Preparing for Winter Driving – How to Drive in Snow and Ice
5th December 2013
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The three key elements to safe winter driving are:

1)Stay alert.

2)Slow down.

3)Stay in control.

We are quite lucky in Portsmouth in that we get very little snow but it does happen and because it is rare,drivers are often inexperienced when it does arrive,so a few tips on how to cope with it ! Ideally,it is better to not drive in snow and ice at all but unfortunately,that is often not an option. It is best to prepare your vehicle before winter arrives. Schedule a maintenance check-up for the car,tyres and tyre pressure, battery, belts and hoses, radiator, oil, lights, brakes, exhaust system, heater/defroster, wipers and ignition system.

Keep your fuel tank sufficiently full,at least half a tank is recommended.

Depending upon where you plan to drive, you may consider using winter tyres or tyre chains,not really needed if staying in Portsmouth but maybe if you are planning to go away.

Winter driving conditions such as rain, snow, and ice dramatically affect the braking distance of a vehicle. The driver's capability to complete a smooth and safe stop is severely limited due to reduced tyre traction. In order to stop safely, the vehicle's wheels must maintain traction by remaining in contact with the road surface while moving.

When handling slippery winter roads, the keys to safety are slower speeds, gentler stops and turns, and increased stopping distances. It is recommended that drivers reduce their speed to half the posted speed limit or less under snowy road conditions.

Don't try to stretch more miles from your tyres during the winter months. If your tread depth is getting low, it can have serious effects on dry roads, but those effects are multiplied in wet and snowy conditions. When in doubt, get new tyres. Tyre pressure usually lowers itself in winter and raises itself in summer. Under-inflated tyres can cause a car to react more slowly to steering. Every time the outside temperature drops ten degrees, the air pressure inside your tyres goes down about one or two PSI. Tyres lose air normally through the process of permeation. Drivers should check their tyre pressures frequently during cold weather, adding enough air to keep them at recommended pressure levels at all times.

Sand and salt play a big role in keeping roads safe. The spreading of road salt prevents snow and ice from bonding to the road surface, which is why salt is usually spread early in a storm to prevent snow build-up and to aid in snow removal operations. Unlike salt, sand does not melt and therefore helps by providing traction on slippery surfaces. Sand is often used when temperatures are too low for salt to be effective or at higher temperatures for Immediatee traction, particularly on hills,bends, bridges,crossroads and on snow-packed roads.

Caution must be used when snow ploughs are on the roads as snow ploughs and gritting lorries travel much slower than normal traffic. Passing a snow plough can be extremely dangerous as sight lines and visibility near a working snow plough are severely restricted by blowing snow.

Roads are typically colder in shaded areas and drivers may encounter another extremely dangerous element known as "black ice". Always slow down  when you see shaded areas under these types of conditions.

Here are some safe-driving tips that will help you when roads are covered with ice or snow:

1)Get the feel of the road by starting out slowly and testing your steering control and braking ability. Avoid spinning your tyres when you start by gently pressing your accelerator pedal until the car starts to move. Start slowing down at least three times sooner than you normally would when turning or stopping.

2)Reduce your speed to correspond with conditions. There is no such thing as a "safe" speed range at which you may drive on snow or ice. You must be extremely cautious until you are able to determine how much traction you can expect from your tyres.

3)When stopping, avoid sudden movements of the steering wheel and pump the brake gently. Avoid locking of brakes on black ice as it will cause a loss of steering and control. Every area and every mile of road may be different, depending upon sun or shade and the surface of the road. (Check your vehicle ownerâs manual, if the vehicle has anti-lock brakes, you may apply steady pressure to the brake pedal.)

4)Maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front of you according to the conditions of the road. Many needless rear-end crashes occur on icy streets because drivers forget to leave enough stopping distance.

5)Keep your vehicle in the best possible driving condition. The lights, tyres, brakes, windscreen wipers, defroster, and radiator are especially important for winter driving.

6)Keep your windows clear. Don't start driving until the windows are defrosted and clean - even if you're only going a short distance.

7)Watch for danger or slippery spots ahead. Ice may remain in patches even though the rest of the road is clear. Snow and ice also sticks longer in shaded areas. Correctly operating windscreen wipers and defrosters are essential to safety while driving in snow and ice conditions. Properly maintained windscreen wipers are a must; there are also special blades available that are better equipped to assist in the removal of snow from the windscreen. Defroster effectiveness is essential in the initial clearing of snow and ice from the windscreen and in some instances the rear window when a vehicle is so equipped and should be checked well in advance of being needed. In certain cases, a change of the vehicle thermostat will restore appropriate heat to the defroster system.

Take care out there !!

About the Author

Peter L

Member since: 4th June 2013

An owner of Thebestof Portsmouth, I have lived in Portsmouth and Southsea all my life, so I like to think I have a good idea about what makes us tick. I am passionate about all things Portsmouth and Southsea,...

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