Planning for any drive is important, but planning for long-distance driving during the winter requires particular care. The holiday season increases the number of cars on the roads, at a time when the days are shorter and the weather is potentially treacherous. For both professional and private drivers, taking extra steps to be safe is important and can potentially be life-saving.
Knowing your route ahead of your journey and checking travel information is all the more important in the winter. Don’t just rely on technology, especially if it’s snowing as your Sat Nav may not tell you that your route has become unsuitable for driving. It’s worth checking ahead and reviewing alternatives. The weather and traffic conditions may also influence the best times to travel, with traffic usually busier than normal around the Christmas and New Year bank holidays. Planning ahead also means checking your car and making sure you have appropriate kit. For example, check your tyres, screen wash and make sure you have de-icer. Sunglasses may also be useful as the sun is lower in the sky. Essentially, just take a little extra time to think ahead, to make sure you know where you’re going and when the best time to travel is given the weather and traffic conditions.
Drive the conditions
Driving in winter is harder than summer. Cold weather will affects your car, from the icing up of your windscreen, to the hardening of your tyres. It’s important to drive the conditions, allowing for changes in stopping distances and adapting to modifications you’ve made to your car, such as new tyres. As the temperature drops, the chances of skidding increases. Make sure you accelerate and break slowly to avoid losing control. Allowing your car to warm up properly and for your windscreen to fully de-ice or de-mist will ensure it performs well and you have appropriate visibility. Remember, it’s important to make sure others can see you as the days get shorter as even the daylight is darker, so keeping your sidelights on is a good idea, even if you feel it is light enough outside.
Plan for an emergency
Cold weather increases the chances that your car may break down, so be prepared. For even short distances it’s worth taking some extra warm clothes and a torch in case you have to wait outside by your car. For longer journeys, you should consider keeping a sleeping bag in your car and bringing along some food, water and a thermos just in case you have to spend a little longer than you’d anticipated stuck in your car. It’s not unknown for cars to become stranded for days when it snows, and it can snow heavily in a very short period of time, so be prepared and be safe. Let people know when you are leaving so they can call for help if you can’t. With a little preparation and some common sense you can make your winter journeys safer for you and your passengers.