Wintertime comes around every year and is a season not looked upon favourably by most. More notably, as a driver, it causes a few concerns, specifically in the areas of safety and vehicle maintenance. This article aims to have you well prepared for the potential weather disruptions ahead and provide you with the knowledge for a safe road to springtime.
Below are a number of weather difficulties associated with winter driving and some hints and tips on how to best deal with them:
Freezing/snowy conditions: When the roads are frosty your stopping distance can be up to 10 times more than on a dry day! Make sure to drive at an appropriate speed for the conditions and allow yourself plenty of braking room. If circumstances are bad enough it may be best not to drive at all. When traction is seriously reduced try to use as high a gear as possible to prevent wheel spin. It is worth noting that even if your in-car thermometer shows an outside air temperature above freezing, it could still be slippery – often the ground temperature can be colder than the air temperature.
Fog: Fog can range from being very slight and patchy, to your visibility being reduced to less than a few metres. You must put headlights on if visibility is seriously reduced, normally to less than 100 metres. You can also use your fog lights but you must switch them off when visibility improves. Be sure you only drive to a speed at which you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear – so if you can only see for a few metres, be sure you can stop safely within that distance!
Low sun: If we are lucky (which isn’t very often) the sun may make an appearance once in a while and it can be out in winter just as much as in summer. Although, in the wintertime the sun never makes it very high in the sky, which as a driver can be very irritating, particularly when it is directly in your eyes. Use your sun visor to prevent annoyance, but it is highly recommend keeping sunglasses in your car, which should be a significant help on those bright days. (Polarised sunglasses will also help in reducing reflections on a wet road.)
Heavy rain/puddles: During heavy rain it can be particularly difficult to see, so speed should be reduced to allow for hazards outside your range of vision.
Remember, in the wet stopping distances can be doubled. If the rain is heavy for long enough it may cause flash flooding. Try to avoid puddles if possible and if not, drive through slowly to avoid water damaging the engine or electrics. If they look especially deep it may be best to find another route.
Windows misting: Due to the colder temperatures in winter, the windows can mist up more readily. Be sure you are aware of how your demister works to keep the windows clear (they will clear much faster with the air-conditioning setting on).
High winds: High winds can occur anytime of year, but take care around vehicles more vulnerable to stronger winds – such as cyclists and lorries. Be aware of obstacles, which may have been blown onto the roads eg. fallen trees, debris etc.
Remember we live in N.Ireland, where our weather is highly changeable, therefore, it is possible you could come across all of these conditions on the same day. So you could leave home in beautiful sunny weather and come home in the snow. Always leave plenty of time for your journey and be prepared for the worst, no matter what the weatherman says!
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