Caravan Camping Blog
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10 Tips for Safe Winter Travel
Winter time in the UK can bring all sorts of driving complications from rain and gales to ice and snow. More of your journeys are going to be in darkness and bad weather, and so, as the scouts would say, it's best to be prepared.
So what should you look out for and what should you do? Read on four our ten tips to safer, more stress-free motoring in winter.
- Be prepared for delays. Journeys at night and in bad weather just take longer. Frustration can creep in and this will occasionally lead to bad driving, if not by you, by other drivers on the road. Listen to the weather forecast and be prepared to change your plans if conditions get worse. Let someone know your plans, so that people know where to look for you if there are long, unexpected delays. Have alternative routes planned in case the one you intended to use gets blocked by weather conditions, accident or slow traffic. Be patient.
- Keep your fuel tank reasonably full, not just to ensure you don't run out, but just in case you find you need to keep warm and use that bit extra.
- Keep your mobile phone charged so you can contact emergency services, and let others know. Don't forget that with smart phones, you can turn on location services to help people trace you. If you have a charger you can use off the car battery, or a spare battery pack, so much the better.
- Check your car frequently for battery, tyres, windscreen wipers, brakes and fluids. All too often the cause of breakdown comes down to simple things you could have checked for yourself, which can be brought up to scratch with some simple maintenance. It is always a good idea to have your vehicle serviced before the winter sets in as a minimum.
- Carry a list of emergency kit:
- Tow rope
- Snow shovel
- Hazard warning triangle
- Warm winter clothing
- First aid kit
- Charged and working, heavy duty torch
- Emergency rations
- Flask of hot drinks or soup - liquids are essential
- Car blanket(s)
- Snow belts
- De-icing equipment
- Be prepared for driving in rain. Rain and wind and similar bad conditions mean you should slow down and increase the distance between you and the vehicles in front of you. The recommended braking distance is twice the normal one in dry conditions. Try counting 1 elephant, 2 elephant up to 4 elephants slowly for a rough guide while you are driving, if you don't know how long that is. Resist any temptations to compete with other people on the road and keep your distance from obvious bad drivers, if you can. You can be a perfect driver, but do not assume everyone else is too. Final recommendation, if the road is flooded, resist the temptation to drive into rivers and floods where you have no idea of the depth of water.
- Be prepared for snow and ice. There is a technique to driving in snow that is not too difficult to learn, but, in many parts of the UK, we do not get enough snow for us to be practised at driving well in these conditions. In general, it means decreasing your speed and driving gently. Use the softest touch to accelerate and decrease speed gently, using your gears more than your brakes. Take bends in a steady, smooth manner. Allow ten times the normal space you would between vehicles for braking.
- Be prepared for low visibility. As well as longer hours of darkness, fog is a frequent problem. Drive with dipped headlights and put your lights on early. It is no coincidence that the Scandinavian coutries enforce daylight headlights in these conditions. It is important that other road users can see you early and react accordingly.
- Be prepared for dazzling sunlight. It is always ironic that winter sunshine, when it finally appears, can often be the most dazzling. A good, clean windscreen is your best help. Take your sunglasses, always remembering to take them off when the sun disappears. As with all adverse conditions, reduce your speed if your speed if visibility is impaired.
- In case of the worst. If you do get stuck, or have an accident, don't panic. Stay with your vehicle and call the emergency services. This is when all your planning pays off with something to snack on, something to drink, clothes and blankets to keep you warm and a phone to contact others will help you while you wait to be rescued.
Driving in winter conditions does not have to be a nightmare. As long as you take the precautions we have suggested, take plenty of breaks (stop every two hours and take a rest) and drive carefully and considerately, you will arrive safely. In the worst case, if you know bad weather is coming, you can always wait another day or two till conditions are better.