Best winter driving tips from Changing Lanes

Now that we have the car sorted (read my winter car care blog here), it’s time to get out on the road. There are a few things you should bear in mind for safe winter driving in Ireland.

  • My #1 tip is to be vigilant. Before you leave on your journey, listen to weather and traffic reports or check AA Roadwatch for any information about conditions or accidents on your route, weather warnings and road temperatures which will all give you clues as to how cautiously you should drive.
  • If your car is modern enough, it might have an outside temperature gauge that can provide another clue as to how much you need to modify your driving for the conditions. A little snowflake symbol will warn of potentially icy roads. A very useful warning.
  • Put on the appropriate lights after familiarising yourself with the switches to operate them, including the rear fog lamp(s), and front fogs if fitted. Fog lamps should only be used in fog or misty conditions, or in heavy rain, and switched off once the conditions improve. There is a good case for using dipped headlamps during the day.
  • Once out on the road, be aware of the condition of the road surface. Drive cautiously until you have a clear picture of the road conditions. Remember that the roads may seem dry and clear but if it’s been a frosty night, ice may linger longer in areas shaded by trees, high hedges/walls or under bridges.
  • If you have local knowledge of the roads think of the places where water often runs across the road. This may have frozen over in the cold so be ready for it.
  • Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front and slow down. That will give you time to react and stop the car safely in a hurry. On wet roads or icy ones you’re braking distance will be greatly reduced.
  • Beware of low lying sun. The sun doesn’t rise all that high in the winter months, so fully expect to come around a corner and be temporarily blinded, making it a struggle to see the white line in the centre, pedestrians, cyclists, or other cars. Another reason to slow down and expect the unexpected.
  • Wet leaves, mud, black ice, patches of snow or frost can cause your tyres to lose grip. To minimise the risk of a skid or slide over these conditions, keep all inputs – that’s accelerator, brake, and steering – to a minimum. Smoothness is key so adapt your driving style accordingly.
  • Take advantage of engine braking and drop the gears to take speed off the car gradually on snow and ice when you don’t want to pound the brakes. Gentle inputs on the brakes will help lower the revs and slow the car down. This method is very useful if you have to drive down a hill on your route where the car will naturally pick up speed if you do nothing.
  • Consider carrying a winter survival kit if the weather and roads are really bad and you really have to set off on a journey. Ideally include a high vis vest, warning triangle, tow rope, shovel, de-icer, first aid kit, torch, blanket, mobile phone charger and some food and water.

Practice these best winter driving tips and take care on the roads this winter!

Caroline Kidd