Winter driving can be hazardous. Data from the Department for Transport showed that during a typical winter there were more than 2,500 injuries and 29 fatalities due to snow and ice on the UK’s roads.
These days, newer cars boast some excellent safety features, such as four-wheel drive, ABS and lane departure warning systems. Toyota, for example, has a Pre-Collision System, which detects objects on the road ahead, available to test out at your local Toyota dealer in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK.
However, although these technologies provide a safety net, nothing can take the place of good old-fashioned common sense, caution and pre-planning.
So, what are the most common mistakes that drivers make in winter? Here we look at the top five.
Not leaving enough space between you and the car in front
In dry conditions, you should always leave at least a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front to allow for you to manoeuvre safely if it stops or slows down. In wet weather, this should be at least doubled, and tripled in icy conditions.
Going too fast for the road conditions
Speed limits are designed for dry road surfaces and good visibility. If the weather is particularly wet, windy or icy, then you should adjust your speed accordingly to enable you to see the cars around you, give yourself plenty of time to break, and to drive without skidding. Set off for your journey early to give yourself extra time.
Not knowing how to use your breaks in wet, icy or snowy weather
As we’ve already discussed, in icy or snowy conditions, you’ll need triple the normal breaking distance. When breaking, you’ll need to go into a lower gear earlier than usual and gently apply the breaks. If you skid, don’t panic; take your feet off the pedals and steer your car to safety.
Not taking enough rest stops
Drivers are much more likely to fall asleep at the wheel when it is dark outside. Before you set off on a long journey, make sure you have had enough sleep and make regular stops – around once every three hours.
Not being adequately equipped for a breakdown
Cars break down and what can be an inconvenience in the milder months can prove to be an intolerable and even dangerous experience in winter. Before you set off on any journey make sure that you have some winter essentials in your car with you. These should be a warm blanket and extra coat, hat and gloves; a hi-vis jacket or tabard; salt or sand for icy roads; a flask of tea or coffee; and some snacks. You’ll also need a de-icer and scraper, a torch and spare batteries, and a shovel to help get you out if you get stuck.