Winter driving tips for keeping safe on the road

With dark mornings and nights and wintery weather conditions, fleet managers and company vehicle drivers need to keep in mind the ‘dos and don’ts’ of winter driving.

So, with this is mind, we thought it would be a good idea to issue some winter driving tips as a reminder of the added perils on our roads at this time of year.  We’ve also created a PDF guide which you can download, keep and share – click here for your copy.

We’ve noticed an increase in the use of the latest technology in favour of driving long distances for face-to-face business meetings at this time of year.

And arguably the safest and most environmentally sustainable approach to winter driving is planning your workload to include alternatives such as conference calls, video conferencing, rail travel or better journey scheduling wherever possible.

When driving is essential

However, when you do have to travel by road, please bear in mind the following 10 good practice driving tips:

1Have your vehicle, including tyres, brakes, lights, anti-freeze and windscreen fluid, checked. Clean your windscreen inside and out, and check thoroughly for scratches, chips and abrasions.

2Pay special attention to your windscreen wipers to ensure these are cleaning your windscreen efficiently.

3Check tyres for condition, tread depth and pressure. If the tread depth is getting low, please get your vehicle tyres checked at no cost to your company, at either ATS or Kwik-Fit before the onset of winter.

4Reduce your speed, stay further back from the vehicle in front, drive defensively and allow yourself and others around you more time to react. Your vehicle will take much longer to stop on a wet surface, particularly if covered with leaves or early morning frost.

5Slow earlier for junctions, intersections, roundabouts and traffic lights, so you don’t have to brake or corner so hard. Adapt your driving speed to visibility.

6At sunset or sunrise beware of dazzle from low sun. Ensure that you keep your windscreen clean and free from smears. If driving into the sun be aware that drivers behind may be dazzled and may not see you if you stop. If the sun is low behind you, be aware that oncoming drivers may be dazzled.

7Use dimmed or dipped headlights as soon as you notice a reduction in visibility. If vehicles approaching in the opposite lane have their lights on, it probably means that you should too, as visibility ahead is poor.

8Only use fog-lights in extreme conditions, such as when the vehicles in front become difficult to see, and always remember to switch them off when conditions improve to remove the nuisance factor.

9If your vehicle is not equipped with ABS, should the wheels lock, release the brake briefly so that you can steer. With ABS you can ‘stomp and steer’ – keep your foot on the brake and steer in the direction you want to go.

10Take regular breaks, even if you’re in a hurry. It will help you concentrate better, especially when doing long drives in poor or foggy conditions.

This time of year also throws up road conditions that you may not face at other times, and they may require rather different driving techniques. There are a number of different road conditions you may encounter:

When roads are icy or slushy

Icy roads throw up a number of problems, so please note:

  • It can take ten times longer to stop in icy conditions than on a dry road. Drive slowly, allowing extra room to slow down and stop.
  • Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin.
  • Manoeuvre gently, avoiding harsh braking and acceleration.
  • To brake on ice or snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use the brake pedal gently.
  • If you start to skid, ease off the accelerator but do not brake suddenly.

Watch out for fog

At this time of year, fog can be a hazard in any region of the country. Remember:

  • Fog drifts rapidly and is often patchy.
  • In foggy conditions, drive very slowly using dipped headlights.
  • Use fog-lights if visibility is seriously reduced, but remember to switch them off when visibility improves.
  • Don’t hang on to the tail-lights of the vehicle in front. This gives you a false sense of security and means you may be driving too close.
  • Don’t speed up suddenly, even if it seems to be clearing. You can suddenly find yourself back in thick fog.

The perils of wet weather driving

In wet weather, stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads. In wet weather:

  • You should keep well back from the vehicle in front. This will increase your ability to see and plan ahead.
  • If steering becomes unresponsive, it probably means the water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road. Ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually.
  • The rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen.

Flooded roads are an increasing problem

Flooding seems to be more prevalent in recent years and requires good driving practice:

  • Don’t attempt to cross if the water appears too deep.
  • Drive slowly in first gear but keep the engine speed high by slipping the clutch – this will stop you from stalling.
  • Avoid the deepest water, usually near the kerb.
  • Remember – test your brakes when you are through the flood before you drive at normal speed.

If you get stranded in snow

Here are some essentials you should bear in mind:

  • Don’t leave the vehicle.
  • Let help come to you.
  • Keep as warm as possible, including running the engine for warmth.

Remember driving on our roads during winter requires common sense and a greater awareness of conditions, and you should always be prepared for every eventuality.

If you would like any further advice on winter driving, then please contact us.

>> Get a PDF version of this guide >>