Staying Safe on the Roads in Winter

With Christmas fast approaching, it’s also unfortunately the time of year when driving becomes more tricky! Although getting around in winter conditions is generally more hazardous than in other seasons of the year, there are plenty of ways to ensure you have a safe driving experience.

Be aware that driving conditions are different

Simply bearing in mind that conditions are likely to be more difficult is more than most drivers will do, as many people forget that the average stopping distance will be at least 9-10 times longer than in normal, dry conditions. Keeping several car lengths away from the car in front and staying extra alert (as well as driving at a sensible speed, of course!) will pay dividends in safety benefits.

Drive in a high gear (especially when setting off)

Somewhat counter-intuitively, driving in a higher gear is generally better than a low gear in the snow. The reason for this is that when in a low gear, the average vehicle will tend to drive a lot more torque through the wheels, which when presented with icy or snowy conditions will result in a loss of traction. Driving in as high a gear as is practical will reduce this, allowing for safer departures.

Consider using winter tyres, or snow chains, and have a shovel in the boot

Investing in additional aids such as snow chains or winter tyres can help greatly with traction and safety during colder months, especially if the vehicle isn’t a 4 wheel drive. Having a snow shovel to hand is also a great idea, as it may otherwise be difficult to dig the vehicle out if it’s required.

If you have more than 1 car to choose from, take the front, or 4 wheel drive one

Aside from the obvious statement that 4 wheel drive cars will always be great in winter conditions, what is less common knowledge is that front-wheel drive cars are good as well – not as much so as AWD cars, but much better than rear wheel drive. They can effectively pull themselves along, whereas cars that have their power delivered through the back wheels will tend to struggle to gain enough momentum to move effectively.

Beware of black ice

Keep an eye of your car’s temperature gauge, and be particularly careful when going round corners, as it’s very easy to lose traction and end up going off the road when ‘black’ (invisible) ice is present. This is particularly true at night in areas that are sheltered from the sun during the day (roads through heavily wooded areas, for example).

Top up with antifreeze

In wintry conditions, the internal components of any car will be under more strain than normal, especially the radiator and cooling system, which may lead to serious, and expensive to repair damage. Antifreeze (which is typically available either as a concentrated liquid, or as a ready-mixed solution) lowers the natural freezing point of the fluid in the system, which makes it less liable to freezing up.

About the author:

Ben writes for 12-month car leasing providers, who offer flexible short-term leases across the UK.