Tips for Driving Safely This Winter

AD The days have got shorter, the weather is colder, and we need our coats on as we rush out to the car for the school run. In the colder months, we tend to drive everywhere to stay dry, warm, and to make life easier, but I hadn’t really thought about if I am putting my family at risk. Driving safely in winter requires extra checks and safety precautions, but that is common sense, right? Everyone knows the basics of road safety and car maintenance, don’t they? Maybe not. I was asked to challenge my followers to see how much they knew as part of the ATS Euromaster Winter Driving Myth Challenge. It turns out most of us don’t know as much as we think we do.

A country road at dusk in winter with snow visible on the pavements and roof tops
There is some confusion about the the best way to drive safely in winter

How To Drive More Safely in Winter

In winter the number of accidents on the road increase by 20%. With rain, ice and snow it’s not really surprising that there is an increase, but by keeping our cars in the best condition for winter and driving more carefully we can reduce our chances of an accident. Using winter tyres can give you more grip on the road and reduce braking distances by providing more traction in temperatures below 7c. The treads on winter tyres have deeper grooves so they can manage better in snow or conditions where there is more debris on the road.

Winter Driving Myths Challenge - The Truth

I asked 10 questions on my Instagram stories to see if people could identify which of the statements were true. The answers showed that there is a lot of confusion out there and no one got all the answers correct.

While it doesn’t really matter that most people didn’t believe that car crime is less common around Christmas or that a third of people thought that you legally had to carry a winter emergency kit, some of the answers showed gaps in knowledge that could damage their car or make their driving less safe.

Driving in wellies

Most people thought that driving in wellies is illegal, but the truth is that the driver is responsible for wearing clothes and footwear that allows them to maintain control of the vehicle. Thick-soled shoes can make it harder to drive if you aren’t used to them, but ultimately it is about how in control you are, not the exact footwear.

Defrosting the car

A question about defrosting the car left people the most divided with nearly half of respondents knowing it was true that you can be fined for leaving your car running while defrosting it. The truth is you are NOT allowed to leave your car running while stationary (except for in traffic). This is according to Rule 123 of the Highway Code, and you could get a £20 fixed penalty fine in England, Scotland, and Wales rising to as high as £80 in London. This only applies to public roads though so technically you could get away with it on your driveway, but it’s still a bad idea because as well as using fuel and increasing emissions if your vehicle was stolen while you were defrosting it your insurance company would be unlikely to pay out. So, if you need to get out of the car to defrost the car windows make sure you take your keys out with you.

When you are defrosting your car, it is usually best to use a scraper or de-icer spray, but don’t use hot or even lukewarm water. Most people knew this isn’t advisable when asked, but in case you didn’t: hot water can cause windows to crack, especially if you have a small chip you didn’t know about. If the temperature is cold enough then the hot water might even freeze before you have had a chance to remove it.

The good news is that when your car is free of ice and snow (and if the windscreen isn’t steamed up) you are good to go. Unplugging the car battery overnight won't help much in cold weather and modern cars don’t need time to warm up before you drive them in cold temperatures because the computers or fuel injection systems compensate in cold temperatures.

Tips for driving safely in winter highlighted by a road shown with cars driving and snow visible
Preparing for driving in winter can reduce the risks of accidents

Driving In Wintery Conditions

It’s a good idea to prepare your car in Autumn for the seasons ahead. While winter tyres are the safest option for driving in colder weather at a minimum you need to make sure your tyres are in good condition and that the treads are not too worn. A third of people didn’t realise that if you do change your tyres, you should switch all of them as driving in a mix of winter and summer or all-season tyres can impact your ability to control the car.

While it isn’t a legal requirement to have a winter emergency kit in this country you might want to think about keeping a few extras in your car in case you break down or get stuck due to the weather. Useful equipment includes a snow shovel, jump leads, foil blanket, torch with batteries, high vis vest, and ice grips for shoes. When travelling on longer journeys in winter I always make sure I have some snacks, water, blankets, warm clothes, and a flask of hot drink.

Don’t load your car down unnecessarily though as most modern cars are front-wheel drive and having too much additional weight in the boot can negatively affect traction. If your car is rear-wheel drive, then get expert advice on whether to consider adding weight.

It is advisable to avoid driving in snow when possible as visibility can get poor very quickly and the road conditions very difficult, but unless driving in really extreme conditions normal headlights should be sufficient to see and be seen without dazzling other drivers.

A car in a drive way covered in a light layer of snow which needs removing for driving safely
Are you prepared for colder weather?

ATS Euromaster

Based on the results from my stories I’m sure there will be a thing or two you didn’t know from the ATS Euromaster Winter Driving Myth Challenge. ATS Euromaster are one of the leading tyre and vehicle service providers in the UK. Established in 1965 they have a network of garages where they provide tyres, MOTs, vehicle servicing, and maintenance solutions. Driving safety is a priority for ATS Euromaster and their commitment to safety standards has led to them being the only tyre specialist to hold a gold award from The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

This post is a collaboration with ATS Euromaster, but all thoughts and findings are my own.

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