Some ‘lesser-known’ tips for safe driving in winter
There has already been significant snow in many parts of Europe, the USA and other countries. Plummeting temperatures have also caused ice, freezing fog and other conditions that make driving more dangerous.
With increasing pressure on professional drivers, particularly those within logistics, field service and last-mile delivery, to get to more and more jobs or fulfil more and more deliveries in a day, it’s no wonder they feel compelled to drive quickly in conditions that are not conducive to it.
We asked a few professional driver training organisations for their tips for winter driving:
Beware 5 major winter driving traps
RED Corporate Driver Training, which offer profession driver training in the UK and across Europe warns of six of the most hazardous traps which can catch out unwary drivers during the winter months:
Seb Goldin, CEO said: “It’s vital that companies ensure their drivers are prepared for winter driving as this time of year is much more dangerous on the roads compared to any other.
“Our specialist trainers have identified these six traps which are often not obvious to the untrained eye. But being forewarned can help your drivers avoid falling into them, and leaving the business with additional expense and administration.”
1 Icy bridges
Many drivers don’t realise that in very cold weather bridges are the first parts of the road to ice up, and the last to thaw.
They tend to be located near water which can get onto the road and freeze. There’s usually less space to escape on them or around them, and cambers too, making vehicle control harder.
On cold days, road surface temperatures can change between sections in sunshine and those in shade. That means you get huge changes in grip over short distances, sections under trees are often covered in slippery leaves and standing water.
3 Puddles and standing water
Large puddles and standing water increase the risk of aquaplaning and loss of control. Having tyres in good condition and driving more slowly can help massively with this. Also beware of potholes, which can be hidden in standing water.
4 Motorway spray
The combination of low sun and spray from standing water on motorways is a terrifying combination, blinding drivers and causing panic that can result in major accidents. The first instinct is to slam on the brakes, but this is as dangerous as ploughing on at the same speed.
We recommend lifting off the throttle, moving down a gear and lightly braking over a longer period. Also, ensure sunglasses are easily to hand, clean and out of their case ready to use.
5 Tightening bends
When grip is lessened, and road conditions prone to change, the bend that tightens is the most dangerous, as drivers carry too much speed and slide off, or overcorrect and lose control.
There are ways to counter this. Professional drivers use a technique called ‘limit point analysis’ where they watch the point at which the two sides of the road meet in the distant part of the corner. If that point is moving towards you, you are travelling too fast. If it is moving away, you are going slow enough.
How to drive safety and avoid breakdowns
The UK’s AA advises drivers to slow down, avoid driving if you’re feeling unwell or on medication and be extra cautious:
- Allow extra time for winter journeys.
- Plan routes around major roads, which are more likely to be cleared and gritted.
- Try to get up at least 10 minutes early to give you time to de-ice the car.
- Wear comfortable, dry shoes for driving so your feet don't slip on the pedals.
- Check fuel levels – have at least a quarter of a tank in case of unexpected delays.
- Clear all windows using a scraper and de-icer and wait until the windscreen's fully de-misted.
- If you drive an automatic, check the handbook – some have a winter mode or recommend selecting ‘2’ in slippery conditions.
Driving on winter roads
- Pull away in second gear, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.
- If you have to use your brakes, apply them gently.
- Driving uphill – leave plenty of room between other cars or wait until it’s clear so you don’t have to stop part way up. Keep a constant speed and try to avoid having to change gear on the hill.
- Driving downhill – slow down before the hill, use a low gear and try to avoid braking. Leave as much room as you can after the car in front.
- If you get stuck in snow or ice
- If you get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels.
- Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip.
Find the Best Car Price thought it would be prudent to offer some tips for how to drive safely when the winter weather odds are stacked against you:
The most dangerous time of the year to drive is between Christmas and New Year, but, as Geoff Cudd, the founder and CEO of Find the Best Car Price explains below, there are ways to minimise the risk to you, your family, and your car if you have to drive to reach your Christmas destination.
"There are five tips every driver should know, and use when driving in the snow that should, and will, help keep them safe during the craziness on the roads in the silly season.
- Rule 1 - It isn't a race, slow down and don't be tempted to put your foot down on the loud pedal. Sure, it'll take you a little longer to get where you're going, but you'd rather arrive safely and in one piece than a little early, right?
- Rule 2 - Relax, take it easy, think fifteen seconds ahead, and keep a ten-second gap between your car and the car in front of you on the road. If you have to change lanes, accelerate, or brake, employ a little caution. Sudden and sharp movements, even small corrections are the enemy of traction in the snow and can cause you to skid or spin off the road.
- Rule 3 - Stay low. When and where you can, use low gears and low revs and accelerate slowly, and whatever you do avoid using cruise control as it can't, and won't account for changing road conditions.
- Rule 4 - Keep your headlights on even during the day, as it's better to be seen than fade into sudden snow flurries and become invisible.
- Rule 5 - Intersections are the nemesis of driving in the snow, so double your braking distance when approaching them and leave slowly in low gear, making sure there are no oncoming vehicles before you start accelerating.
The best thing to do in winter is to drive cautiously, being continually alert to potential hazards (known and unknown). But even the best driver in the world, even if they were driving the headiest truck in the world, will be in trouble driving on ice (just ask the Ice Road Truckers in Alaska).