The winter weather can often present drivers with a number of dangerous road conditions. Snow and ice can push your vehicle to its mechanical limit so it is important to know that it can handle these tough conditions. You should always be prepared; in case you’re faced with a dangerous situation or get held up in lengthy traffic jams.
According to national statistics, breakdowns double in the UK throughout the winter period due to adverse conditions. Research has found that drivers are six times as likely to have a crash, and this number increases when ice and snow are an added hazard. Insurance claims also tend to increase around this time of year as a result of these added dangers.
To make sure you are all set, Hudgell Solicitors have created a guide to help you ensure your car is road-worthy for the colder months.
Inspect your car weekly
Carry out routine checks on your vehicle over the winter period. Adding antifreeze to your engine stops the cooling system from freezing. You can test the effectiveness of your antifreeze by purchasing a tester which costs approximately £5.
Make sure that all lights are working and are clean. Dirt can often prevent a full glow from your vehicle.
Be aware of visibility
Throughout winter visibility can be a big issue for drivers. Weather can mean it’s difficult to see while driving and can also affect your vehicle directly. Icy windscreens can often take a while to de-frost, so you may want to consider placing a material sheet across the front and rear windows of your vehicle. A nylon cover should help prevent frost getting to the glass. Don’t pour boiling water over your windscreen as the difference in temperature can cause the glass to crack.
Use a handheld brush to clear away any excess snow or ice on top of your car that could dislodge and become a danger to other road users. Use a cloth to wipe awkward areas such as wing mirrors and in between your windscreen and bonnet.
The wet weather will mean that you will be frequently using your windscreen wipers. If your wipers are old, then you run the risk of smearing oil and dirt across your windscreen. Fill your washer bottle with a good concentration of antifreeze screen wash to make sure it doesn’t freeze up.
Regularly check your tyres
Research by tyre manufacturer, Continental, found that two-thirds of road users are unaware that winter tyres exist. Their research also revealed that 47% of motorists admit to failing to check their tyres before the winter snap.
Normal tyres can contribute to accidents as the compound used in the material hardens, which cause the tyre to lose grip. Winter tyres are specifically made to perform better under icy conditions; increasing the ability to stop over a much shorter distance.
Check the condition and pressure of your tyres to avoid the risk of skidding. The current legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm in the UK, but you may want to consider increasing this to 3mm over the winter months. This will also have the benefit of increasing your vehicle’s fuel efficiency meaning you’ll pay less at the pumps.
Always carry an emergency kit
This kit should contain survival essentials in case of a breakdown in blizzard-like conditions. If you happen to breakdown in the countryside, you could wait a long time before your vehicle is rescued, so always carry essentials in your boot. Your emergency kit should include the following:
- Food and water
- Warning triangle
- Warm clothes
- Ice scraper
- Portable mobile phone charger
- Puncture repair kit
- First aid kit
Motorists must be alert whilst driving through poor weather. Failing to do so can result in the driver putting themselves and others around them at risk. You should drive your vehicle at a steady speed if ice and snow is visible and use low gears to maintain traction. Use higher gears to avoid wheel spin and uphill climbs.
To understand more about UK driving habits, we recently conducted a survey into winter road safety and how well motorists understood the Highway Code. The findings can be found below:
The findings highlight that understanding the Highway Code and inspecting your vehicle throughout the winter can help to prevent a serious accident. Not all motorists have experience of driving in icy conditions so you should prepare your car effectively but most importantly, remain alert and patient at all times.