Here in Ireland, we are lucky to have relatively mild winters compared to our neighbours in mainland Europe. However, winter inevitably brings with it the worst of the weather – and knowing how to stay safe in different driving conditions in highly advantageous, both for yourself and other road users. Read on to learn more about driving safely in winter.
Driving in Rain
The most common winter weather by far in the UK and Ireland is rain. Because it is such a normal occurrence, many drivers may not see rain as an added danger. It can, however, have a serious impact on the safety of drivers and other road users.
Wet roads can cause your stopping distance to be doubled, meaning that at just 30 mph it could take you nearly 50 metres to bring your car to a halt. At motorway speeds of 70 mph, the stopping distance increases to almost 200 metres.
Remember that your ability to stop quickly is relative to how quickly you are able to see and react to a situation. One of the biggest dangers of rain is spray from other vehicles, which may seriously impact your vision. Always increase the gap between yourself and the vehicle ahead until you are well out of the field of spray and have the clearest possible view ahead. Also be aware of spray from passing vehicles, especially HGV’s. It is a good idea to increase the speed of your wipers as these vehicles approach to ensure you do not suddenly lose visibly.
Aquaplaning or hydroplaning is an extremely dangerous situation when you are no longer able to control your vehicle due to a layer of water building up between the tyres of your vehicle and the road surface. The best way to prevent aquaplaning is to check that your tyres have the correct pressure and have a suitable level of tread, and to drive at a reduced speed and avoid standing water. Investing in high quality tyres that are designed for improved grip in wet weather may also be helpful.
If you do find yourself aquaplaning, try to avoid any sudden braking or steering as this can cause you to completely lose control. It is advised to gently ease off the accelerator and try to keep the vehicle moving in a safe trajectory
Driving in Fog
Fog is by far one of the most dangerous driving conditions as it can reduce visibility to almost nothing, leaving you unable to see other road users or the road ahead. As with any unfavourable weather conditions, the first rule is to slow down – or even stop in a safe place if you do not feel safe to continue. Be aware that other road users may be travelling at different speeds to you. Use your headlights on dipped beam, and if your visibility is reduced to less than 100m, turn on your fog lights. Remember, however, that your fog lights will make it harder for other drivers to see when you are braking – so always switch them off immediately if visibility increases.
Be aware that it is common during winter to encounter sudden banks of thick fog without warning. Always be aware of the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you, as well as how closely anybody is following. Look out for sudden braking from the vehicle in front, and avoid doing so yourself.
If you need to negotiate a junction in extremely low visibility, it is advisable to open your window and listen for other vehicles.
Driving in Snow and Ice
In snow and ice, your average stopping distance can be increased by as much as ten times. This can be as much as 200m at just 30mph and close to 1,000m at 70mph. In addition to this, there is a very high risk of losing control of a vehicle. If you possibly can, it is best to avoid driving in ice and snow completely.
If you do find that you need to drive in fog or snow, drive slowly and avoid any sudden braking or steering. Keep the vehicle moving in a high gear for greater control and ease off the accelerator gently to reduce speed. To pull away, it is advisable to use second gear and clutch control to give you more traction.
Even light snow can seriously affect your visibility, so always ensure that your wipers are in good condition and that you have plenty of winter screenwash to ensure that your windscreen does not freeze over if you need to clean it.
Fitting your car with winter tyres can help to give you increased grip in snow if it is likely to be a regular occurence. However, ensuring you have enough tread on your tyres and that they are at the correct pressure will go a long way towards keeping you safe.
Not sure which tyres are the best choice for your vehicle this winter? At Tyreland, we can get you fitted with the right tyres at the right price – and we’re also able to take care of all your other winter driving needs too. To find your nearest location, call today on 01 860 20 20