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Keeping It Together When Driving In Snowy Weather.

17th December 2013
It may not be too surprising to find accidents claims escalating during severe winter weather. Despite local councils attempt to respond more promptly to Met office warnings with overnight gritting, even if only just a few inches of snow falls, motorists can unexpectedly become involved in all manner of incidents on or off the road.

When snow is forecast, the standard advice is not to drive at all unless it’s really necessary. However, snow can begin falling during a journey, covering the ground very quickly. As injury claims can often show, there will be car and van drivers who fail to observe basic safety rules to drive with extra care, assuming a gritted road is therefore, clear and safe to tailgate, speed and overtake as they would at any other time.

It’s simply staggering to note just how many drivers fail to completely clear their windscreen, rear or side windows of overnight snow and believe they have enough visibility to safely navigate the road by peering through one half of the windscreen only. Using dipped headlights is also vital but there will always one or two vehicles who fail to do so.

How to correctly use the brake pedal in snow and ice seems also to elude many drivers. It’s been estimated that a braking error has caused nearly a million accidents while around a third of drivers assume they should instantly use their gears (causing that familiar gear crunching sound) rather than the correct procedure, i.e. braking gently first to slow down and then changing gear to match the appropriate speed.

If a vehicle becomes stuck in snow, then revving the engine to force the wheels to accelerate forward will not work! Accidents which cause damage to parked cars can be caused by over revved vehicles simply sliding sideways and crashing into stationary vehicles or even pedestrians.

The RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) has produced a checklist of actions to take when driving in snow or ice:

• Reduce your speed. The chances of skidding are much greater and your stopping distance will significantly increase.
• Only travel at a speed at which you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear.
• Avoid harsh braking and acceleration, or sharp steering.
• Always reduce your speed smoothly and in plenty of time on slippery surfaces.
• Slow down in plenty of time before bends and corners.
• Braking on an icy or snow covered bend is extremely dangerous. The centrifugal force will continue to pull you outwards and the wheels will not grip very well. This could cause your vehicle to spin.
• To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use your brakes gently.
• Increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front. You may need up to TEN TIMES the normal distance for braking.
• Keep your vehicle well-ventilated. The car heater turned up full can quickly make you drowsy.
• In snow, stop frequently to clean the windows, wheel arches, lights and number plates.
• Visibility will probably be reduced, so use dipped headlights.

Click here for further information on winter driving tips from the RoSPA website.