When temperatures dip below freezing, as they are expected to do next week, the risk of ice or snow on the roads increases and driving conditions can become treacherous.
The following ‘Top 10 Safety Tips’ will help motorists when driving in snow and ice.
1. Check your tyres - Get a grip
Remember your only contact with the road surface is your tyres so it’s vital that they are up to the task in icy and snowy conditions. Check tyres, including spare wheel, and replace them if the tread depth falls below 3mm. Check that tyres are inflated to the correct tyre pressure. Lack of grip can occur even on treated roads so drive slowly in the highest gear possible, manoeuvre gently and avoid harsh braking. Replace tyres if necessary. Remember “When Your Tyres Lose Grip, You Lose Everything”
2. Make sure you can clearly see
Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out, carry a screen scraper and de-icer. Do not use hot water on the windscreen as it can crack the glass. Replace windshield wiper blades if necessary. De-mist the inside of your windows thoroughly. Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid. Remember too that heavy snowfall will reduce visibility! Watch out for grit/salt spreaders and snow ploughs. The glare from the sun can be dazzling in the winter when the sun is low in the sky, so wear sunglasses in these conditions.
3. Check and use your lights
Use your dipped headlights even in daytime so that others will see you. Make sure your headlights and tail-lights are all in working order, replace broken bulbs. Make sure lights are clear of snow.
4. Slow down, keep a safe distance
Manoeuvre gently, slow down and leave extra distance between you and the vehicle in front. Too much steering is bad and avoid harsh braking and acceleration. Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin. Select a low gear when travelling downhill especially if through bends. Falling snow, fog, rain, or hail will reduce visibility. Do not hang on to the tail lights of the vehicle in front of you as it can give a false sense of security. When you slow down, use your brakes so that the brake lights warn drivers behind you.
5. Watch out for Black Ice
If the road looks polished or glossy it could be,Black Ice, one of winters worst hazards: Black Ice is difficult to see! It is nearly transparent ice that often looks like a harmless puddle or is overlooked entirely. Watch out for black ice, especially in sheltered / shaded areas on roads, under trees and adjacent to high walls.
6. In the event of a breakdown
Make sure your vehicle is well in off the road in order to ensure it does not obstruct other vehicles. Put on your Hazard Warning Lights. Phone for assistance as soon as possible.
7. How does your vehicle help?
Check in your owner’s manual and find out if your vehicle has any safety assist technology like Electronic Stability Control (ESC) or Anti Lock Braking System (ABS) and know how they assist your driving in severe weather conditions. But remember technology offers no miracles. Don't let these lull you into overestimating the available traction.
8. Be prepared!
In prolonged icy or snowy driving conditions it is advisable to carry the following in the boot of the car
a. High Visibility Vest
b. Tow rope
c. Spare bulbs
d. Spare fuel
e. A shovel
f. Appropriate footwear in case you have to leave your vehicle, i.e. boots
g. A hazard warning triangle
h. Spare wheel (with tyre at correct pressure and tread)
i. Check that your spare wheel is in good condition and is fully inflated. Some cars may have an inflation repair kit instead of a spare wheel. Make sure that you know how to use it.
j. De-icing equipment (Both for glass and door locks)
k. First aid kit (in good order)
l. A fire extinguisher (fully operative)
m. A working torch
n. A car blanket, additional clothing & some food and water
In preparation for driving you should also ensure:
o. The vehicle is properly maintained, serviced and engine oil viscosity is suitable for cold conditions.
p. Have the strength of coolant/antifreeze measured.
q. Ensure vehicle has adequate supply of fuel for journey.
r. Consider carrying some salt or sand. And,
s. Give someone an estimated time of arrival at your proposed destination.
Carry a mobile phone and ensure it is fully charged before you set off on your journey (if you don’t have a car charger)
9. Get informed
Listen to local weather and traffic reports. The RSA has prepared a helpful guide ‘Severe Weather Advice for Road Users’ which you can download from the RSA’s website – www.rsa.ie. It has lots more useful advice on dealing with difficult road conditions.
10. Stay at home
The best thing to do in extremely bad weather is to stay off the road. Take heed of warnings not to go out. This leaves the emergency services free to deal with real emergencies instead of rounding up stranded motorists