When the snow and ice hits, you have to be extra cautious behind the wheel. Here’s some simple driving advice that can keep you safer in bad conditions.
Pack a winter emergency kit
Before winter starts, prepare a winter emergency kit that includes the following:
- Cell phone
- Tow ropes
- Booster cables
- A jack and spare wheel
- Warning triangle
- Sacking to lay under stuck wheels
Learn how to navigate snowy conditions
- Wear comfortable, dry shoes that won’t slip on the pedals, and take a pair of boots. Driving in heavy boots might make you clumsy when using the pedals.
- Give a frosted windscreen time to clear completely. Don’t drive off peering through a small “spyhole.”
- Brush snow off the roof so it can’t slide down the windshield.
- Drive at low speed in as high a gear as possible. Don’t brake or accelerate sharply.
- Before braking, drop into low gear sooner than normal to slow the car.
- To climb a hill, drop a gear to build momentum on the approach, then take it at a steady pace. Coming down, use a low gear to avoid having to brake.
- Brake well before a bend, where it’s all too easy to lose control.
- Don’t wrench the wheel. Steer smoothly
- If the car gets bogged down in snow, straighten the steering. Clear snow from under the wheels, put sacking or an old rug in front of the driving wheels for extra traction and accelerate gently.
Be extra cautious on ice
- Drive cautiously to avoid having to deal with hazards such as skidding.
- Gentle manoeuvres and a steady pace are the way forward. Move off in second gear to avoid wheelspin.
- If you drive an automatic, check that you know how to downshift into a lower gear, to reduce dependence on the brakes.
- If you have a “winter” gear mode, select it. This feature locks out first gear to reduce wheelspin.
- If the steering feels light, or the tires on the road surface are eerily silent, suspect black ice and use your gears to reduce speed.
- If the car skids when you brake, and you have a manual gearbox, release the brake and press the clutch.
- If the wipers can’t work hard enough to clear the screen during a blizzard, abandon your journey and seek shelter.
- If you’re trapped in your car, wrap up in rugs, coats, blankets — even newspaper. Run the engine and heater for 15 minutes in any hour, with the window open a crack. Try to stay awake as you await rescue.
- If other motorists are trapped with you, “car share” to increase warmth, save fuel and keep your spirits up.
When driving during the winter, increase your following distance and go slow. Keep emergency supplies on and only venture out when necessary. It’s better to arrive late than not at all.