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29 October 2014

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You are in: Norfolk > Weather > Guide to winter driving

Drivers get stuck in snow on Grapes Hill, Norwich

Winter conditions cause driving chaos

Guide to winter driving

Once the snow starts to fall or the gales being to howl, our driving skills are pushed to the limit - so do you know how to drive properly in bad conditions? A few moments thinking about it now, could save you from problems out on the road.

We often know when bad weather is coming, but even when severe winter weather is expected, almost half of road users are not taking proper precautions - according to the Highways Agency.

Research has revealed that almost half of road users continue to make their journey, despite the forecast.

As few as a third would carry a 'winter weather kit' to see them through a journey and more than a fifth of those questioned said they would not check for weather warnings before setting out.

"We have built up a new relationship with the Met Office... to ensure we can give road users the best possible warnings and information when they have to travel in poor conditions," said Ginny Clarke, chief highways engineer.

"We also want road users to be better prepared, to carry the right equipment and to take note of the information we and the Met Office are providing - so that they can make better decisions on whether they need to travel when the weather is bad," she added.

Treacherous conditions

Delaying a journey for a couple of hours can make the difference between a completed trip and a difficult drive in poor conditions.

"People go into panic mode, despite the fact we have warnings," said Mike Reece of the Drive Alive motoring school in Diss, Norfolk.

"We must realise that we have to adapt our driving style to suit the conditions and be prepared," he added.

When driving in heavy rain and strong winds drivers should always slow down and keep their distance from the vehicle in front.

Car driving in snow

Is your car ready for the winter?

After driving through flood water, test your brakes before you start increasing your speed again.

Drivers should remember that other vehicles on the road may also be affected by strong winds, especially when overtaking so check your mirrors for other vehicles.

Thinking ahead

Driving experts say you should prepare yourself and your car for winter driving.

"You need to think about when you last had your car serviced. Think about sorting your battery out, to make sure you've got anti-freeze in your engine and lots of screen wash in your water bottle," said Norfolk's casualty reduction officer, Michael Edney.

"It's also worth thinking about having some warm clothing in the car in case you get stuck in snow.

"If you are stuck for hours and hours in traffic don't run your engine all the time. Just run it long enough to run the car right through - leaving the window open a little bit for ventilation - and then you won't go through your petrol as quickly and you'll keep yourself warm.

"Try and raise your feet off the floor as that's where it gets cold and that will work it's way through your body, so insulate yourself from the ground up," he added.

Before setting out:

  • Clear all snow from the car, including the lights.
  • De-mist and de-ice your car fully before starting your journey.
  • Take a blanket, Wellington boots, a spade and warm clothing.
  • On longer journey take some food and a flask with a hot drink.
  • Tell someone at your destination that you're coming and which route you will be taking so they can alert the emergency services if you don't turn up. 
  • Be prepared to take more time over your journey.

On the road

Ice and snow drastically reduce the ability of your tyres to grip the road, which means that slowing down, speeding up and changing direction all become hazardous. The trick to driving in these conditions is to be a smooth as possible.

  • The British weather is unpredictable. If you must drive during severe weather, make sure you are prepared for bad weather conditions. Check local and national weather forecasts. Listen to travel information on the radio.
  • Keep your space and look a long way ahead.
  • Slow down by decelerating rather than braking. Apply brakes gently, apply accelerator gently, turn the steering wheel gently.
  • If you skid ease off the accelerator, but do not brake suddenly. 
  • If you're going up a slippery hill, use as high a gear as possible. Don't start off in first, try second or third to avoid your wheels slipping.
  • Dazzle from the low winter sun can also be dangerous. Carry a pair of sunglasses in the car, just in case it's too low for the visor.

The Highways Agency information line is 0845 750 4030

last updated: 07/04/2008 at 10:05
created: 18/02/2005

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