However, much you prepare, there’s always a chance that your car might leave you stranded over the winter. It’s important to be fully prepared for a breakdown by keeping warm clothes in your car, as well as a torch and a few basic tools. Consider keeping bottles of water in the car as well as emergency food supplies, such as energy bars and chocolate. If you are embarking on a long journey with snow forecast then be sure to pack waterproofs, some sturdy footwear, a shovel, a warm drink in a flask and a fully charged mobile phone. It might be worth packing a sleeping bag, this could prove invaluable if you became stranded in extreme snowy conditions.
Winter driving tips
Your car is likely to use more fuel over winter. Don’t risk running the fuel tank low, as you could be vulnerable if you run out on a dark road or in bad weather. It’s especially important to plan your journey in advance if the weather is likely to be bad. Look at weather forecasts for various locations on your route and consider taking an alternative route if particularly bad weather is forecast. Stick to main roads, as they’re more likely to be kept clear, and keep away from rural or hilly areas if possible.
If you’re concerned that the weather is going to be bad enough to prevent you completing your journey, such as if weather warnings are in place, consider whether your journey is really necessary. Plan alternative routes in case you encounter an issue on your journey and keep friends and family informed of your location. Make sure your phone is charged in advance and consider buying an in-car phone charger.
Driving in snow
In snow and ice stopping distances can increase by as much as 10 times compared to dry conditions. Drive slowly will allow you to stop within the distance you can see, avoiding any obstacles in the road. Be smooth with your braking, accelerating and avoid turning harshly as this can unsettle the car, leading you to lose control. Always keep the car clear of snow including all windows to allow for maximum visibility. Keeping the vehicle clear of snow on the roof is important as it can fall into the road and cause problems for you and other drivers, and remember the number plates need to be visible, too.
Driving in rain
Wet weather can be just as problematic as snow if you don’t drive to the conditions. Slow down, as stopping distances in the wet can be twice what they are in the dry. Watch out for flooding: dips in the road can hide areas of water, especially in the dark. If you’re not sure how deep a puddle is, don’t risk driving through it. Doing so could cause serious damage to your car and leave you stranded if it’s deep.
Driving in strong wind
If there are weather warnings for strong wind, seriously consider whether your journey is absolutely necessary. Not only does it make driving difficult, trees are likely to come down causing congestion and, in a worst-case scenario, hitting cars. If you do drive in strong winds, avoid high bridges, especially if you’re in a high-sided vehicle. If you feel the steering go light or you’re having to make a lot of corrections as the wind blows your car around, slow down and make sure you keep both hands on the wheel.
Driving in fog
Fog can also be especially dangerous. It usually accumulates in patches, so can take drivers by surprise. Switch your car’s fog lights on to aid your visibility to others and increase the gap between you and the car in front. Above all, be prepared to stop in the distance you can see. If you’re driving through an urban area in thick fog, consider turning off the radio and opening the windows to help you listen for other vehicles.
Driving in low sunshine
Surprisingly, this can be one of the biggest hazards for winter driving. Keep a pair of sunglasses in the car at all times and use the sun visors if you’re driving when the sun is low. Keep your windscreen clean and slow down if visibility is reduced.