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Tips For Driving In Winter Conditions

Driving in Winter conditions can be hazardous and should only be done where absolutely necessary. We know that some journeys can’t be avoided.

Ask yourself the following questions before embarking on a journey during severe winter weather:

  • Is my planned journey necessary or can it wait until the weather improves?
  • Plan your route in advance & consider obstacles e.g. steep rises/inclines.
  • Listen to traffic reports – are they advising to avoid certain roads?
  • Does the route have any lay-by’s to park in for a break during my journey?

Put an emergency pack in your car. Ideally this will contain:

  1. De-icer & ice scraper
  2. Torch & batteries
  3. Warm clothes & blanket
  4. A first aid kit
  5. Jump leads & reflective warning sign

If you are going on a long journey, bring a warm drink in a thermos flask and some food. Sunglasses are useful to reduce the glare of the sun on snow.

Tips for driving in poor weather conditions

Always allow extra time for Winter journeys as you don’t want to be rushing in poor conditions.

Driving in fog

  • Use dipped headlights.
  • Stay a minimum 2 car lengths from the vehicle in front and reduce your speed according to visibility.
  • When visibility is less than 100m approx, turn on your front and rear fog lights to increase your own visibility.

Driving in rain

  • When roads are wet your stopping distance is doubled. Reduce your speed and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you.
  • If your vehicle aquaplanes on surface water, take your foot off the accelerator. Don’t brake and use your gears to slow the car down if possible.

Driving in ice & snow

  • Clear snow from the roof of your vehicle as well as the windows – it can slip while you drive and obscure your view.
  • Avoid braking suddenly. Applying the brakes too hard will cause a skid. If this happens pump the brakes gently and repeatedly.
  • Drive in as high a gear as possible, maintaining low ‘revs’ and a safe speed. Going down in gears will automatically reduce the speed output of the car. Do this gradually to bring the car to a stop.
  • Reduce your speed but don’t completely take your foot off the accelerator, this may cause a spin.

Driving in wind

  • High sided vehicles are at risk of crosswinds. Keep a safe distance from these vehicles and be prepared to stop should they be affected by a crosswind.
  • Other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians can be blown off course in high winds so exercise extra caution when these are present.

Driving in flooding

  • Do not attempt to drive through water if you don’t know how deep it is.
  • Drive considerately remembering your car can cause a bow-wave affecting other motorists and/or nearby homes.
  • If your car stalls in flood water, leave your car and move yourself to safety.

Fact: Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of water.

If you breakdown on a motorway

  • Pull over to the left hand side of the road as much as possible. Do this safely while checking your mirrors and blind spots. Turn on your hazard warning lights.
  • Get all passengers out of the vehicle by the doors on the left hand side and over the barrier where one is in place.
  • Don’t try to fix your vehicle under any circumstances.
  • Use a roadside emergency phone where available. Motorway assistance will be able to locate you much easier if you use these. If not, tell them what junction numbers you are between and if you are on the north/south/east/west carriageway, whichever is the case. 

Car Maintenance

Maintenance is the single most important measure you can take to safeguard your car during the Winter season.

Routine maintenance

  • Park your car in a garage or carport where possible.
  • Snow chains are easy to install and should be used when driving in snow.
  • Check your spare wheel, make sure the pressure is correct and that you have the tools to change it if the need arises.
  • Check your bulbs, oil and water regularly and make sure there is anti-freeze in the radiator.
  • Have your wipers replaced when they become worn.

Regular tyre checks

  • Tyre quality is the most important factor for a vehicle retaining correct grip/traction. Good tyre tread disperses water (rain) and liquids (snow, slush etc…) beneath the tyre allowing correct contact with the road surface and reducing the risk of skidding and aquaplaning.
  • Minimum legal tyre tread depth for a passenger vehicle in Ireland is 1.6mm, this should be measured with a tread depth gauge or checked by an authorised tyre supplier.
  • Most tyres display a wear bar that runs across the tyre from side to side. These are 2mm high and help to indicate when the tread is low and should be replaced. Replace your tyre as soon as you see this bar and preferably before it becomes visible.
  • If there are any bulges on the tyre it must be replaced. These indicate the structure of the tyre is weakened and could result in a blow out.
  • Tyre pressure should be maintained as per the manufacturers recommendation (refer to manual)

It is also recommended to ensure that your motor insurance provides the best cover for your driving needs, should you be unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident. At Maher & Richardson Insurance Ltd, we offer expert advice on the best car insurance cover. Talk to us now.


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