Winter is a challenging time for drivers, as sub-zero temperatures lead to potentially dangerous road conditions.
Ice and hail are two of the main hazards to look out for. However, preparing adequately and driving appropriately will help you stay safe. Read on to find out how.
Braking distances can increase tenfold on ice compared with a dry road. For this reason, you should leave up to 10 times the normal recommended gap between you and the car in front.
Remember that tyres grip less efficiently in cold conditions. So even if the temperature is above zero and there’s no ice on the road, you should take extra care.
Winter tyres offer more grip and can significantly increase performance in icy conditions. For more advice on this topic read our guide to buying winter tyres.
Black ice is a thin layer of ice on the road surface. Because it is smooth and transparent, it appears the same colour as the road below. This invisibility makes it particularly dangerous for drivers.
As a guide, if the temperature is low and the road surface looks ‘wet’, be careful and drive with caution as it could be black ice.
Sometimes black ice appears as a glossy sheen on the road. You may see it glinting in the sunlight, or spot cars ahead swerving for no obvious reason. However, it’s likely you won’t see black ice at all, so be particularly cautious on shaded stretches of road, bridges, flyovers and tunnels – anywhere the surface temperature may be lower.
If you do encounter a skid, steer gently into it.
For example, if the rear of the car is sliding to the right, steer to the right. As above, do not take your hands off the steering wheel or brake hard.
Hail storms are extremely dangerous to drive in. Not only can they cause extensive damage to your car but can also be harmful to anyone who decides to venture out of their vehicle.
Hail can also impair visibility and even break your car’s windows in extreme conditions. If hail is severe, stop driving and pull over to a safe – preferably sheltered – place.
If you have to travel, plan your route to avoid known affected areas. We also recommend informing relatives and friends of your intended route in case of an emergency.
The following tips should always be followed when driving in hail storms: