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Driving in Winter – Seasonal Advice for Drivers

05 Dec 2012

The Highways Agency has issued its annual advice for motorists concerning driving in winter.

This year the advice comes in two parts:

  • Be pre­pared — is your vehi­cle ready for winter? and
  • Be informed — have you checked the lat­est traf­fic and weather?

Be Prepared

Be prepared sets out advice concerning the steps you should take to reduce the chances of breaking down and minimising the risk to yourself from driving in winter a car that is inadequate for the road conditions. That advice includes:

  • making sure that your vehi­cle is in good run­ning order before you set out and con­sider reg­u­lar ser­vic­ing to help min­imise the risk;
  • ensuring that your vehi­cle is ready for win­ter using the “POWDERY” check­list as a good reminder:
    • PETROL (or diesel). Have you got enough? Do you know where to fill up?
    • OIL – check lev­els once a month,
    • WATER – check radi­a­tor and screen­wash regularly,
    • DAMAGE – check wipers, lights etc for signs of wear and tear or dam­age, and make sure wind­screens, win­dows and lights are clear of ice and snow,
    • ELECTRICS – check lights, indi­ca­tors and con­trols are work­ing properly,
    • RUBBER TYRES – are they well inflated, legal, with good tread and free from damage?
    • YOU – are you fit to drive? Have you slept well? Are you tak­ing any medication(s) that could make it unsafe for you to drive?
  • if you are plan­ning to travel with pets, ensuring they are safe and secure, and will not be a dis­trac­tion to the dri­ver or peo­ple trav­el­ling in your vehi­cle.

In addition the guidance advises that you should gather an emergency kit that you take with you when you are driving in winter and which should include:

  • Ice scraper and de-icer;
  • Warm clothes and blan­kets — for you and all passengers;
  • Torch and spare bat­ter­ies – or a wind-up torch;
  • Boots;
  • First aid kit;
  • Jump leads;
  • A shovel;
  • Road atlas; and
  • Sun­glasses (the glare off snow can be dazzling).

Just in case you get stranded or you cannot get home, you might also like to take food and a ther­mos with a hot drink and any med­ica­tion you, or other peo­ple trav­el­ling with you, need to take regularly.

Finally, be alert when you travel since road and weather con­di­tions may change, and always pay atten­tion to the chang­ing road, traf­fic and weather con­di­tions. Be ready to slow down and take more care if you need to, par­tic­u­larly on bends and exposed roads. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of secu­rity — even if you drive every day on the same stretch of road.

Be Informed

The advice states that in severe and win­try weather it’s even more impor­tant to plan your jour­ney and simply spending a few min­utes check­ing before you set off can make all the dif­fer­ence to your journey.

The kind of things you should check include:

  • Traffic – including High­ways Agency website, High­ways Agency Infor­ma­tion Points (HAIPs), Twitter @winterhighways and High­ways Agency infor­ma­tion line (HAIL) -0300 123 5000;
  • Before you set off – check whether the roads you are planning to use are flowing freely;
  • While on the move – check overhead signs which will flash up impor­tant travel mes­sages, includ­ing warn­ing you of delays and advis­ing of alter­na­tive routes;
  • When you take a break from your journey – check the traf­fic con­di­tions on the road ahead using the Highways Agency iPhone App.

The advice goes on to say that you should:

  • stick to the main roads where you can and avoid exposed routes;
  • drive with care and respect the road con­di­tions wher­ever you drive;
  • remember that not every road can be treated and that you will need to take even more care dri­ving on minor roads;
  • bear in mind that even if the time and loca­tion of snow­fall is per­fectly fore­cast, it will still take time to clear the snow after it has fallen and to treat the road with salt to reduce the risk of ice;
  • it is not just the salt treat­ment that helps cut through snow and ice – it is also the steady flow of traf­fic too;
  • bear in mind that snow ploughs can’t get through if the road or motor­way is full of sta­tion­ary traf­fic, so give our vehi­cles and crew the space they need to do their job;
  • steep hills and exposed roads are also likely to present more chal­leng­ing dri­ving con­di­tions, so if you could avoid these it might make your jour­ney easier.

If you require additional information then either go to the Highways Agency website (www.highways.gov.uk/) – particular the seasonal advice page (www.highways.gov.uk/traffic-information/seasonal-advice/), the AA’s Traffic News web site (www.theaa.com/traffic-news/index.jsp), the BBC Travel News web site (www.bbc.co.uk/travelnews/motorways) or in Scotland the Traffic Scotland web site (trafficscotland.org/weather/list.aspx)

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