We have compiled some advice for helping to deal with different driving conditions.
Driving in winter can put extra pressure on you as a driver and also on your vehicle as extremes in temperature and weather conditions take their toll. If you do have to make journeys in adverse conditions our winter driving tips could save you a lot of potential problems.
Before you leave:
- only use your car if you absolutely have to
- plan your journey; use an on-line planner or consult an up-to-date map
- tell someone where you are, where you are going and what time you plan to arrive
- keep a fully-charged mobile phone with you
- keep your fuel tank topped up to help avoid condensation forming and contaminating the fuel
- never set off if you haven’t completely de-iced your windscreen and lights
- never use hot water to clear your windows; the sudden change in temperature may crack glass
- make sure you have enough fuel for the journey, bearing in mind that you may get stuck in traffic due to the conditions
- ensure the battery connections are tight and corrosion free
- check the pressure of all your tyres, including the spare, and ensure they have sufficient tread depth
- make sure you have enough screen wash and that it has correctly mixed additive
- check the condition of the wiper blades for signs of wear or splitting. Do not use them to clear ice or snow from the windscreen; they may be frozen to the glass and operating them might blow the fuse Carefully free the blades using de-icer and gently lift them off the screen
- ensure the cooling system is correctly filled to the manufacturer's recommended levels
On the road:
- a dip in concentration levels can have disastrous consequences; keep your car well ventilated and take regular breaks to prevent drowsiness
- keep an eye out for gritting lorries and snowploughs; pedestrians may also be walking on the road to avoid slippery conditions on the pavement, so adjust your speed accordingly
- increase your distance from the vehicle in front when driving on snow or ice- covered roads
ABS and ESP
When driving in slippery conditions it’s not unusual for the electronic stability programme (ESP) and anti-lock braking system (ABS) to activate to help you control the vehicle. The ESP/ABS light will flash on your dash board to let you know.
When the ABS is activating, it will produce a pulsing sensation through the brake pedal. Don’t worry this is completely normal. It may also be accompanied by a buzzing noise. The ABS light will not illuminate while this is happening.
ESP/ABS should only be used as a driver aid and not as an alternative to keeping an increased distance between you and the vehicle in front.
Driving through floods
The potential for very heavy rain and subsequent flooding can happen at any time of the year not just during the winter months. The worst flooding in Gloucestershire’s history happened during the summertime - July 2007 - so it pays to be prepared. If you do have to venture out and are met with flood conditions there are some things you can do to help you get around.
Always stop before driving into flood water and assess how deep it is. Consider that:
- six inches (15cm) of rapidly-moving flood water can knock a person down; many vehicles will float in two feet (60cm) of water or less
- if it's deeper than the bottom of your doors, you should turn round and find an alternative route
- if there are already abandoned vehicles up to their axles in water, take the hint; there’s a good chance you won’t make it either
- even trucks and four-wheel-drive vehicles can be swept away by moving water
- relatively low levels of water will damage some vehicles; water can be sucked into the engine air intake and cause serious damage; catalytic converters can be cracked by cold water and are expensive to replace; electrical components - especially engine fuel systems and management systems - are particularly vulnerable to being splashed by even small amounts of water
If you decide to take the risk and drive through a flood, provided it is completely safe to do so, you should:
- drive on the highest part of the road; if it is not possible to drive in the middle of the road, stay as far away as possible from the kerb where the water is at its deepest
- drive slowly and steadily; the bow wave you create at the front of the vehicle should be as small as possible
- avoid driving through a flood if there is another vehicle travelling from the opposite direction
- drive through in first gear and keep the engine revs high; if necessary, slip the clutch slightly to increase engine speed. In a vehicle with an automatic gearbox, select the lowest gear and keep a steady pace. Do not back off the accelerator. This reduces the likelihood of water entering the exhaust and stalling the engine
- test your brakes as soon as you can after driving through any water, but make sure there’s no-one behind you
Driving at speed through low-level water can cause aquaplaning - the water prevents your tyres from gripping the road and you lose control of the steering. If this happens, ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually.
At all times, remember that if you drive too fast through low water and soak pedestrians and cyclists, you could be prosecuted for driving without reasonable consideration to other road users. This can result in a fine of £2,500 and between three and nine penalty points on your licence.