Time to be win­ter safe

Win­try weather all adds up to dan­ger­ous driv­ing con­di­tions

Rutherglen Reformer - - Motors -

The dan­ger­ous win­try weather has fi­nally ar­rived and safety or­gan­i­sa­tion GEM Mo­tor­ing As­sist has come up with some guide­lines to help driv­ers cope.

The group has is­sued a question and an­swer bul­letin to ex­plain how to drive in poor con­di­tions and tell mo­torists what to ex­pect.

Here is the list as drawn up by GEM’s road safety of­fi­cer Neil Worth which takes in driv­ing in heavy rain, snow, fog and ice:

RAIN What are the best ways to stay out of trou­ble when the roads are wet?

Re­duce your speed and leave big­ger gaps be­tween your car and the ve­hi­cle in front. Stop­ping dis­tances in­crease on wet roads, so give your­self time and space to stop safely. Use your dipped head­lights to en­sure other driv­ers can see you. Avoid us­ing rear fog lights as their strength can daz­zle driv­ers fol­low­ing you – and if your fog lights are on, it can make it harder for oth­ers to see your brake lights.

What’s the max­i­mum depth of water I can drive through safely?

Driv­ing through any depth of water can be dan­ger­ous. Even just six inches – or 15cm of water – will reach the bot­tom of most pas­sen­ger cars. Above this depth you can lose con­trol or stall the en­gine be­cause water can be sucked into the ex­haust or washed into the air in­take.

SNOW What is a safe speed for driv­ing in snow?

Ex­pe­ri­ence shows that it is not your speed that’s the prob­lem, it’s how you lose the speed in or­der to stop in an emer­gency, or to ne­go­ti­ate a sharp bend, or pull up safely at a junc­tion. If there is snow on the road, your brak­ing dis­tance will be vastly in­creased com­pared to what you’re used to on a dry road. Be sure to main­tain a risk as­sess­ment. If it’s ac­tu­ally snow­ing and set­tling, then you must slow right down. Try to main­tain mo­men­tum by an­tic­i­pat­ing when you’ll need to slow down and speed up.

What are the best roads to use when it’s snow­ing?

It may sound un­help­ful, but the best ad­vice is not to drive at all if you don’t need to. Gen­tle hills can be­come im­pass­able, and even busy mo­tor­ways can quickly turn into car parks dur­ing a snow­fall.

What emer­gency equip­ment should I take if I have to drive in snow?

Take a hot drink flask, snacks, a blan­ket, rug or sleep­ing bag to en­sure you can stay warm if you get stuck. If you need to leave your ve­hi­cle, then it’s a good idea to en­sure you have boots, a warm coat and re­flec­tive jacket with you.

BLACK ICE What is ‘black’ ice?

Black ice is ac­tu­ally clear and colour­less ice, but it is invisible to driv­ers above the dark tar­mac of the road. How will I know if I’m driv­ing on black ice? Your steer­ing will feel light, you won’t see tyre tracks on the road ahead, and there will be next to no noise from your tyres. Stay calm and let your car pass over the black ice. Gen­tly lift your foot off the ac­cel­er­a­tor. Don’t hit the brakes and be very gen­tle with your steer­ing. IfI can’t see it, how can I look out for black ice? Pay at­ten­tion to your car ther­mome­ter. Black ice forms when the road sur­face tem­per­a­ture falls to 0 de­grees Cel­sius or be­low. But road sur­face tem­per­a­ture is usu­ally three to four de­grees lower than air tem­per­a­ture. That’s why you may get an au­di­ble cold weather warn­ing when your car ther­mome­ter shows 3 or 4 de­grees.

When and in what lo­ca­tions is black ice most likely to form?

The most likely times for the form­ing of black ice are around dawn and in the late evening, when tem­per­a­tures are usu­ally at their low­est. The most com­mon lo­ca­tions for black ice are shaded or treecov­ered parts of roads, due to the lack of sun­light. Bridges freeze quickly so be par­tic­u­larly care­ful.

FOG What is fog?

Fog is a thick wet mist that ei­ther rolls in from the sea or ra­di­ates up from the ground. Fog forms when the tem­per­a­ture drops to the point at which air is sat­u­rated, and invisible water vapour in the air con­denses to form sus­pended water droplets. It’s dan­ger­ous for driv­ers be­cause we can see so lit­tle. So you need to go slowly, and use dipped head­lights and fog lights.

Is there any­thing I can do to con­tinue driv­ing safely when fog is re­ally thick?

Pos­si­bly not. You can wind down the win­dow, in an at­tempt to hear what you may not be able to see, but there’s no magic way for gain­ing vis­i­bil­ity.

Should I use the rear lights of the ve­hi­cle in front or the cen­tre white line of the road as ref­er­ence points?

No. It’s dan­ger­ous to fol­low the lights of the ve­hi­cle in front as you may well al­low your­self to get too close, mean­ing you might not have enough space to stop sud­denly. You can fol­low the edge of the road as a ref­er­ence point, rather than the cen­tre, to avoid run­ning into on­com­ing traf­fic or be­com­ing dis­tracted by their head­lights.

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