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Winter driving


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Preparing for winter driving When severe winter weather strikes the best advice is don't drive.

However some journeys are essential, so ensure you prepare thoroughly for the conditions. It is important to ensure your vehicle is well maintained and serviced all year round, but especially so in winter.

Make sure windows, lights and mirrors are clean and cleared of ice and snow. Ensure your window washer bottle has suitable screen wash/anti-freeze added. Make sure your radiator has sufficient anti-freeze added.

Check lights and window wipers are functioning correctly. Keep your battery fully charged. You should check your tyres are safe with sufficient tread and the correct tyre pressure.   In wintry conditions there are steps that can be taken that may help you with your journey.

Must you make the journey? Check local and national radio or the Highway Agency's weather alerts for travel and weather information so you know what to expect. Always clear your windows, mirrors and lights before you set off on your journey, and make sure you have a window ice removing scraper and de-icer. Prepare some warm clothes, boots, food and torch, mobile phone if you have one and a spade if it is snowy conditions. Don't attempt to use the spade to dig yourself or others out unless you are healthy enough to do so, it may be useful to lend to someone else. Tell someone about your journey's destination and estimated arrival time.

Snow, hail, fog and rain can all reduce visibility so slow down and use dipped beam headlights.   If you get into difficulties whilst driving in wintry conditions there are steps you can take that may help. If motorway driving the emergency roadside phones may be the best to use as the rescue services will easily be able to locate you. If you must use your mobile phone then ensure you know your location from the marker posts at the side of the hard shoulder which are numbered. Never use your mobile phone whilst driving, either ask a passenger to make the call or stop in a safe place to make the call. Snow ploughs, breakdown and emergency vehicles need clear access, so stay with your vehicle until help arrives. Abandoned vehicles may slow down or even stop the road being cleared quickly. If you must abandon your vehicle to get help try to leave your vehicle as far over to the side of the road as possible and make sure you can be seen by other drivers avoiding pedestrian accidents.   When driving in icy, snowy or slushy conditions slow down and stay alert.

It can take a much greater distance to stop on icy, snowy or slushy roads than it does on a dry road, so allow plenty of room to slow down or stop and drive slowly but safely. When braking on icy, snowy or slushy roads get in a low gear early, allow your speed to fall and brake gently trying not to lock your wheels. If you start skidding ease off the accelerator and avoid braking suddenly causing the wheels to lock.

Whilst driving use the highest gear possible, it will help you avoid wheel spin. Manoeuvring, accelerating and braking should be done gently to help avoid skidding.   In Foggy conditions there are things you should be prepared for. Drive very slowly in foggy conditions using dipped headlights. Fog can be extremely patchy, and if visibility is reduced drastically fog lights should be used, not forgetting to turn them off again when visibility improves sufficiently.

Don't follow the lights of the vehicle in front of you, this can give you a false sense of security and may mean you are driving too close. If you think the fog is clearing don't accelerate quickly, it could be patchy and you may find that you are in thick fog again very soon.   What you can expect from snow ploughing and salting vehicles. Snow ploughing can leave behind large and irregular snow piles which may be hazardous to other vehicles. If you are driving behind one keep a safe distance and don't try to overtake it. Gritters or salting vehicles can spread salt across all the lanes of a carriageway and can travel at up to speeds of 40mph. You should not try to overtake and should keep a safe distance behind; if the salt is hitting your vehicle you are too close.

Drivers of winter service vehicles will take all reasonable precautions to protect other road users. The Highways Agency is an executive agency of the Department of Transport. They are responsible for the motorways and major 'A' roads in England.

They aim to prevent road accidents in wintry conditions by pre-treating and clearing roads under their jurisdiction.   In rainy and flooded conditions you should be aware of the following. The stopping distance for drivers in wet conditions will be at least double of that on dry roads due to tyres not gripping as well in the wet.

Travelling vehicles will give off spray making it difficult to see and be seen in wet weather. Keep your distance from the vehicle in front, it allows you better visibility so you can plan for whats ahead.

Steering may become unresponsive in the wet when your tyres lose grip, slow down by gently releasing the accelerator. In flooding stop if you think the water is too deep for your vehicle.

If crossing deep water try to find a path across the shallowest part, often by the kerb will be the deepest. Drive slowly in first gear through flood water, but keeping the engine revs high by slipping the clutch, this will help in preventing you from stalling. It is important to test your brakes to ensure they are working correctly after you have crossed flood water before you drive off at normal speed.



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