Whether you live a few streets away from the office or commute for an hour each day, driving to and from work in dark, icy and wintry conditions is dangerous for even the most experienced driver. With that in mind, Wasim Bux, product manager at car insurance firm iGO4, shares his winter driving tips for how commuters can get to work safely this winter.
Give yourself extra time
No matter the weather, when we rush, we make mistakes. So it’s important to give yourself extra time — especially when conditions are bad. If you are running late for work, you are more likely to rush and therefore more likely to make a deadly mistake. Preparing your car before you set off can easily take up ten minutes, and there’s no telling how bad traffic will be on the way to work. Checking weather forecasts in advance and planning your route carefully can make a difference, but it’s almost impossible to know if other drivers or a sudden turn of the weather will cause hold-ups. Live travel updates can help in this regard, but nothing removes the stress of getting to work better than allowing more commute time into your daily routine.
Clear snow and ice before you set off
Before you head off for work in winter, it’s vital that you completely clear all ice and snow from your car. A trusty ice scraper and some de-icer will work wonders on your windows and mirrors, but don’t forget to clear the snow from the roof of your car as well, as it could fall off and obscure your view while driving. Many drivers don’t take this seriously, but failing to properly clear your windscreen is actually an offence and you could be fined and given three penalty points. This is because, by law, drivers must have a full view of the road and traffic ahead of it.
Slow and steady saves lives
A similar theme seems to be emerging in this article. But the truth is that slow and steady means safe. If the road is icy or visibility is poor, your reaction time will be drastically reduced, increasing your risk to hazards. How can this be avoided? Simple. Slow down. Take corners extra slowly and decrease speed even more if you’re having trouble seeing in front of you. Always maintain a safe distance from the driver in front of you. Remember: your stopping distance doubles when its wet and can be up to ten times greater when icy.
Stay in control
Sudden changes in speed or steering can have amplified effects during the winter months, so when the weather is wet, snowy, or icy, try to avoid harsh braking and accelerating. Pedestrians and other hazards are much harder to spot when conditions are poor, which means driving slowly and making sure others are aware of your presence are more important than under normal circumstances. If you have to carry out manoeuvres, do so very slowly and with increased awareness of your surroundings.
Keep some emergency supplies on hand
No matter how much you prepare, things outside of your control can still go wrong. One particularly bad example happened just earlier this year, when hundreds of drivers were forced to spend the freezing night in their cars on the M80 near Glasgow. That’s why it’s vital to pack a winter emergency kit in the boot of your car. Items can include things like a torch and batteries, a blanket, extra warm clothes, food and drink, a spade, a high-visibility jacket, and jump leads.
While you can never mitigate all risk, being vigilant and preparing will save you a lot of potential headaches in the future. No one was ever hurt by being over-prepared.