Driving Safely in Winter Weather

The Great British weather presents different challenges in different seasons; but as we’re in the throes of winter, we thought it would be beneficial to share our top tips for driving safely in poor winter weather conditions.

Cold weather often makes our journeys that little bit longer before even setting off. We’ve all been there, we’re late for work or an event, and the car has misted up! It’s a frustrating experience but you should allow for more time than you normally would before you leave to clear car windows, mirrors and windscreens.

It’s imperative to your safety and other road users that your vision isn’t impaired, but there is a way to “speed up” the demisting process:

  1. Start the heater at a lower temperature, then slowly increase it rather than blasting it at the highest setting.
  2. If you have air-con… use it! Having the air-con turned on decreases the amount of humidity in the cabin. Alternatively, you can put your windows down.
  3. Additionally, if you have the very handy optional “demist” button, press it.

In March 2021 the My BMW App extended its pre-conditioning function in BMW vehicles to diesel and petrol models meaning that their auxiliary heating and ventilation systems can be programmed in addition to electric and plug-in hybrid models. You can heat the interior of your car, and demist the windows before you step outside!

Driving in Rain and Fog

It’s not unusual to see a lot of rain in the UK, but there are some additional challenges you may face along the way.

While we’re used to Britain’s weather, that doesn’t make it any less hazardous; especially between November and February. Additional factors such as strong winds, muddy roads and debris can make this weather difficult to navigate safely.

Did you know that wet conditions double your stopping distance time?

Exercise caution by:

  • Increasing the amount of distance between yourself and the driver in front.
  • Being wary of the spray from other vehicles that could affect your view of the road.
  • Carefully testing your brakes if you happen to go through a deep puddle to ensure they are working effectively.

At this time of year, fog can be especially heavy in the mornings. It’s recommended by National Highways that you should use dipped headlights, wipers and demisters. Avoid using full beam, as the fog reflects the light back, reducing visibility even further.

According to the Highway Code, you should only use your fog lights if your visibility is severely reduced and less than 100 metres. This is due to the potential of dazzling other road users, and fog lights can obscure your break lights.

Be mindful that there are occasions where other road users don’t have their headlights on.

Driving in Snow and Ice

As the weather gets colder, road conditions can become more treacherous with sleet, snow, and ice. It’s absolutely vital to take extra care and precaution when driving in snow and ice. Your stopping distance time can be up to 10 times slower than normal conditions.

Before you begin your journey, ensure that all snow is off your vehicle – it is illegal to have snow on your car. You should also ensure that your tyres have a good amount of tread, and that your windscreen wipers are in good working order before going anywhere.

As previously mentioned, you need to prepare yourself for the conditions you may face; it’s a good idea to pack the essentials in case of any unfortunate events (like breaking down), some items include:

  • A torch
  • Food and drink
  • A high-vis vest
  • A blanket
  • A phone charger

If you make many long journeys, there are some further considerations you could investigate.

For example, you could buy specialist products such as winter tyres, snow socks or snow chains.

Winter Tyres

Winter tyres can vastly improve your car’s performance in the snow and ice, however would not be suitable for deep snow.

Snow Socks

Again, not suitable for deep snow but snow socks are a cheaper alternative to winter tyres. They are useful to store in your boot, and offer more grip on snow.

Snow Chains

Best suited for deep snow, snow chains offer the best grip in snowy conditions. They must be removed when snow clears or when driving on a clear road as they could damage your car and the road.

We recommend the following for driving in the snow:

  • Move off in second gear to reduce wheel slip.
  • Use a low gear when going downhill.
  • If you do find yourself skidding, steer gently into it. Don’t take your hands off the steering wheel or press hard on the brakes.
  • If you notice that the road has not been gritted, be careful of driving in wheel tracks of other vehicles due to compressed snow being more likely to be icy than fresh.
  • Remember that black ice is especially dangerous as it often lies undetected on the roads and cannot be seen.

Winter weather can pose a challenge even for the most experienced driver, and with any adverse condition it’s crucial that you prepare yourself – and your car - thoroughly for the journey ahead. For example, use a route planner to get real-time traffic and road updates in order to make your drive as smooth as possible. Also check the weather forecast to best prepare for the trip and ensure you don’t get caught out. Stay safe!

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