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Driven - - Contents - Re­port by ASHREF IS­MAIL | Im­ages © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

Win­ter has made an abrupt en­trance with overnight tem­per­a­tures drop­ping to be­low five de­grees Cel­sius with a cold wind that adds to the chill fac­tor. ASHREF IS­MAIL gives some driv­ing tips to en­sure that driv­ing in the cold does not be­come an ex­pe­ri­ence fraught with dan­ger.

It goes with­out say­ing that you should make sure that your car is ser­viced reg­u­larly, as per the man­u­fac­turer’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions. This be­comes even more im­por­tant when your car is out of war­ranty. It is also a good idea to ask a tech­ni­cian to give your car a once-over and check for things like bat­terylife, an­tifreeze lev­els, any ra­di­a­tor leaks, dam­aged hoses, wiper blades, heater/ de­froster and all elec­tri­cal com­po­nents such as lights and switches. Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a break­down is bad enough, but it is much worse in win­ter.

YOUR SAFETY IS IN YOUR HANDS

Re­gard­less of the sea­son, all tyres, in­clud­ing the spare, should be checked reg­u­larly for ac­cept­able tread depth and any in­di­ca­tion of tyre dam­age. As the out­side tem­per­a­ture drops, so too does tyre pres­sure. Check tyre pres­sures at least once a week. This be­comes es­pe­cially im­por­tant in colder tem­per­a­tures. Also make sure that the spare, jack and wheel span­ner are all se­curely fixed into place.

It is your re­spon­si­bil­ity to study the ve­hi­cle’s hand­book and heed any out­lined warn­ings. So many, un­safe and un­nec­es­sary sit­u­a­tions can be avoided if driv­ers just fa­mil­iarised them­selves with their ve­hi­cle’s op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments.

As­sem­ble a rudi­men­tary tool­box with some ba­sic tools that could as­sist in get­ting you out of a sticky situation. The tool­box should in­clude a tow rope, a torch with spare bat­ter­ies, in­su­la­tion tape, a warn­ing tri­an­gle, a punc­ture re­pair kit and bat­tery charg­ing ca­bles. It’s al­ways ad­vis­able to in­clude a re­flec­tive vest and a sim­ple first aid kit in the event of an emer­gency.

CHECK, CHECK AND CHECK

When get­ting into the car, don’t just turn the key and drive off. Fol­low what is re­ferred to as a safety pro­to­col. Much like an air­craft pi­lot, get in, lock the doors, buckle up, ad­just your seat, the mir­rors, start the ig­ni­tion, check all the warn­ing lights, en­sure you are fa­mil­iar with the heater/de­froster op­er­a­tions and care­fully ob­serve the sur­round­ing area be­fore mov­ing off.

On the road, travel at lower speeds and en­sure you have max­i­mum vis­i­bil­ity at all times through all the win­dows and mir­rors. If vis­i­bil­ity is poor (less than 100 me­tres), switch on your head­lamps on dipped beam mode. Re­mem­ber, park lights are just for that: park­ing. Do not drive around with park lights. It is also il­le­gal to drive with fog lamps in the ab­sence of fog, snow, smog, mist or heavy smoke. Spot­lights and LED light­bars fit­ted to the roof of a ve­hi­cle can blind on­com­ing driv­ers and are thus out­lawed also.

Fol­low­ing dis­tance is cru­cial, es­pe­cially on roads cov­ered by a thin layer of sleet that can sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease stop­ping dis­tances. It is rec­om­mended to main­tain a fol­low­ing dis­tance of around four sec­onds. This will al­low for bet­ter re­ac­tion times and a longer dis­tance to come to a com­plete stop.

MIND THE PEDES­TRI­ANS

Re­mem­ber that the sun sets early in win­ter while many pedes­tri­ans are still ne­go­ti­at­ing their way home, us­ing var­i­ous modes of pub­lic trans­port. They are of­ten dressed in dark, win­ter cloth­ing that makes them prac­ti­cally in­vis­i­ble and ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble at night.

This ex­plains why more pedes­tri­ans are killed dur­ing the win­ter months of June, July and Au­gust than dur­ing Easter or the fes­tive pe­ri­ods. So please, take ex­tra care when driv­ing around taxi ranks, bus de­pots or any high pedes­trian den­sity ar­eas.

On ma­jor ar­te­rial routes, be par­tic­u­larly cau­tious when driv­ing through in­for­mal set­tle­ments, es­pe­cially those sit­u­ated next to free­ways. Drop your speed and also watch for stray an­i­mals that some­times feed next to the road or even sit on the black­top to warm them­selves.

When em­bark­ing on a long jour­ney, plan care­fully by mon­i­tor­ing weather fore­casts and traf­fic re­ports. Don’t rush and leave ear­lier to al­low time for de­lays. If road or weather con­di­tions be­come haz­ardous, pull over at a safe lo­ca­tion and wait for con­di­tions to im­prove be­fore con­tin­u­ing.

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