Driving Home for Christmas – The Survival Guide

Driving in the winter months is likely to test even the most experienced of motorists. Figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) show that in 2012, 38 people were killed, 544 were seriously injured and 4,584 were slightly injured in road accidents reported in Great Britain when there was snow or ice on the road surface.

With that in mind, it makes sense to be prepared and get yourself organised to face the elements, especially as walkers or hikers, you’re likely to be slightly off-the-beaten-track if bad weather strikes.

Before you grab your keys and head out on the road, take a look at our handy guide to winter driving:

Preping the CarPrepping your car for Winter

If the last few years are anything to go by, you can be sure that you’ll need to prepare well in advance for any bad weather. The last thing you want is for your car to let you down when you need it most. You can do this by making sure the following are up to the job:

  • Check your wiper blades: if they are worn or generally in poor shape, replace them
  • Invest in a quality screen wash that works in lower temperatures
  • Check the tread depth on your tyres, 1.6mm is the legal limit, however most manufacturers and safety agencies recommend at least 3mm
  • If you live in an area that suffers frequently from heavy snow and icy weather, consider investing in a set of winter tyres
  • Make sure you have enough fuel for your journey and that you’ve checked that the level of anti-freeze is sufficient


Prepping your car before a journey

Before you set off, make sure you can see where you’re going, clear all snow and ice from your vehicle and make sure you defrost the entire windscreen, not just a tiny porthole in front of the driver – plus your mirrors and all other windows.

The following should help make the job easier:

  • De-icer for windows and door locks
  • A decent ice scraper for the windscreen and windows
  • A Proper snow shovel (if the snow is particularly heavy)
  • Avoid using hot water to defrost glass as it can cause it to crack and the water will probably freeze again before you get a chance to set off
  • Start your vehicle up, this will not only help to loosen some of the ice and snow but also warm up the inside before you’re ready to go

Winter TyresWinter essentials to carry with you

It may seem like being over-cautious but it‘s worthwhile packing the following in case of emergencies:

  • A warm coat, hat and gloves also some sturdy boots and a blanket
  • Some food(biscuits and chocolate are good), also take some water and a hot drink if you can
  • A fully charged mobile, phone charger, jump leads, torch and first aid kit
  • Finally a good quality ice scraper and a compact snow shovel

Driving safely in adverse weather conditions

Ok, so you’re now fully prepared and ready for your journey, the next thing to consider is how to drive safely to get you to your destination (and back):

  • Increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front, it’s worth remembering that you may need to allow up to 10 times the normal stopping distance for braking
  • Avoid heavy braking and acceleration as this could result in you losing control, especially on compact snow and ice
  • If visibility is reduced, use dipped headlights, this is especially important in heavy snow or freezing fog
  • Take special care on or around bridges as differences in wind speeds and moisture levels can mean there is more chance of the road surface being affected in icy conditions
  • Reduce speed when cornering as this is one of the main areas that could lead to an accident on slippery surfaces.

Finally, if you are faced with bad weather, consider whether your journey is essential. If not, don’t undertake it; if it is, then allow yourself more time.

Now to see if you will survive why not take the this Winter Driving Quiz?

Dave Sheldon writes for car insurance comparison site Confused.com. Dave’s favourite thing about winter is the chance to wrap up warm with his cats.

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