Although many drivers like to consider themselves capable regardless of the conditions that they face, very few UK drivers are all that good at handling snow. This is in large part down to the fact that two years ago, few UK drivers had ever experienced a Winter that would indicate such ability would ever be of much use.
Unfortunately however, global warming has decided that many parts of the UK will from now on occasionally turn into a Winter wonderland. Now is therefore a fantastic time to figure out how to get from A to B in the snow without killing yourself in the process. And despite what some people may claim, driving in the snow is actually pretty straightforward.
A large part of doing so safely is simply preparing both your car and your route before you head off. I will now outline the key steps to take before you attempt to do battle with roads full of ice and snow.
Purchase Winter Tires
First off, there is the matter of your tires. Chances are the tires that are currently on your car are not suitable, and sadly this applies even if you happen to own all weather tires. To have any chance of getting a grip on ice, your tires will need to have a thread length of at least 6/32 inches. The only tires that have such long threads are Winter tires. Although they are not exactly cheap, they are significantly cheaper than having an accident. Therefore if you plan on driving around in the snow next Winter, they are a solid investment to make.
Clear Your Windscreen
The longer you spend driving in the snow, the more snow is likely to build up on your windscreen and you therefore need to make sure that when you first set out, your windscreen is perfectly clear. This will involve both removing any snow on the outside and using your cars heater to remove any condensation from the inside.
Check Your Lights
When it’s snowing outside, you should have your lights on regardless of whether it is night or day. Doing so not only ensures that you don’t miss something, it also makes your vehicle much more noticeable to other drivers. You should both clear your lights of snow prior to each journey and you should double check that they are actually working.
Check Your Wipers
Before you set off you should also check that your windscreen wipers are working perfectly and you should keep an extra set in your car at all times. This may sound excessive but if you’ve ever attempted to drive in heavy snow without the aid of windscreen wipers, you will understand the importance of this precaution.
Plan Your Route
Before heading leaving your home, you should take some time to plan your route, taking care of any roads that should be avoided. Provided you have lived in your area for enough Winters, you are likely to be aware of which roads tend to get the most ice. It’s also a good idea to avoid any roads that are particularly winding or narrow. Although driving a well equipped car is certainly important, carefully avoiding roads where accidents are the most likely is even more so.
Once you hit the road, you should primarily be focusing on two things.
- The first is to simply take your time. A large portion of car accidents each Winter are caused by people simply not having the patience to drive slow enough for the conditions.
- The second is to always keep your distance from other vehicles. Remember that if the car on front of you has to suddenly stop, you are going to need quite a bit of space to do so too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how much ice is on the road, if you get into an accident, the fault is always attached to the vehicle behind.
And if you Run into Trouble….
Unfortunately, regardless of how careful you are, you can still hit a patch of ice that sends your car out of control. The most important thing to remember is not to panic, which is exactly what most drivers do. Instead, you should stay calm and try to move the steering wheel as little as possible.
Many drivers attempt to steer their way out of a slide but this is almost always the wrong thing to do. Remember that before you started sliding, your tires were already pointed in the correct direction. Therefore pointing them in a different direction is going to leave your car jerking the wrong way as soon as your tires regain their grip. Therefore always try to minimize your steering and simply wait for your tires to regain control.