Driving in adverse conditions is as much about technique as preparation. Here, with a little help from the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists), are some pointers.
IAM Chief Examiner Peter Rodger says, “Avoid travelling unless completely necessary, and don’t ignore police warnings or advice to not travel on specific routes. Can you work remotely, or change your schedule?”
If staying at home is out of the question, follow these simple rules…
• Portholes are fine for sailors but you can’t drive effectively while peering through inadequately cleared windows. If your car lives outside, you could use a frost shield or lay bubble wrap across your windscreen (trap the wrap between the doors and screen pillars). Or you may have to use de-icer and an ice scraper. Make sure your windows are clear and that you have all-round visibility before you set off. Remember that one pass across a frozen screen is generally all it takes to wreck your wiper blades.
• Get your speed right in snow, – not so fast that you risk losing control, but not so slow that you risk losing momentum when you need it.
• Start gently from stationary, avoiding high revs. Stay in a higher gear for better control, and if it is slippery, in a manual car move off in a higher gear, rather than just using first. Spinning wheels are hardly gripping at all.
• If you get into a skid the main thing to remember is to take your foot off the pedals. Rely on steering inputs, rather than your brakes or accelerator.
• Only use the brakes if you cannot steer out of trouble. Double or even triple your normal stopping distance from the vehicle in front so you are not relying on your brakes to be able to stop. It simply may not happen!
• ABS may let you steer in a skid but it can’t stop you when there’s no grip.
• Always think ahead as you drive to keep moving, even if it is at walking pace.
• Plan your journey around busier roads as they are more likely to have been gritted. Traffic also helps road grit/salt to work.
• Bends are a particular problem in slippery conditions – slow down before you get to a bend, so that by the time you turn the steering wheel you have already lost enough speed.
• On a downhill slope start the descent slowly and keep your speed down – it is much easier to keep it low than to try and slow down once things get slippery.
• Keep track of where you are. If you do have to call for assistance, you need to be able to tell the breakdown or emergency services your location, so they can find you.
And if the worst does happen:
If you must leave your vehicle to telephone for assistance, find a safe place to stand, away from the traffic flow. If you have just lost control the next driver could well do the same.
On motorways and dual carriageways it is always better to leave your vehicle and stand a short distance behind and to the safe side of it. Don’t stand in front of it if at all possible. Balancing the risks of a collision and hypothermia is something that depends on your situation.