Last Updated: 19/01/2018
During the Winter months it’s not unusual to experience every possible driving condition all in the same afternoon. Here's our advice on how to deal with the varying conditions.
Driving when it's Raining
Living in the UK this section often applies the whole year around, however there’s no doubt that during the Winter season rain poses some additional problems which are worth you taking extra care over.
For starters (and this will go for every section) slowing down is an absolute must - stopping distances (that’s thinking time plus braking time) at least double in rainy conditions and applying that knowledge can be the difference between staying safe and having an accident.
In the Winter months significant amounts of rain falling in a short space of time introduces the risk of aquaplaning. Aquaplaning is caused by your tyres losing contact with the road surface because of a layer of water between your tyres and the road. Take extra care through large downpours and don’t panic if you start to aquaplane - ease off the accelerator and keep your wheels straight to avoid skidding until you feel the traction return.
Rain causes puddles, and puddles - particularly large ones and flooded sections of road - can impact the performance of your brakes. Make sure after driving through any deep puddles or flooded bodies of water to cautiously test your brakes in a safe section of road as soon as you’re able, this will help to disperse any water that might otherwise cause your brakes to underperform. Better to do this before you actually need to use them!
Driving when it's Windy
High winds can be tricky - perhaps less so for cars directly, but they cause a larger issue for other road users such as lorries, motorcycles and cyclists who are more easily blown around the carriageway. Being aware of the traffic around you and making sure you leave ample space when passing another vehicle is crucial.
Also bare in mind that lorries might hide a windy section of road as you pass them, causing a sudden gust to hit you once you’re clear. As with each of these sections, slowing down and driving more cautiously is the best approach to avoiding trouble.
Driving when it's Snowing
The best rule of thumb to follow when dealing with snowy conditions is to first ask yourself “is this a journey I need to make?” - if it’s not, leave it for another time. If you have to travel, or you’re caught out whilst already on the road, there are some things you can do to stay as safe as possible.
Once again - slow down - this will likely come naturally to most drivers in the snow, but also bare in mind that a 4 wheel drive vehicle, whilst likely more composed in these conditions, does not allow for ignoring the conditions, you’ll just be better able to cope with them. For those with rear wheel drive cars proceed with extra caution.
When moving off accelerate gently and try not to spin your wheels as you’re more likely to dig yourself deeper into the snow, take your time and apply a light touch. Moving up to a higher gear as early as you can will help.
Visibility can drop quickly in heavy snow so make sure you use your wipers to keep your windscreen clear and check you’re using dipped headlights, not only to improve your own visibility but also to ensure you’re more visible to other drivers.
Driving when it's Icy
Remember all of that rain we get? Well it often turns to ice during the depths of Winter. We talked about braking distances when it rains earlier, well in icy conditions braking distances can be increased to as much as 10 times!
That figure is difficult to visualise when you’re on the road, so it’s important to not only check your own distance to the car in front, but also to be aware of the distance of the car behind you - if they’re insisting on driving too close for the conditions it might be best to pull in and let them pass.
As with aquaplaning, should you find yourself losing control on an icy patch of road just ease off the accelerator, keep your wheels straight and apply light braking pressure until you regain control.
Driving when it's Foggy
Perhaps the most unpredictable of Winter conditions is fog, it can descend very quickly and entering foggy sections of road during an otherwise clear journey is an absolute possibility.
Slowing down is the very first of the things you should do and make sure you increase your distance to the car in front to accommodate for the lower visibility. This will give you more time to react safely to what’s happening in front of you.
Once you’ve done that check your lights - are they on to start with? If you have fog lamps use them. There always seems to be someone driving through fog without any lights on at all - make sure it’s not you. You need to provide yourself with as much visibility as possible, but also make sure that you’re seen by other drivers too!
Being prepared for the unexpected is the best advice you can follow as far as fog is concerned. If conditions become severe sometimes the best thing you can do is to stop until the weather improves, just make sure you’re stopped in a safe location.
For all of the advice here if there is only one piece we could offer when driving in wintery conditions it would be to slow down. Just apply that one tip and you’ll be much better prepared to deal with whatever the ever changing UK Winter weather can throw at you!