With the mornings staying darker for longer, earlier sunsets ensuring night-driving conditions from mid-afternoon, and wintery weather conditions just over the horizon, all UK vehicle drivers need to be aware of the “shoulds and shouldn’ts” of driving in winter.

So, for your convenience, Team Planet have compiled the following collection of winter driving tips as a timely reminder of the dangers whilst using our roads at this time of year.

It should go without saying that, if winter road conditions make it too dangerous to undertake long scheduled journeys, a willingness to use alternative, replacement options could be the way to go. A few examples of these options could be rail or air travel, conference or video calls or, as a last resort, a re-scheduling of travel times to maximise daylight and whatever improved road conditions may exist.

When driving is absolutely necessary

The following guidelines will assist you prepare for winter travelling:

Prior to the journey thoroughly check the tyres, brakes, lights, anti-freeze, windscreen and windscreen fluid. Pay special attention to your windscreen wipers to ensure these are working efficiently.

Slow down! Keep a larger than usual gap from the vehicle in front, drive defensively and give yourself and those around you more time to react. Get there later rather than not at all!

Slow down earlier for upcoming junctions, intersections, roundabouts and traffic lights, so that you don’t have to brake or corner as hard. Adapt your driving speed to the current visibility.

At sunset or sunrise beware of extreme dazzle from the low sun. If you are driving into the sun be aware that drivers behind may be dazzled and may not see you slow down or stop. Be aware that YOU may be the one blinded to a slowed or stopped vehicle in front of you and, if the sun is low behind you, be aware that oncoming drivers may also be dazzled by the sun.

Switch your headlights on as soon as you notice poor visibility. If vehicles approaching in the opposite lane have their lights on, it probably means that you should too, as visibility ahead will be poor.

Only use fog-lights in extreme conditions, and always remember to switch them off when conditions improve to remove the nuisance factor.

If your vehicle is not equipped with an ABS system, if your wheels lock, release the brake briefly so that you can steer. With an ABS system you can ‘stomp and steer’ so you are able to keep braking and steering in the direction you want to go.

Take regular breaks, even if you’re in a hurry. It will help your concentration, especially on long drives in poor conditions.

This time of year can also mean exposure to road conditions with which you may be unfamiliar, and will probably require rather different driving techniques to safely navigate on to your destination. Read on for our top Winter driving tips…

When the roads are icy or slushy

Icy roads present a number of problems, so please be aware of the following:

  • It can take up to ten times longer to stop in icy conditions than on a dry road.
  • Drive slowly, allowing extra room to slow down and stop;
  • Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin;
  • Manoeuvre gently, avoiding harsh braking and acceleration;
  • To brake on ice or snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to decrease and use the brake pedal gently;
  • If you start to skid, ease off the accelerator but do not brake suddenly.

Watch out for fog

At this time of year, fog can be a hazard in any region of the country. Remember:

  • Fog can drift rapidly and is often patchy;
  • In foggy conditions, drive very slowly using dipped headlights;
  • Use fog-lights if visibility is seriously reduced, but remember to switch them off when visibility improves;
  • Don’t ‘hang on’ to the tail-lights of the vehicle in front. This will give you a false sense of security and means you will be driving too close;
  • Do not speed up suddenly, even if the fog seems to be clearing, as you can suddenly find yourself back in thick fog.

The perils of wet-weather driving

In wet weather, stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads:

  • You should keep well back from the vehicle in front. This will increase your ability to see and safely plan ahead;
  • If the steering becomes unresponsive, it probably means the water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road. Ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually;
  • The rain and spray from vehicles around you may make it difficult to see and be seen.
  • Flooding also seems to be more prevalent in recent years and will require good driving practice:
  • Do not attempt to cross if the water appears too deep;
  • Drive slowly in first gear but keep the engine speed high by slipping the clutch – this will stop you from stalling;
  • Avoid the deepest water, usually near the kerb;
  • Remember to test your brakes when you are through the flood before you drive at normal speed.

If you get stranded in snow

Here are some essentials you should bear in mind:

  • Do not leave the vehicle;
  • Let help come to you;
  • Keep as warm as possible, including running the engine for warmth.
  • Remember driving on our roads during winter requires common sense and a greater awareness of conditions, and you should always be prepared for every eventuality.

Winter car kit

It may seem a little extreme to carry an emergency kit with you, but winter weather can be unpredictable. Pack for every eventuality and ensure you have the following in the vehicle:

  • Phone charger
  • Warning triangle
  • Spade
  • Winter boots
  • Warm clothing
  • Hi-visibility vest
  • De-icer and a scraper
  • A shovel
  • A tow rope
  • A torch
  • Food and drink: water (take a flask for hot as well as bottled cold or flavoured water, energy food – bars, peanuts & raisins etc…

Team Planet wish everyone a safe and enjoyable holiday season – Drive Safe, Arrive Alive – to quote an advert from yesteryear!

The above-mentioned Winter Driving Tips are based upon freely available information and general common sense. Whereas Planet Leasing Ltd has taken it upon itself to collate and provide this information, it is in no way offering expert advice on how to drive during winter/poor road conditions and can not be held responsible for any mishap or accident resulting from driver error or adverse road conditions.