Ten driving tips to help cut accident and repair costs this winter

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With the days growing shorter and winter just around the corner, we thought we’d offer some tips on driving in the colder months which might help reduce your accident and repair costs – as well as keeping your drivers safe this winter.

1. Make sure you can see.

Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out, and carry a screen scraper and de-icer. Do not use hot water on the windscreen as it can crack the glass. Replace wiper blades if necessary. De-mist the inside of your windows thoroughly. Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid.

2. Check and use your lights.

Use your dipped headlights so that others will see you. Make sure your headlights and taillights are all in working order, replace broken bulbs. Make sure lights are clear of snow or ice.

3. Get a grip.

As tyres are your only contact with the road surface, it’s vital that they are up to the task in icy and snowy conditions. Check tyres thoroughly, including the spare wheel if you have one, and replace them if the tread depth falls below 3mm.

Tyres should be inflated to the correct tyre pressure to improve grip. Lack of grip can occur even on treated roads so if conditions are poor, drive slowly in the highest gear possible.

4. Gently does it.

In winter conditions, it is advisable to manoeuvre gently, slow down and leave extra distance between you and the vehicle in front.  Harsh braking and acceleration and excessive steering should be avoided.

Select a low gear when travelling downhill especially if through bends. Do not hang on to the tail lights of the vehicle in front of you as it can give a false sense of security. When you slow down, use your brakes so that the brake lights warn drivers behind you.

5. Watch out for black ice.

If the road looks polished or glossy it could be black ice – one of winter’s worst hazards as it is so difficult to see.  Be extra vigilant in sheltered and shaded areas on roads, under trees and adjacent to high walls as these are spots where black ice is most prevalent.

6. Don’t panic in a skid.

If you get into a skid on slippery roads, modern ABS can be a life-saver, provided you don’t panic. It’s easy to properly use antilock brakes if you remember three little rules: Step, Stay and Steer. Step on the pedal. Stay on the pedal. Steer around the obstacle.

7. Use the latest technology

The latest cars have modern safety assist technology like Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and ABS, so always check the driver’s manual to see what your car is fitted with and what it can do for you in an emergency.

8. Be Prepared!

In the worst winter driving conditions, it is advisable to be prepared.

Consider carrying the following in the boot of the car:

  1. High visibility vest
  2. Spare bulbs
  3. A shovel
  4. Appropriate footwear in case you have to leave your vehicle ie boots
  5. A hazard warning triangle
  6. De-icing equipment (both for glass and door locks)
  7. A working torch
  8. A car blanket, additional clothing and some food and water

Before setting out check that

  1. The vehicle is properly maintained, serviced and engine oil viscosity is suitable for cold conditions with the correct strength of coolant and antifreeze
  2. You have adequate supply of fuel for journey.
  3. Give someone an estimated time of arrival at your proposed destination, and always carry a mobile phone. 

9. Keep informed.  

Listen to local weather and traffic reports. Stay tuned to channels which offer regular updates.

10. If in doubt, don’t travel.

The best thing to do in extremely bad weather is to stay off the road and call the office. Conference calls can easily replace face-to-face meetings. Take heed of warnings not to go out. This leaves the emergency services free to deal with real emergencies instead of rounding up stranded motorists.