In the winter months, this danger doubles as the great British weather settles into its routine of disrupting transport across the country.
Of course, the ever increasing threat of global warming means that our winters, generally, are warmer than ever before (the winter of 2015/16 was the warmest for England and Wales since records began) and overall, reported road casualties have been on a downward trend year on year.
But this shouldn’t breed complacency among drivers during winter.
It is thought that in 2015, there were around 1710 fatalities on the road as a result of the weather. Winter weather can impact driving conditions in a number of ways; high winds, temperature extremes, precipitation, ice – they all effect how we, as drivers, control our vehicle.
But it isn’t just us drivers that the weather can make life difficult for. Extreme temperatures can also have an effect on the vehicles we’re piloting, increasing crash risk. What’s more, it affects the environment on which we travel too, altering roadway friction, infrastructure, and traffic flow.
There are so many variables in winter driving that it’s no surprise that there’s often an increase of road accidents during this period.
So what is being done?
Back in 2014, the then transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, announced the budget for repairing damaged roads by severe weather was to increase from £36.5 million to £80 million. That money went to councils who had seen particularly severe damage as a result of flood waters and other weather-damage, helping reduce road traffic in severely affected areas – but not particularly making us, as drivers, any safer.
That responsibility comes down to us.
While most of us know what precautions to take when heading out in bad weather, it’s always worth recapping. Road safety relies on precaution and failing to take these necessary measures to safe guard yourself can sometimes end disastrously. As a quick reminder, Trackway Solutions have listed some of the most important things to bear in mind before hitting the road this winter in your car.
Before travelling there are a few things to do to better prepare your vehicle for the winter roads. It’s a good idea to have the vehicle serviced before winter begins and get the anti-freeze tested. You should also check the following:
- Your battery is fully charged
- Tyre conditions: check the tread depth and pressure, including that of the spare
- Windscreen: make sure all windows are clean and that wiper blades are working correctly
- All lights are in working order
- Windscreen wash and all other fluids are topped up
Check the weather
Check the weather ahead for the day for where you are and your destination. Keep an eye out for any severe weather warnings and traffic build-ups for your route.
Winter driving kit
It’s always a good idea to keep an emergency ‘winter kit’ in the vehicle, especially if you are heading out on a long journey. You may think this overkill, but consider being stranded on a rarely travelled road at night in winter.
Here are a few things to pack:
- A shovel
- De-icing gear
- First aid kit (well stocked)
- A spare phone with full battery charge
- Spare clothing & a blanket
- A torch
- Water & snack food
- Driving in snow/ice
One of the worst weather conditions to be out on the road in is snow and on icy roads. To ensure your own safety and that of drivers around you, here are a few ways to adapt your driving:
- Reduce your speed significantly
- Avoid sharp steering, breaking, and acceleration
- Slow earlier before bends and corners
- Reduce speed by getting into a lower gear, allowing your speed to fall and gently applying your breaks
- Use dipped headlights, as it’s likely that visibility will be reduced