Sleet, ice, snow and fog; as winter firmly sets in, drivers need to be fully prepared to cope with the change in conditions on the roads. Even the most experienced of drivers can find themselves facing an unsettling drive to the office; and with limited daylight and temperatures below freezing, the last thing you want is to find yourself quite literally out in the cold.

Preparation is the key not only for your vehicle, but for yourself and for the journey ahead. As a daily commuter, it’s likely you no longer fully consider your journey to work. It’s become a regular occurrence, and a rushed one at that. During a heavy snow fall, your normal route may become treacherous, and although it’s tempting – particularly when you’re running late – to take your usual short cut, it’s wise to have an alternative route mapped out. Stick to main roads where possible as these are more likely to have been gritted.

When roads become iced over, it’s not always instantly visible from behind the steering wheel; reducing your driving speed in general will help give you more time to react. Every second counts as your stopping distance increases on slippery surfaces. Losing control of your steering – often the case when driving in snow – can be a scary experience but try not to brake too sharply as this may cause the car to skid even more. A good set of tyres will go a long way in aiding efficient braking.

Knowing your car will help keep you safe. Finding indicators such as fog and hazard lights on your car for the first time can be distracting, and your driving may be compromised; make sure you know where these are before setting off. Also consider whether your car is kitted out to cope with all eventualities. Blankets, bottled water and a bar of chocolate will keep you and any passengers comfortable whilst waiting for emergency or breakdown services, but your car needs some essentials too. See more tips on this in our guide to Getting your car ready for wintery conditions.

Bad driving conditions can affect even the shortest of journeys, and as a driver you should set off feeling fully alert and prepared to cope with the conditions. It’s always worth asking yourself, ‘do I absolutely have to make that journey today?’ If the answer’s yes, have you considered alternative transport?

If you’re struggling to see the car in front, the chances are you are also difficult to be seen. Keep a safe distance at all times, and be alert to potential hazards such as pedestrians crossing who, just like you, are looking to enjoy the festive frost the safe way.

Dermot Kelleher


December 12, 2012

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