Winter brings difficult driving conditions with frost, ice and snow all adversely affecting road conditions and vehicle handling. For business drivers still using the roads, driving in these conditions may be unavoidable, so it’s important to remember some of the tops ways to keep safe when driving in sub-zero conditions.
- Substantially increase the stopping distance between you and the vehicle ahead, and approach every junction intending to stop well before the stop or give way line. According to advice from the Highway Code, it can take up to 10 times as long to stop in icy conditions.
- Every steering, acceleration or braking input should be as smooth and gentle as possible. Using second gear when you pull away in icy conditions will deliver less torque and may prevent wheels spinning.
- Salt will often make the windscreen, headlights, number plate and the rear of your vehicle very dirty, with vehicles losing an estimated 40% of their lighting power after travelling around 20 miles on a damp, gritted motorway. When travelling long distances, stop regularly at service stations to clean your windscreen and headlights with a clean cloth. Alternatively, keep a filled bottle of water in the boot to give your lights, windows and mirrors a quick clean.
- Never ignore any warning lights that appear on your dashboard. If one appears, get it checked out as soon as possible. Being stuck on the side of the road is annoying at the best of times but breaking down in freezing conditions is not only uncomfortable it can also be risky.
- Always carry a winter driving kit including the following:
- Ice scraper
- Something to eat and drink
- A fully charged mobile phone
- A reflective triangle
- High visibility jacket(s) – with enough for every occupant travelling with you.
- While roads may have been gritted to give you better traction, some areas of the road may not be fully treated, which can leave icy patches. Drive at a steady pace, with your safety and that of your passengers in mind. Be prepared to slow down even more at roundabouts and junctions. Watch out for water running across the carriageway, as this might have washed away the salt or diluted it, making it ineffective.
- Keep your vehicle clean throughout the winter as the salt in any grit that is left on it for long periods of time may cause corrosion to any exposed parts. Wash and rinse alloy wheels too – the smallest scratch on these can cause damage.
- On bright but cold days, don’t assume the roads are safe just because the winter sun is out. Icy patches can linger, including in shaded or tree-lined areas, or places where the sun has yet to have had an impact.
- If you do have to make an essential journey, check your tyres for tread depth and condition before setting off. Remember that whilst the legal limit is 1.6mm, wet weather performance deteriorates below 3mm, so consider changing at this point for added safety.
While icy conditions do pose challenges for at-work drivers, a robust fleet policy and risk management solution can help to solidify the expectations of an employer towards reducing the risk for both driver and vehicle whatever the weather. Contact your IAM RoadSmart account manager for free winter driving tips posters, or for any updates to your driver policy. If you’re not yet a customer contact us today to see how our innovative fleet risk management solutions can help you to create a safer, more efficient fleet no matter what the weather.