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Tips For Driving Safely In Bad Weather

Welcome to our "Tips for driving safely in bad weather" page part of our road safety section.

The road safety section is about information helping to keep roads in the UK safer.

The traffic news is constantly being updated on UK Traffic News to keep you informed about traffic updates.

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Understanding what road signs mean is part of the safety features for UK roads.

Road signs include important information about the road you are driving on and ignoring the warnings or guidance road signs give is dangerous.

Hints and Tips for Safety in Bad Weather Conditions

There following hints and tips are for guidance only.

If at all possible avoid driving in bad or extreme weather conditions. Delay your journey until conditions improve.

Allow your car to warm up before setting off.

Fully clean all windows and lights before setting off.

Make sure your tyre are in good condition with plenty of tread and grip.

Make sure your car has plenty of fuel for the journey with a substantial margin of extra fuel for getting stuck in heavy traffic.

Make sure your radiator is fully topped up and that your car has the correct amount of antifreeze in it.

Make sure your fan belt is not loose (making any slipping noises such as squealing). If you get stuck in traffic your are more likely to overheat or breakdown. Also your battery may not charge properly increasing the risk of a breakdown. In wet and cold conditions there is less grip for rubber fan belt and they are therefore more likely to slip leading to overheating, failing to charge the battery and increased risk of breaking altogether.

Reduce your speed and leave plenty of room to stop. On slippery roads it takes far longer to stop so allow yourself time to stop much more slowly and gently and avoid heavy breaking which is much more likely to lead to skidding and lose of control of your vehicle.

Be extra careful on bends and hills.

Don't assume because you cannot see ice on the road there is none!! It is not possible to always see ice.

THINK AHEAD ! Late reactions are often too late. Prevention is better than avoidance.

You should allow AT LEAST three times more space than usual between you and the car in front.

Be particularly careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently travelled roads, which will freeze first.

Treat everyone else like idiots (more than usual). Don't assume the driver in front or behind or in the side turning has any idea how to drive safely in extreme weather conditions. Avoid getting situations where some other idiot drives into your car or forces you to make a manoeuvre that could be dangerous. For instance don't automatically assume you will be given right of way at roundabouts and on roundabouts, at side turning and traffic lights for example. We experienced this ourselves recently at a roundabout in snow. Half way round a roundabout on a dual carriage way we slowed to ensure the cars had managed to stop in the snow for us to continue round to turn right. A lorry travelling about 30 miles an hour failed (didn't even try) to stop at all and ploughed straight through. If we had not stopped even though we had complete right of way) there would have been a serious accident and in view of the size of the lorry and the speed it was travelling would quite possibly be dead. With the size of the lorry and the speed it was travelling we might not even be updating this page now. Thinking ahead and treating other road users as idiots, careless and risk takers helps to keep you safer.

Even if you are late DON'T RUSH (better late than never!)

Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.

Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.

Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.

Don't use cruise control on icy roads.

Keep your lights and windshield clean.

Don't assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

Driving too close to the vehicle in front makes it dangerous for the driver in front as you are distracting them and potentially putting pressure on them to drive faster than they feel comfortable driving at. If you have an idiot driving too close or too fast behind you if possible let them pass. It is better to get where you are going slower and later than not at all.

DON'T get pressured by other drivers into driving faster than you feel is safe in any circumstances.
Fixing your car after an accident involves cost, hassle and inconvenience. You can reduce the risk or avoid this by driving carefully and not at all when not necessary.

If your wheels skid...
Take your foot off the accelerator.
Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left.
If they're sliding right, steer right.

If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.

If you have standard brakes (non ABS), pump them gently. If you are sliding SLOWLY (such as on a hill or slope) try very gently applying the handbrake slowly and releasing and reapplying slowly and gently again (this method helped us stop and avoid sliding into a car stuck in the middle of the road last winter on a bend and slope, it still took 10 feet to stop but trying the foot brake did nothing due to the ice, we managed to stop 3 feet from the stranded car). You CANNOT stop quickly on ice. Stopping slowly and gently is your only option. Panic or heavy braking does not work on ice!

Allow for non flat roads (such as slopes into the curb).

If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not repeatedly apply the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes.

You will feel the brakes pulsing sensation but this is normal.

If you get stuck...
Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper. Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.  Use a light touch on the accelerator to ease your car forwards or backwards. Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car. Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction. Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you're in gear, give a light touch on the accelerator until the vehicle gets going.

Make sure you have with you... Something to drink. A flask of a hot drink is also good.
Something to eat, it is a good idea to have chocolate and sweet items in the car.

Make sure you have plenty or warm clothes in case you breakdown or get stuck. Layers are good for insulating warmth. Wool is far better than cotton.

Fully charge your mobile phone before leaving and keep an in car charger with you or in the car at all times.
Put a shovel in the boot before leaving.

Have a bag of sand in the boot in case you get stuck on an icy spot.

Keep a spare sleeping bag or other insulating item in the boot for extreme emergencies. Avoid sleeping in your car if at all possible. As night sets in it will get even colder.

ALWAYS let someone know where you are going and when you expect to get there so that other can raise alerts and warnings if you are missing for any length of time.

This list is not exhaustive but hopefully it will give you some helpful ideas for staying safe in extreme driving and weather conditions.


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