Prepare for wet winter, warn road safety experts

11 October 2005 #SMMT News

For many drivers the winter means snow, sleet, and ice that can lead to slower traffic, hazardous road conditions, hot tempers and unforeseen dangers. Drivers know that weather affects road and driving conditions and can pose serious problems, but few realise the real effects of rain and darkness.

The British weather can be unpredictable. Bad weather can strike suddenly and when it affects visibility or road conditions drivers need to take special care and be aware of the risks associated with driving in bad weather conditions.

Speaking today at a Westminster Briefing, Adrian Walsh, director of RoadSafe said: ‘Some fifty percent of all reported road traffic accidents at night occur in wet conditions, but in the UK it is wet on average only 10% of the nights.’

“By and large drivers realise the dangers of ice and snow and indeed many motoring organisations issue warnings about winter driving. The IA M and The Department for Transport issue guidance, but few drivers realise that the most common danger in winter is wet weather not ice and snow” he added.

Winter Driving Tips

Good vehicle maintenance is particularly important in winter. Make sure your battery is fully charged, your tyres have plenty of tread and are the right pressure, and your wipers and lights work properly. Add anti-freeze to the radiator and top up screen wash.

Keep sunglasses handy – dazzle from winter sun can be dangerous. You should always carry a scraper and de-icer to clear windows and mirrors.

When roads are wet

In wet weather, stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads. This is because your tyres have less grip on the road. In wet weather: You should keep well back from the vehicle in front. This will increase your ability to see and plan ahead. If steering becomes unresponsive, it probably means the water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road. Ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually. The rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen.

Ice and slush make driving particularly hazardous – it can take 10 times longer to stop than on a dry road. When driving, use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin. Manoeuvre gently, avoiding sudden braking or acceleration. To brake without locking your wheels, get into low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use the brake pedal gently.

Take care around winter maintenance vehicles. Keep a safe distance behind salting lorries and snow ploughs, and don’t attempt to overtake. Watch out for banks of snow thrown up the plough.

When planning your journey Ask yourself – is your journey absolutely essential? Check the local and national weather forecasts. Listen to local and national radio for travel information. Allow for a longer journey (allow at least 10 minutes longer for each planned hour) Check the outside temperature – if it is low there is a high likelihood of ice. Tell someone at your destination what time you expect to arrive. Make sure you are equipped with warm clothes, food, boots and a torch. In snowy conditions, take a spade. Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out and carry a screen scraper and de-icer.

When driving in fog Drive slowly and use dipped headlights or fog lights. Don’t hang on to the tail-lights of the vehicle in front – you may be too close. Don’t speed up if it seems to be clearing; fog drifts rapidly and is often patchy.

When driving on flooded roads Stay in first gear and drive slowly. Slip the clutch to keep the engine speed high and avoid stalling. If possible drive in the middle of the road to avoid deeper water near the kerb

When roads are icy or slushy It can take ten times longer to stop in icy conditions than on a dry road. Drive slowly, allowing extra room to slow down and stop. Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin. Manoeuvre gently, avoiding harsh braking and acceleration. To brake on ice or snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use the brake pedal gently. If you start to skid, ease off the accelerator but do not brake suddenly.

Further guidance can be found on:

IAM Facts Sheets are available:

Driving in Winter:

Driving in the wet:

For further information call: RoadSafe 0207 344 9236

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