Monday December 19th, 2011 15:10 Winter Driving: What you need to know

No matter how experienced a driver you are, taking your car out in extreme winter conditions can be a daunting experience to say the least. The main advice to take on board in such conditions is to avoid driving at all if you can help it. However, situations will inevitably arrive where you need to get behind the wheel — and if that’s the case then there are a number of things that are important to keep in mind while on the roads.

Consider keeping a pair of comfortable driving shows in your car during the winter months. Trudging through snow in thick boots and then attempting to drive using the same footwear is asking for trouble as not only is it harder to drive in such boots than sensible shoes, but the accumulated snow will cause them to slip on the pedals.

It’s an idea to get out to your car a good 10 or 15 minutes before you need to set off so that you can clear the windscreen and other windows of any ice. Don’t be tempted to clear yourself a small area to look through on the windscreen and assume that the rest will clear soon enough — clear the whole lot before you set off. If possible stick to major roads that will have been gritted in the night so as to give yourself the best chance of an incident-free trip.

When beginning your journey, pull away in second gear and avoid potential wheelspin by easing off the clutch a little more gently than you normally would. In icy conditions apply your brakes gently where possible to reduce the risk of skidding. If you do feel the vehicle begin to skid, resist the temptation to depress the brake pedal even further as this will only make matter worse. Instead, slowly release the break pedal and de-clutch if necessary until you regain control.

If you’re going to be driving in a hilly area, remember to reduce your speed before heading down a decline. Use a low gear to control your speed and avoid using the brakes unless necessary, leaving plenty of room between your vehicle and the one in front. Leaving lots of room is also advised when driving uphill, so as to avoid having to stop halfway up as you catch up with the car in front.

Always keep in mind that stopping distances are 10 times longer in ice and snow than in generally favourable driving conditions. That’s a massive difference, so don’t take any chances whatsoever and keep a safe distance from the traffic in front.

Even if you’re driving in a safe manner you can’t account for everybody else on the road, so remember that with the bad weather comes an increased likelihood of an accident. Be sure that your car insurance is up to date before you get behind the wheel.

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