Amberley Driver Training’s Winter Driving Top Tips

Now that winter is upon us and the weather is getting colder and the days shorter, driving can be come more hazardous and you need to take precautionary measures. To help you, Amberley Driver training is offering some free top tips to to ensure that you can remain safe when driving this winter, read on for more details.

Winter Sunshine

With the days getting shorter, the sun is sitting lower in the sky, this can lead to glare.

Top Tip- Put your dipped headlights on, be safe be seen, the oncoming driver who’s sun is in their eyes may not be able to see you, the sun can render you as a silhouette and against a dark hedgerow you would be invisible. Be extra vigilant for cyclists and pedestrians, who can often be easily missed.

If you are on the receiving end of glare; you should reduce your speed, wear good quality polarised sunglasses to help reduce it and utilise the visor in your car.

Heavy Rain & Road Spray

Again be safe be seen, put your dipped headlights on, (sidelights are next to useless in the daylight). Keep your distance it takes twice as long to stop in the wet. Make sure your windscreen washer bottle is topped up. Avoid large puddles when it is safe to do so rather than driving through them, if you have to drive through reduce your speed before doing so the nearside wheels will be forced to slow as they hit the water causing the car to get dragged to the kerb edge. Remember fallen wet leaves are extremely slippery, so take care on those tree lined roads.

Snow & Ice

We are always told not to drive, unless “absolutely necessary,” but lets face it we all have to go to work!

Here are a few essential items you should pack in your boot prior to setting off:-

  • Warm drink in a flask and some food- particularly important if you are driving in an isolated place, as if you get stuck it could take hours before you are recovered.
  • A spare change of warm clothing  just in case you get wet and perhaps a blanket to keep warm, again in case you get stuck and a sturdy pair of boots with deep tread, sorry ladies no high-heels!
  • De-icer and a scraper
  • Torch
  • First aid kit
  • A spade or shovel, you can buy fold up ones from most good camping shops. This will come in handy to dig away compacted snow or ice.
  • Jump leads, car batteries don’t like cold weather!

There is also a bit of car maintenance and a few checks you should do before leaving:-

  • Clear ALL WINDOWS of  ice (not just a little square) so you have clear visibility all round your vehicle. You cannot see a motorcyclist or a cyclist out of your side windows if it is frosted up. Don’t forget door mirrors, headlights and tail lights become frosty too!
  • If there is significant snowfall, clear your  whole vehicle not just the windows; to be honest the only reason we drive around with it left on the roof is as a status symbol of… ‘look how much snow I’ve had…ha ha.’  It is in fact extremely dangerous, the snow on your roof will slip down over your windscreen when you break; the bonnet snow can slide up and completely cover your windscreen. It can also blow off and cause a hazard to other road users behind you, especially the more vulnerable cyclists and motorcyclists.
  • Ensure your car has had it’s proper winter health check done at a garage, the levels of anti-freeze and de-icer in the washer bottle may be different for the winter.

Setting off:

When you set off in snow, especially when it has compacted into ice, it can be incredibly difficult to move off. You should use a higher gear and hold the car on the bite and keep the revs low, this will allow the engine to edge the wheels forwards minimising the wheels spinning. If there is a lot of snow, it will build up around your wheels causing a rut, ideally you should try and clear this prior to leaving, but you can also rock backwards and forwards to climb the rut and start moving.

Consider investing in winter tyres too as this will improve traction, they also have a lower freezing temperature in the rubber. Manufacturers suggest that drivers are better off buying winter tyres whenever the temperature dips below 7C. They are constructed from a different rubber compound, the tread pattern is different meaning they grip the road better and allow you to brake more safely on snow and ice.

While on the move:

You should drive at a safe distance from the vehicle in front as the breaking distances are greatly increased in icy weather. You should also have your headlights on dipped to improve your visibility to other road users. Gently test your breaks every so often to keep them working and prevent ice from forming on them. It’s best to have the traffic radio setting turned on so you can be kept up to date with the status of roads and have forewarning of any issues or road closures.

It can be very dangerous when cornering and breaking and you should exercise caution at all times, with no abrupt movements or sharp breaking, as this can cause you to skid. When you are moving off and climbing hills use a higher gear and lower revs to improve traction and minimise risk of wheel spins. It is best to drive slowly and safely, so allow extra time to travel and don’t take any risks!

I hope you find these tips useful, take care and stay safe this winter!

All the best,