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How to stay safe on the roads this winter

Comparison website Confused.com has released new research revealing that 1 in 4 motorists have admitted they have either been in a road accident or a near-miss when driving in poor wintry driving conditions.

With that in mind, Amanda Stretton, the motoring editor at Confused.com, has made comment: “When the weather turns and you’re out in your vehicle, it can be tempting to put your foot down and drive home as quickly as possible.

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“However, icy roads and excessive speeds spell trouble. As well as being more vigilant in these conditions, drivers need to plan their journeys in advance.”

According to the study, 10% of drivers choose to completely avoid getting behind the wheel when the harsh weather hits. However, for those of you who don’t have a choice but to drive, van hire and leasing specialists Northgate has the following advice for you to make sure you stay as safe as possible when the weather is particularly wintry:

Make sure you are prepared
As reported by The Express, The Met Office has released a weather caution to everyone in the UK revealing that a glacial blast could see the UK face the coldest winter in 35 years. So expect snow, ice and cold temperatures. You have been warned.

Ahead of the wintry weather, it is wise to carry out these checks to your car to ensure that it will be able to handle everything Mother Nature throws at it this winter:

  • Get your car battery checked by a specialist: When the cold and damp weather hits, it can cause your car’s equipment to slow down or stop working completely if it is on its last legs. It is therefore wise to pay a quick visit to your local garage to double check your car will make it through.
  • Top up your engine’s cooling system with antifreeze: This is important to prevent all the water in your engine cooling system from freezing.
  • Top up your screen wash bottle with screen wash: When the winter weather hits, low visibility can become a problem to motorists so you want to make sure you keep your vision as clear as possible. As the roads become less clear, your windscreen can become covered in dirt so it is vital that you keep your windscreen wash topped up to clear any dirt away. This also achieves a lower freezing temperature than water alone, so you will have less worry of frozen washer jets too.
  • Have a look at your car’s exterior lights: With low visibility as the days become shorter and the wintry weather hits us hard, it is important to make sure that all your lights are working as you will be using them more often. Not only that but you should clean them regularly so that any dirt and weathering doesn’t limit visibility.
  • Measure the tread depth of your car’s tyres: By UK law, tyres cannot have a tread depth below 1.6mm. However, the greater the tread the more improved your car’s steering and braking will be.

Recommended items to carry with you
In the event of getting stuck in bad weather whilst driving or suffering a breakdown, we advise that you have the following items with you to make sure that you stay safe and warm whilst awaiting help:

  • A warm change of clothes (this should include a coat, hat, scarf, a pair of thick gloves, some thick socks and wellington boots)
  • A hi-visibility vest
  • A warm blanket
  • A foil or emergency blanket
  • A first aid kit — take a look at this NHS Choices guide on what should be kept inside these
  • An ice scraper
  • Plenty of de-icer
  • A shovel
  • A warning triangle
  • A tow rope
  • A torch
  • High-quality car mats — not only are these useful accessories for your car’s interior, but can be wedged under wheels to help you when you’re stuck in snow.
  • Spare bulbs for your car’s exterior lights
  • A physical map — your sat-nav won’t be of much use if the device’s battery runs flat
  • In-car chargers for your mobile phone
  • Plenty of drinking water
  • Any medication that you or your passengers require
  • Some food

It’s worth taking a winter driving course
If you can’t avoid the roads when the cold snap arrives and need to drive regularly, it might be wise to top up your knowledge and improve your driving skills ready for when the snow and ice hits.

There are plenty of options available:

  • BMW provides snow drift training in the Austrian ski resort of Solden.
  • Lapland Ice Driving is an experience recommended by WTCC champion Yvan Muller that takes place in Arjeplog, in Sweden.
  • Ice Drive Sweden has a Drift Academy that offers comprehensive lessons on a frozen lake.

Whilst it is beneficial to travel to locations which are known for their cold weather conditions, there are worthy alternatives in the UK too:

  • The Goodwood Extreme Weather Driving course is an opportunity to learn how to handle a vehicle and a slippery terrain at the West Sussex Track.
  • Transport for Bucks run free winter driving workshops in Chesham, High Wycombe ad Aylesbury during November and December. Each workshop is split into two parts, the first with a former police response driver who can guide you on driving safely in the winter, followed by a workshop with a garage technician that demonstrates the basic vehicle checks that should be carried before driving in cold conditions. To book your place at one of the workshops, simply email roadsafety@buckscc.gov.uk.

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