Best Practices for Driving in the Snow

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Here are some best practices if you must drive in these weather conditions.

First and foremost, take things easy and give yourself plenty of time for the trip.

Our top recommendation is to avoid driving in wintry conditions because it is always risky. Not everyone on the road will share your calm composure and mastery of the wheel. Always wait for clear weather before setting out on a lengthy or isolated trip, and if possible, drive during the day when temperatures and visibility are at their best. Wait for the snowplows and gritters to clear the roads, and if the AA or other authorities say it’s unsafe to drive, don’t go!

You should take a course on driving in poor weather circumstances from a professional Instructor or motoring organization before the need comes, as practice makes perfect when going. If you are uncomfortable driving in the snow, you can take a course with a local driving instructor. Even on newly fallen snow, a large, empty car park after store hours can be an excellent place to practice the strategies discussed in this article.
· Get your car ‘winterized’ before venturing out in the chilly weather. The standard winter car servicing is still necessary, but you can additionally be ready by having these things in your trunk:
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· Spend a moment getting the car ready. Ensure that the roof and all windows are free of snow and ice. A snowdrift on top of your vehicle can block your view or be launched as a missile at unsuspecting motorists below. It’s against the law to drive without complete peripheral vision, and that peephole windscreen would look more like home on a tank anyhow.
· Your air conditioner can assist in de-mist the inside of your windows, and a cloth and some effort can remove fingerprints and other smudges from the glass. Having dirty windows is another challenge brought on by the low winter sun. Having a pair of sunglasses on hand is also recommended.
If your door lock freezes, you should warm the key before trying to unlock the door, as breathing on the coil can worsen matters due to frozen moisture. The Automobile Association of America (AA) now recommends that tires have no less than 2mm of tread and no more than 3mm for winter driving. They also recommend the following: Wear dry, comfortable shoes for driving and keep the snow-covered wellies in the trunk; Keep your tire pressure at the recommended level; Tell someone you trust your whereabouts and when you expect to return. Letting someone know where you’re going and when you anticipate returning is a good idea, especially on longer or more isolated trips. Turn on the local radio for the latest on traffic and weather.

TOP TIPS – A competent winter driver will plan and anticipate challenges to increase the likelihood of safely completing a journey in the snow. It would be best to monitor the road to react smoothly and slowly.
The most common mistake drivers make in the winter is going too fast. Everything you do wrong will happen more quickly and dramatically.
When starting, shift into second gear and ease off the clutch to prevent wheel spin.
Stopping distances can be as much as ten times longer on icy or snowy roads, so take it easy and increase your following space.
Tap the brakes occasionally to assess traction and start slowing down for stops and corners earlier for the same reason.

If the vehicle begins to skid after applying the brakes, release the brake pedal and reapply the brakes more gradually.
Turn into skids; SKIDS. For instance, if the automobile begins to skid to the right, you should gently steer it back onto the road by turning the wheel to the right until you regain control of the vehicle. If you have the time, doing this will help you maintain steering control.

The key to successfully climbing a hill is to keep your speed consistent and under control and to avoid shifting down a gear. You don’t want to have to stop halfway up the mountain, so get up to speed and into the right gear before you get there. If other cars are on the hill, wait until they’ve passed, or give yourself plenty of room.
When approaching a downhill slope, shift down into a low gear to slow down and hopefully prevent having to use the brakes. Maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you.
Cornering requires smooth braking before turning, followed by a release of the brakes to maximize tire traction. You can then gradually speed up as you exit the curve.
Remember the locations of the ice sections of the road if you take the same route every day. Where do you usually notice puddles or water rushing across the street? Bridges and crossroads frequently freeze over because water pools there. Plan a more secure path using your local expertise.
You’re stuck, so straighten the wheel and shovel the area around the tires. Place the sack or old rug under the vehicle’s tires to improve traction. If you get underway, you should keep going until you reach safer ground.
Staying with your vehicle provides shelter from the elements and makes you more visible to rescuers if you’ve stuck in the snow a fair distance from civilization. Never venture out on foot in a blizzard. Stay put, check your car’s exhaust for blockages, run the engine for short bursts to warm the car while saving gas, and use your phone to keep others updated on your whereabouts.

BLACK ICE: one of winter’s deadliest dangers. Black ice is so clear that it can be mistaken for a puddle or missed altogether. If you encounter black ice while driving, proceed as usual. Test the road’s traction with a light brake application or a tiny steering wheel turn when in doubt.
Vehicles with four-wheel drive, or AWD, can be helpful in tricky situations, but only if the driver is experienced with the car and doesn’t let their confidence get the better. Even with all-wheel drive, you will still slide on ice and have trouble turning corners in the snow. You’ll still need the abilities above to keep your footing and be alive, so don’t get complacent.

Sharn Franghiadi, her husband Jim, and their staff of certified driving instructors manage JSF Driving School in Lydney, Gloucestershire.

They can assist students taking their driving tests in the Gloucester, Cheltenham, and Monmouth areas.

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