Driving in cold conditions, how to stay safe on the road


With ‘The Beast from the East’ here, you should know how to prevent losing control of your car. Here is a guide to what you should do if you find yourself skidding across the road in the cold.

The cold makes everything slippery, so it’s important to remember to give yourself more stopping time. Braking distances are further in the wet, and even worse on snow and ice. In the wet, you should leave 4 seconds between you and the car in front. In the snow and ice this should be doubled or tripled depending on the conditions.

Stopping should be planned by looking at the road ahead, predicting what could happen and leaving room to be able to stop in plenty of time for any situation.

How to control a skid

Cornering should also be slow, go too fast and you risk losing control of the vehicle. If you do skid, you should know how to react.

When you understeer it’s like the car is ignoring your steering inputs, you will feel the steering go extremely light. If this happens, ease off the throttle and straighten up the steering until you can feel the tyres find grip again. Braking too hard will usually make the situation a lot worse. Understeer can be avoided by slowing down for corners and only turning the wheel as much as is needed.

When you oversteer, you will feel the rear of the car lose grip and go sideways. You should counter steer to the skid, mainly by balancing the steering until the car straightens up. In a front wheel drive car, accelerating will help pull the car out of the skid. Make sure not to accelerate too hard to the point that the wheels are spinning. In a rear wheel drive car, you should ease off the accelerator slightly until the skid is over. Using the brakes, or totally coming off the throttle would make the skid worse.

Fog lights should be on if visibility is under 100m, and the AA recommends that you wear warm clothes and carry a blanket, shovel, Ice scraper, torch, snacks, extra screenwash, waterproofs and a flask of hot drink.

Winter tyres are well worth the extra spend if you are looking do a lot of driving during winter. They are designed to work better at a lower temperature. They will benefit you even when there is no ice or snow; you’ll still be safer.

David Johnson from Michelin UK, Based in Stoke-On-Trent told StaffsLive, “A traditional ‘summer tyre’ will have compromised performance as the thermometer drops towards seven degrees centigrade and below, even if roads are completely dry.

“Braking distances and handling will be affected significantly, and that will be more marked in wet, snowy and icy conditions.”

Four-wheel-drive is useless in the winter without winter tyres, a two-wheel-drive car with winter tyres will always be a lot safer than a 4WD with summer tyres.

Stay safe on the roads in these cold conditions and remember these tips. Leave in plenty of time for your journey, wrap up warm and don’t expect your car to perform the same as in summer.

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