The ‘Beast from the East’ is to bring widespread snow cover and potentially the coldest weather our country has seen for almost 30 years over the coming days, forecasters have warned.
We are being told to prepare for sub-zero temperatures, potential power cuts, travel chaos and even loss of mobile phone signals.
The big question now, is are we prepared and will we be able to adapt and cope?
This turn in weather has not come as a shock. Warnings have been issued for a number of days now, so there really is little excuse for those who do travel daily not being prepared and ready for a few difficult days behind the wheel.
We usually see a rise in road traffic cases during the period between October and February, when the days are shorter and we have more icy conditions on the roads.
It is easy to assume most accidents are caused by the conditions, but in our experience the vast majority could have been avoided had all drivers involved adapted to the conditions appropriately.
It is a fact that many people in the UK simply don’t feel confident driving in the more extreme winter conditions.
According to recent research, over half of motorists questioned said they find driving in the snow and ice nerve-racking, with a further 48 percent listing de-icing wind screens in the mornings as a problem.
Simple steps to reduce risk of accidents when driving in snow
There are of course many simple things you can do to reduce the risk of being in an accident during the ‘Beast from the East’ snowfall, a number of which should be done before even setting off on your journey. These include;
- Ensuring you have the necessary equipment to de-ice your vehicle fully
- Checking all tyres have sufficient grip to operate effectively on slippery surfaces
- Allowing your windscreen to clear fully before setting off.
- Planning a route along major roads which are more likely to be clear
- Setting off earlier than usual and allowing more time for your journey
These are all simple steps to take. It is important to give both yourself and others on the roads extra time and space, given it can take 10 times as long to stop a vehicle in icy conditions compared to a normal day.
To put that into context, it means that on a fine day it will take you 23 metres to stop when driving about 30mph. In icy conditions, it could take up to 230 metres, the length of two-full size football pitches.
Perhaps the full impact of the ‘Beast from the East’ will be felt after a couple of days, as we are now being told to expect snow and freezing temperatures in some parts of the country until the weekend.
That will see us waking to more snow having fallen on already icy roads, with worsening conditions calling for extra caution, and perhaps leading to more incidents of vehicles skidding.
To avoid this, drivers are advised to not rely solely on brakes as a stopping mechanism, but to decrease through gears in order to slow down with greater control (think back to your days learning!).
If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, it is important to keep a steady pressure on the brake pedal so that your ABS system can bring your car to a halt quickly and safely should you skid, giving you more time to steer the car out of danger, and prevent you from skidding further.
Businesses have a duty to consider safety of drivers in wintry conditions
Of course, the best thing to do in extremely bad weather is to stay off the roads altogether and this is the advice given by many, but what about businesses which rely on the roads to collect and deliver their goods and services?
Firms do have a duty of care to consider the risk they are exposing employees to and should ensure that their drivers take heed of any warnings – either from official external sources or from within the firm – not to continue their journeys.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) encourages employers to have a winter driving policy for their staff who drive for work purposes, saying that central to such policies should be clear guidance as to whether, when conditions are very severe, journeys need to be undertaken at all.
Whatever your reason for being on the roads over the coming days, the message is clear. Preparation, precaution and patience are key to ensuring you, and others, are as safe as possible at all times