Winter Driving: Stay Safe on the Roads

Dark nights and dull days, winter in Ireland is different to many other countries around Europe where snow can reach windowsills. Although we occasionally get snow and ice, as an island sitting on the edge of the Atlantic, our biggest concern are the wild storms that batter us. Driving conditions during wind and rain can be as bad, if not worse, than during ice and snow. What can we do to stay safe on the roads this winter?

1. Check Your Tyres 

Driving on Irish roads can be hard on tyres at the best of times, particularly if you live in a rural area but it is worse over the winter months when road surfaces may be uneven or your car may have unexpected debris to contend with. Remember your tyres are your only contact with the road so ensure you check thread depth in the run up to and over the winter period. Replace any that are worn.

2. Check Your Coolant 

Also known as anti-freeze, this crucial liquid prevents your engine freezing during the winter months. It should be changed every two years or so as part of a regular service. However if you notice your coolant has changed from being a colour to a clear liquid then it’s time to change it.

3. Use Your Lights 

One of our top tips for winter driving safety isuse dipped headlights night and day. It really does help other drivers and pedestrians see you approach on a dull day.

4. Change Your Driving Style

The RSA suggest we think differently about how we drive when the weather is bad, we know you want to get where you are going and out of the weather but it is more important than ever to slow down and leave plenty of space between you and the car in front. Following this driving tip has two benefits:

  • You are less likely to leave the road or get caught in a bad gust of wind.
  • If you hit a pool of standing water on the road you are less likely to aquaplane

When we say leave large distance between you and the driver in front, we mean it. Use the 4 second rule. When they pass a next lamp post, you shouldn’t pass it for a count of 4 seconds after them. This is the kind of distance you need to stop on a wet road.

5. Have an Emergency Kit 

Hopefully you will never need to use it but it is useful to have an emergency kit in the car all year round but especially in the winter months. Some suggestions for what it should contain:

  • Hi-vis vest
  • Warning triangle
  • First aid kit
  • Jump leads
  • Basic tool kit
  • Warm blanket
  • Snacks and water

Don't Take Unnecessary Journeys 

Take Teresa Mannion’s advice in stormy weather this winter, don’t take risks on treacherous roads. Seriously, think about it, is what you are driving to really, really worth risking your life for? Are you meeting friends or family? Reschedule for a night in front of the TV. Going for groceries? Pull out a tin of beans or have cereal for dinner for the night. When the weather is poor be careful with the decisions you make because if something does go wrong while you are on the road, there is no going back.

Driving once the worst of the weather is over can still be a challenge:

Driving Through Floods 

Last year saw some of the worst flooding on record in parts of Ireland. We hope the same won’t happen this year but if you do find yourself on a flooded roadway our advice is to find an alternative route. If that is impossible and the water is below the level of your engine, drive slowly and stay as close to the shallowest part of the flood water as possible.

Driving in Fog 

Slowing down is crucial here because you are unlikely to be able to see! Use your dips rather than full beams. Full beams will reflect on the water droplets and worsen the glare. If fog is particularly thick use your fog light but remember to turn it off as soon it clears to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic. Finally driving through fog takes 100% concentration, always expect the unexpected.

Snow and Ice Driving 

Although it is relatively rare, when we do get snow and ice it can paralyse the country. If you have to drive in this kind of weather, there are a few things you need to do:

  • Make sure you can see: clear all windows (not just a gap) with de-icer or warm (never boiling) water.
  • Take all manoeuvres gently: don’t make any sudden movements in a car on ice or snow because they can be exaggerated significantly.
  • Use ABS: you do slide and your car has ABS breaking, remember Step, Stay and Steer. Step on the break, stay on the break and steer around the obstacle. You will feel the brake pulse under your foot as the ABS kicks in.

We hope these driving tips help you through this winter. If you need information on insuring your car, get in touch today, we would be happy to help.


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