At Hamilton Robertson, we are all too aware of the changing and challenging driving conditions that the winter season can present drivers with. As Insurance Brokers, we know that an increase of accidents during this time of year is always expected, but many of the accidents could possibly be prevented with careful planning, vehicle checks, and adapting your driving techniques.
To try and help you stay safer on the roads in the New Year and throughout the rest of the winter season, we have produced this article and guide to help you to consider your own driving procedures whilst out on the roads. Experiencing an accident (even a minor bump with another vehicle) at this time of year is really the last thing needed. It can cause a real headache, with problems such as:
- Loss of use of your vehicle – and the hassle of trying to find a hire car or borrowing a family or friend’s car to tide you over.
- Loss of earnings if you are in business and rely on your vehicle for travel or work
- Loss of time as collecting data and information at an accident can be very time consuming when you need to report it to your insurer – as well as the time lost dealing with garages, mechanics, insurers and call centres
- Loss of money – perhaps you need to cover the cost of insurance excess. Having an accident can really cause a financial expense.
- Loss of your no claim bonus – as well as a higher insurance premium at renewal
Of course, the accident itself could also cause injury to yourself, your passengers or another car’s passengers, which could be the most serious consequence of all. This is not something you want to deal with at any time of year, but at the start of the New Year it can be particularly troublesome.
So, what can you do, as a motorist, to stay safer during this time of year?
Our partners at Bill Plant Driving School are asking that all their drivers should consider adapting their driving and teaching style to the changing road conditions in the winter.
RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), one of Bill Plant Driving School’s fleet management clients, have published an extensive and very useful guide to Winter Driving which can be downloaded online, for free, here.
Some of the help and advice given by RoSpa is very useful. It includes;
Judge the severity of the weather and make an informed decision – They say, “In very bad conditions, avoid driving completely, unless you absolutely have to make the journey and driving is the only option.” Essentially, it isn’t worth the risk where snow and black ice is a real issue. This can be a problem in country lanes where salt has not been laid on the road by gritters. We can also have problems with flooding in the UK, so check the route before you travel to ensure your roads are not affected.
Prepare your vehicle for the winter road conditions – This will include ensuring your lights are clean and working, that your battery is fully charged, your windscreen, wiper blades and other windows are clean, that your tyres are in good condition, including the tread depth and pressure. You will also want to make sure that your brakes are working well and your fluids are kept topped up, especially windscreen wash, anti-freeze and oil.
Pack your car with an Emergency Kit – Your emergency kit should include a tow rope, shovel, boots, hazard warning triangle, De-icing equipment, First aid kit, working torch, blanket, warm clothes, hot drink in a flask, and a charged mobile phone. Of course, what is important to you may not be important to others, so pack your emergency kit with what you think you will need.
Learn how to adapt your driving technique – This includes reducing your speed, avoiding harsh braking or acceleration, slowing down in plenty of time and leaving plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you – this may include ten times what you normally would.
Knowing what to do if you get stuck in snow – The guide says, “if you get stuck in snow, revving your engine to try to power out of the rut will just make the rut worse. Instead, move your vehicle slowly backwards and forwards out of the rut using the highest gear you can. If this doesn’t work, you may have to ask a friendly passer-by for a push or get your shovel out.”
Knowing what to do if you experience aquaplaning in bad rain – Aquaplaning is caused by driving too fast into surface water. The guide says, “When the tyre tread cannot channel away enough water, the tyre(s) lose contact with the road and your car will float on a wedge of water. Aquaplaning can be avoided by reducing speed in wet conditions. Having the correct tyre pressure and tyre tread depth will maximise your tyres’ ability to maintain their road grip. If it happens, ease off the accelerator and brakes until your speed drops sufficiently for the car tyres to make contact with the road again.”
Knowing what to do in poor sunlight/low visibility – The glare of the winter sun can make driving very difficult. It can stop you seeing the road ahead completely and suddenly. In these conditions it is important to reduce your speed, keep your windows clean and smudge free, and wear sunglasses. When it comes to fog, it is usually best to wait it out and only drive when the fog has cleared. It is very difficult to drive in fog and make yourself visible.