Driving in snow and ice is dangerous, or at least it can be. But don’t worry, we’re not here to tell you that – when the weather turns bad – you should stay indoors, lock your sports car in the garage and wait until the conditions get better. That would be boring. Instead, we are going to give you advice on how to master the skill of winter driving and know what precautions are necessary.
You see, driving in bad conditions is slammed with risks and dangers, but if you know what you are doing then you are going to minimize these dangers. They will never be completely eradicated, but there are a few things – few tips and tricks – you can learn that will help you stay as safe as possible, while still getting to enjoy your sports car, and not just stare out it through the icy window, like a sad puppy desperate to play outside.
In short, this article is here to settle any nerves, help you know what to think about and allow you to counter the risks of winter driving.
The Preparation Stage
Driving in harsh winter conditions isn’t just about the driving, it is about putting on your survival cap on and preparing for the worst; the absolute worst. That means preparing for the fact that things may go wrong; after all, not everything in life goes to plan.
The first thing to consider is sustenance and warmth. If the snow does get heavy and you’re forced to stop driving, then it is a great idea to have certain supplies with you. As a starter pack, you should make sure there are the basics available to you. This includes food, water, blankets, extra clothing, a thick coat, a first aid kit, a mobile phone charger, heavy duty jump leads, de-icer fluid, a scraper and a shovel. We know this sounds like overkill, but it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Another great piece of advice is to plan your route, and ensure it involves as many major roads as possible. The reason for this is simple; they are the most likely to have been gritted, the most likely to be patrolled and the easiest to get to should you find yourself in trouble.
The final piece of advice is to with checking, and checking everything. This means that your car has plenty of fuel, that your tires have plenty of tread, your oil levels and screenwash, your battery levels and, of course, that your heaters are fully operational. Trust us on that last point.
Your Headlights Are Crucial
Never just presume that your headlights are on. Most modern cars have automatic light settings, many of which start off by illuminating the dashboard without turning on your headlights, so don’t make the presumption they are on.
It is also imperative that you ensure your lights are dipped and not on full beam. According to a leading accident lawyer, this will help you see better and allow other drivers to see you in plenty of time. As such, it is well worth overriding any automatic function. What’s more, it is worth having your lights permanently on – and dipped – in the winter months, whether it is snowing or not, because the flat light and low cloud can make shroud your visibility.
Another quick hint is to do with choosing the right lights. It can be so tempting to put your fog lights on whether the weather turns bad, but these should only be used when visibility is extremely poor. The reason for this is, you can dazzle other road users, which will increase the risks attached to driving.
How To Handle A Skid
As a general rule, you should frequently test your brakes and steering to get an idea of the road conditions. Of course, this only requires a gentle squeeze of the brakes and a slight adjustment of the steering wheel, and should only be tested on long and straight roads with no other vehicles around you.
Another helpful hint is to drive with no radio or music playing. The reason for this is your ears can often be the first warning when conditions start to affect your car’s ability to perform. When you’re driving in snow, you will know because there will be a loud crunching noise. This isn’t the case when you hit any ice. It will suddenly go quiet, and that will be your first warning.
If you do hit ice, and feel your car start to succumb to a skid, you should take your feet off the pedals and allow the car to slow up on its own accord. Try and avoid using the brakes completely. Braking will prolong your skid and thus increase your chances of having an accident. If you begin to turn during your skid, the carefully steer into the direction of the skid to try and straighten up again.
When it comes to using your pedals, there are two golden rules. Always try and brake on the straights, and not around the corner. And your accelerator is going to be far more useful than your brake when skidding – or preventing a skid – because it will create traction.
Swap Fast And Aggressive For Smooth And Gentle
Driving in winter conditions requires an entire shift in the way you drive. Seriously, as a driving style, it is completely different to anything you will have encountered before. Fast acceleration and heavy braking are going to be your worst enemy. Instead, good driving is all about being smooth, calm, slow and progressive. Anything else will cause your car to lose what little grip it has on the road, and thus you could end up skidding, slipping or getting stuck.
It is all about low revs and a gentle use of all controls – braking, accelerating and steering. That means minor adjustments with the wheel, changing gear as early as possible when accelerating slowly and braking with plenty of time so that you have time to come to a stop slowly. As such, it is imperative you leave a lot of distance between you and the car in front.