Driving in winter is always a bit fraught, difficult, and tiring. Those perilous journeys in the dark, through sideways rain, falling sleet and all manner of harsh weather bring safety concerns to the fore. Driving in fog, ice, sleet, and snow needs some special attention and a higher degree of focus. At Sandyford Motors we have a special ‘Winter Ready ‘ Vehicle service dedicated to making sure your car is ready to face motoring in the colder season. For many Irish drivers who have been forced into longer commutes due to housing shortages in our cities, there are now more hours spent on the road. This may be their first winter of driving on country roads and for long periods in bad conditions. Here are some safety tips for driving in the worst of winter weather
A surprising number of motorists don’t know where to find the fog lights in their car! In fairness, the fog light icon and switch is in a different place on most car types, but you need to familiarize yourself with that life saving red light so that it can be put in action should you find yourself suddenly driving in a low-lying mist or full blown fog. Drive slower than usual in foggy conditions and maintain a greater distance between you and the car in front. Don’t be tempted to follow the taillights of the car in front as it can give a false sense of safety. Turn on your dipped headlights. Never use high beam lights as they reflect back and reduce visibility even more. Use your wipers and de mist windows font and back. If visibility is absolutely minimal, wind your windows down at junctions and roundabouts so you can listen for approaching cars. It is very important to note that if involved in a motor accident during foggy conditions and you weren't using your fog lights, it could invalidate your car insurance.
There are two words that you don’t want to see together. Thankfully it’s a rare phenomenon. In freezing fog, or when fog forms in subzero temperatures, they form into feather ice crystals which you can see on trees roads and paths. Beautiful but lethal, freezing fog can also herald in the dreaded black ice. Follow all the precautions for regular fog and then add more caution and care! In fact, if you don’t need to travel in freezing fog, it may be safer to sit it out at home till the fog lifts or the day warms up.
Icy roads and cold temperatures
Before heading out on the icy roads, pay attention to defrosting your car properly. Do not be tempted to move the car before deicing properly. See our previous article on defrosting your car on icy mornings. Driving without a fully defrosted car is very unsafe. But don’t reach for the hot kettle, it may cause your windscreen to weaken, chip or crack. Use a proprietary de-icing spray and a gentle scraping tool to remove the ice. If you start the engine to get the de mister going and warm the car, there are a few important points to remember. Don’t leave the car idling and walk away. The AA warn, "car thieves love an icy morning and every winter, cars are stolen while their owners go inside for warmth waiting for their car to defrost" but equally importantly, it is actually illegal, and you run the risk of fines or a prison sentence! Park your car close to the house to avail of some heat escaping and keep the car a bit warmer overnight.
Warm your keys gently to free up a frozen lock.
When driving on icy roads and snowy conditions take it very slow and use the highest gear possible. Switch to low gear if going downhill and manoeuvring through bends. Drive smoothly, making no harsh moves. No harsh braking or acceleration and avoid oversteering. Ensure that your tyres have good tread and are inflated to the correct pressure. A lack of grip can be lethal in freezing weather. Give extra space between you and the car in front and when you slow, use the brakes gently to warn traffic coming behind you. Front-wheel drive vehicles handle ice and snow better than rear-wheel drive vehicles as the engine weight over the front wheels will aids grip. A rear-wheel drive cars may slip and slide mor often but if you put some additional weight in the boot and on the back tyres, you will get a better grip on the road. On bitter cold mornings, listen to the weather forecast and take particular heed of Black ice warnings. Black ice is lethal and really difficult to see. If the road looks glossy or polished with suspicious black puddles in shaded and sheltered spots, there could be black ice.
What to do if you skid or slip
If your car starts to slide or skid, remove your foot from the accelerator and steer gently into the direction of the spin to help your car straighten up. ABS do not necessarily mean you will stop quicker. If you have ABS and the car stars skidding, step on the brake, stay on the brake and steer to safety as much as you can. For cars without ABS pump your brakes by lifting your foot on and off repeatedly and gently. Steer between that pumps to avoid obstacles.
If your car gets stuck a on ice or snow and the wheels are spinning wildly, use your car mats under the wheels to gain some traction and move
Prepare for the winter weather by ensuring lights, heater, and windows are working well. Make sure there is coolant or antifreeze in the car. Allow for extra battery charging in an EV, PHEV or Hybrid as the battery will run down a lot quicker as demisters, heaters and lights take their toll. Check the tyre treads and pressures. Keep some emergency supplies in the car, water, snacks, and a blanket in the unlikely event that you need to wait for a rescue tow truck or time out to gather your thoughts. Read our blog here on getting your car winter-ready and book our ‘Winter Ready’ service offer for real peace of mind and a winter of safe driving.