (and so the car) into the direction of the skid; so, if the rear of the car is sliding to the right then you should steer to the right to counteract. As above, do not take your hands off the steering wheel or brake hard.
Hopefully our winter driving tips are stuff that you know already; having said that, good advice is worth repeating! Drive carefully and stay safe.
Article compiled from guidance published by the RAC