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A Guide to Winter Driving

Seminar: 18th Jan, 2022

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Car driving in snow

With winter weather conditions a reality in Scotland for several months, we have prepared our guide for safe driving during adverse weather which employers can use to share with their staff. 

Driving in the winter is usually more challenging than at other times of the year.  Adverse weather, longer periods of darkness, and occasional extreme weather like high winds or heavy snow make driving more hazardous. 

It is important employers ensure their staff are only making essential journeys during adverse weather conditions.  In addition, where driving is required, sharing practical guidance on winter driving with staff is good practice, and as such, we have prepared our top tips for winter driving. 

Practical Steps

It makes sense to take some practical steps to prepare for winter driving now by getting vehicles fully serviced before winter starts and having the anti-freeze tested or doing your own checks, including ensuring:  

  • Lights are clean and working;
  • Battery is fully charged;
  • Windscreen, wiper blades and other windows are clean, and the washer bottle is filled with screen wash;  
  • Tyre condition, tread depth and pressure (of all the tyres, including the spare);  
  • Brakes are working well; and
  • Fluids are kept topped up, especially windscreen wash (to the correct concentration to prevent it freezing), anti-freeze and oil.

Prepare for your journey

In adverse weather pay attention to travel information and advice, if the emergency services are recommending that people don’t travel, it’s best to follow that advice and only undertake “essential” journeys.  What’s ‘essential’ to one person may not be to another but, try to be realistic about which journeys are essential and which ones could be postponed.

If you decide you really must travel:

  • Let someone know where you are going and what time you hope to arrive;
  • Plan alternative routes in case your main choice(s) becomes impassable;
  • Keep your fuel tank near to full to ensure that you do not run out;
  • Make sure you have a fully charged mobile phone;
  • Take extra warm clothes, boots and a torch in case you get caught in traffic or stranded; and
  • Keep a couple of long-life energy bars in the glove box.

Driving to conditions

It’s important to know how to drive safely in adverse weather, some general tips include: –

In snow and ice

  • Reduce your speed.
  • Avoid harsh braking and acceleration, or sharp steering.
  • Reduce speed in plenty of time before bends and corners. To slow down on ice and snow, lift the gas early to allow the speed to drop sufficiently to select a lower gear. If you need to use the brakes, use very gentle pressure depressing the clutch early to avoid stalling the engine.
  • Increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front. You may need up to TEN TIMES the normal distance for braking.
  • If you get stuck in the 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 you get caught in a snowdrift:

  • Don’t leave your vehicle;
  • Call your breakdown service or the emergency services and let help come to you; and  
  • Don’t run the engine to keep warm.

In Fog

Fog is one of the most dangerous weather conditions. An accident involving one vehicle can quickly involve many others, especially if they are driving too close to one another. If you must drive:

  • Allow plenty of extra time for your journey;
  • Check your car before you set off. Make sure everything is in good working order, especially the lights;
  • Reduce your speed and keep it down;
  • Switch on headlights and fog lamps if visibility is reduced;
  • If you break down, inform the police and get the vehicle off the road as soon as possible; and  
  • Never park on the road in fog and never leave your vehicle without warning lights of some kind if it is on the wrong side of the road.

In Strong winds

  • Avoid bridges; and
  • If driving a high-sided vehicle … don’t.

In Flooded Roads

  • Avoid the deepest water – which is usually near the kerb;  
  • Don’t attempt to cross if the water seems too deep;
  • If you are not sure of the water’s depth, look for an alternative route;
  • If you decide to risk it, drive slowly in first gear but keep the engine speed high by slipping the clutch – this will stop you from stalling;
  • Be aware of the bow wave from approaching vehicles – operate an informal ‘give way’ with approaching vehicles; and
  • Remember to test your brakes when you are through the flood.

In Low Sunshine

In winter, the angle of the sun in the sky will frequently be too low for your visor to help. If blinded by glare:

  • Reduce your speed;
  • Reduce the effect of glare by keeping both the inside and outside of your windscreen clean and grease-free; and
  • If you wear sunglasses (with prescription lenses if necessary) take them off whenever the sun goes in. They should not be worn in duller weather or at night as they seriously reduce the ability to see.

Further Support

If you would like to further discuss keeping your staff safe during adverse weather, the FD People team are more than happy to help.  Please get in touch by emailing enquiries@fdpeople.co.uk or by calling 0141 221 2984 or by filling in our online form.

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