Monday 22nd December 2014
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Driving on snow and ice, particularly black ice is treacherous. Obvious tips are  making sure you de-ice the car and allow enough space between you and the vehicle in front while driving. But there are a lot more things you can do to make driving in these awful conditions easier.

Driving on snow and ice - think about:

Speed:

Only travel at a speed at which you can stop safely within the distance you can see ahead of you.  You will really need to carefully consider your speed as going too slow will mean you lose momentum and going too fast won’t give you enough time for stopping or could affect control of the car.  Don’t go by the speed restrictions on the side of roads as these limits only refer to normal conditions and don’t take bad weather into account.  When driving downhill keep your speed low as you start to descend and keep it down in case you hit any slippery patches.

Accelerate gently, rev as low as possible and move up to a high gear quickly.   Operate all controls including brakes, steering, gear changes and the accelerator smoothly and slowly. Reduce your speed to minimize skidding and if you do skid then steer into the direction you are skidding towards and keep your hands on the steering wheel but don’t brake hard. Slow down going around bends and corners as you don’t know how icy these roads are.

Braking:

The AA recommends that you may need to allow up to 10 times the normal distance for braking. Generally you should avoid harsh braking and acceleration and sharp steering. It is advisable to drive so that you don’t have to rely on your brakes to be able to stop as icy surfaces may make it impossible to brake. When braking on icy or snow covered surfaces avoid locking your wheels by getting into a low gear quicker than usual, slow your speed and apply gentle pressure on the brakes.  Bends are particularly dangerous and the centrifugal force could pull you outwards, the wheels may not grip and your vehicle could spin.

General:

Remember that roads will have different patches of frost, ice and snow which all affect your car. Some areas may be absolutely fine so just be careful you don’t get lulled into a false sense of security.

If you are driving on a road that has not been gritted avoid driving in the wheeltracks of other vehicles since compressed snow can be more icy than fresh snow. You may need to use a higher gear to help the tyres grip when moving off on packed ice. Where possible avoid side roads which probably won’t have been gritted and stick to main roads which will be busier and therefore are more likely to have been gritted.

Driving on snow and ice

Visibility is likely to be reduced so use dipped headlights. In falling snow use dipped headlights or foglights so others can see you and then as the weather improves turn off your foglights. It can be quite dangerous to follow another vehicle at night as you will be using their lights ahead as a guide and this can mean you get too close to them. Don’t rely on your ABS in really slippery conditions as it won’t give you the same level of control as non ABS cars.  On motorways stay away from ice and slush.

The AA recommend that the following braking distance (including thinking time) are recommended when driving in snow and ice:

At 30 mph:

Snow: 30 metres

Ice: 66 metres

Generally thinking distance should be 6 metres.

AT 50 mph:

Snow: 167 metres

Ice: 395 metres

Generally thinking distance should be 15 metres.

If your car gets stuck in snow

Don’t rev your engine continuously as that won’t get you out of the rut, just slowly reverse and move forward using the accelerator lightly. Alternatively, if that doesn’t work you can turn your wheels from side to side to try and push the snow out of the way. Don’t try to keep moving if the wheels spin as that will dig you in further. Otherwise you could ask someone to give you a push or get a shovel out and spill some sand or cat litter in front of the wheels to regain traction. If nothing works then stay put in the car and call your breakdown service and give them a full account of your situation.  This is when your blankets, hot drinks and food will help to keep you warm until help arrives.

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