As we come into the winter months it is important to understand the different challenges driving in winter brings. Driving in winter can be challenging even for skilled drivers. There are many different types of winter weather that can cause hazards on the road, such as snow, rain, ice, and low sun. These wintry conditions can make your vehicle very challenging to control.
Winter conditions can be especially challenging for learners and new drivers. For example, glare can impair visibility, and ice on roads can increase your stopping distance by up to 10 times. This highlights the importance for taking your time and ensuring you are fully prepared for any journey.
What are the best tyres for driving in winter?
When driving in winter it’s very important that ensure you have the correct tyres on your car to help increase your traction and decrease the chance of skidding or getting stuck in the snow. There are lots of different options for tyres for example winter tyres, all-season tyres, snow chains, and snow socks.
All-season tyres can be used throughout the year, they are used mostly in countries that have moderate weather patterns, including the UK. These tyres are great for all-round use.
Winter tyres are used only in winter and need to be changed when the weather begins to warm. The main benefits of winter tyres are that they provide superior traction in rainy, snowy, and icy conditions. In some countries, they have tyre hotels, where garages will allow you to store your tyres between seasons. This is a cost effective way of ensuring you have the correct tyres for each season.
In addition to standard winter tyres there are are a few options designed for more extreme weather conditions. Snow socks are stretchy covers that go over your wheels to provide more grip than winter tyres. These can be useful to keep inside the boot of our car for unexpected snow especially if you are in more rural areas. They are cheaper than changing to winter tyres but must be removed when the roads have been cleared.
Another options are snow chains, which can be wrapped around tyres to provide increased traction in extreme winter weather; Although they can be time-consuming to use. Snow chains are mandatory in some countries such as Finland, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.
Cold winter mornings often require you to de-ice your windscreen. Your windscreen can become frozen when rain on the windscreen starts to freeze, although it doesn’t have to rain or snow to have ice on your windscreen, as this can also be created by water vapour. Water vapour becomes ice when the temperature on the ground drops below freezing causing the water vapour in the air to become supercooled. There are a few things that are useful to have in your car for this situation such as a de-icer, warm water and an ice scraper to help remove the ice.
What is Black Ice?
Black ice is a thin layer of ice on the surface of the road that is usually transparent and is very difficult for drivers to spot. It can be one of the biggest dangers of winter driving. Black ice occurs when rain falls on frozen surfaces it tends to form mostly in areas of the road where there isn’t much sun such as tree-lined routes, tunnels, bridges, overpasses, and the roads beneath overpasses; as these form micro-climates. This is because the cold air has the ability to cool down both the top and underside of the bridge or overpass, making it freeze faster. If you do happen to drive over black ice don’t panic, keep calm, and try to not make any harsh or sudden manoeuvers.
How to recover from a skid
Skidding occurs when one or more tyres on a vehicle start to slip relative to the road. The most important thing to remember when trying to recover from a skid is to not brake and to resist the temptation, as it can cause your wheels to lock and you to skid further.
The best thing to do when your car begins to skid is to release the accelerator and steer in the direction you want to front tires to go in. If your rear tires start to slide in the opposite direction you can slowly steer the wheel to that side. if you have standard brakes you can slowly pump the brakes but if you have anti-lock brakes don’t do this just slowly add pressure to them and you should begin to feel them start to pump.
Driving in Winter Fog
Fog is more common in the winter and is one of the most dangerous weather conditions to drive in. Thick fog can envelop roads and limit your range of vision while driving. This can make it difficult for you to see other road users, spot pedestrians, and any other hazards.
While driving in fog you should reduce your speed and switch your headlights to dipped. It important to use only dipped headlights as if you were to use your full beam lights it could reflect off the moisture in the fog and dazzle you. If visibility is less than 100m, you should turn on your fog lights.
Remember to always stay alert and be aware of any other hazards. If fog is obstructing vision at junctions, you can roll down your window and listen for any traffic which may be oncoming.
Driving in Snowy Conditions
You should only drive if the snow if it is essential. If you decide it is essential for you to travel, its important to be prepared and to ensure you have suitable equipment for any journey.
When driving in winter it’s important to be prepared
You should always pack some essentials in your vehicle. This can be include items such as a shovel, torch, blanket/sleeping bag, warm clothing, ice scraper, a fully charged mobile, first aid kit, water and any other additional winter kit like tyre chains or even snow socks
What to do if your car gets stuck in the winter snow
1. Remain Calm
It’s important to remain calm as panicking can make the situation worsen. If you are stranded on a road switch on your hazard warning lights and use your red hazard triangle if you have one. This will make you most visible to any vehicles.
2. Clear a path around tires
Use a shovel or your hands to dig the snow out from underneath tyres. Don’t spin your wheels from side to side as this can cause your car to sink deeper into the snow. Be sure to also check your exhaust pipe is clear of snow, as snow in your exhaust can cause your engine to cut out.
3. Set your wheels straight
Make sure that your front tyres are pointed straight ahead. This will make it much easier for you to get unstuck from the snow. Angled tires are under considerably more stress than straight tyres.
4. Find an object to help increase traction.
Its important to ensure your tyres have traction. If you have snow socks or snow chains these can be used to achieve this. Failing a pair of rubber car mats can be used instead. Ensure the engine is off while you do this and push them as far under your wheels as possible. This should provide you with suitable traction.
5. Ask for help
If unable to get unstuck the best option is to ask someone nearby for help or call your breakdown company who can come and help you out of the snow.
It is important when driving in winter to stay calm and not panic when things don’t go to plan. Being prepared, keeping a level head, and taking your time while driving will help you to be the best winter driver you can be.
If you have any questions or queries on this topic please don’t hesitate to contact us and we will be more than happy to help.