How to keep safe on the roads this winter

By Chris Were   |   Reporter   |
Friday 25th November 2022 2:30 pm
@ChrsWr
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Ross residents have been warned of extreme rain over the past few days by both West Mercia Police and the Met Office.

Many of the roads around Ross are a little tricky at the best of times, especially if you enjoy a jaunt around the forest or even a trip up to Hereford; if it’s not road works over the summer, it’s mud-slides over the autumn, or ice in the winter.

With safety of yourself and your family in mind, the automotive experts have provided their top tips to prepare your car for these winter conditions, and what to do if you get involved in an accident.

Top tips to get any car ready for winter

  1. Check your tyre tread depth - The minimum legal tread depth on your car tyre is 1.6mm in the UK, however during the winter that won’t suffice. The RAC recommends 3mm of tread on all 4 tyres to counter the potential loss of traction from slippery road surfaces.
  2. Be sure every outside light on your car work - From headlights and brake lights to front and rear fog lights, be sure that every light functions correctly and appears bright. The lights should be checked each time you drive the car. On dark nights with inclement weather, bright lights serve to guide you towards your destination, as well as to alert other road users to your presence.
  3. Keep your washer fluid topped up - Keeping your windscreen washer fluid at the optimum level is necessary for winter driving. Road grit, mud, slush, and leaves are prevalent in the colder months, all of which can stick to your windscreen and inhibit your ability to see clearly. If windscreen wipers don’t remove the detritus, safely pull over and clear it yourself. It’s never safe to proceed with partial visibility.
  4. Lubricate door locks and hinges - Take a store-bought industrial lubricant such as a silicone spray and apply it to all doors and locks on the car. This prevents any of the mechanisms from failing to open in the morning, meaning you can access the vehicle. Also recommended is to spray the silicone lubricant on the bonnet hinges and the catch, just in case you need to inspect your engine or top off fluids at a later date.
  5. Store a survival pack in the boot of your car - If you become stuck at any point on your journey, having a selection of items in the boot of your car can be critical to your safety. Basics such as high visibility jackets, a small spade, a windscreen ice scraper, a torch, a first aid kit, a large bottle of water and snacks, and finally warm blankets and clothing. Together, this survival pack will serve you very well as you await rescue.
  6. Make sure your windscreen is fully clear before setting off - Never undertake even short journeys with your windscreen still icy. Use an ice scraper or the car’s inbuilt windscreen heater to fully clear your view. If you find that those options aren’t working for you, use either a store-bought antifreeze or a homemade solution, consisting of ⅓ water and ⅔ isopropyl (rubbing alcohol). This should clear your windscreen very quickly!

Top tips to get your electric car ready for winter

  1. Plan your journeys! - In temperature extremes, EV’s perform notably worse than normal, at roughly 80% efficiency compared to normal. Plan your routes and consider if you’ll need easy access to a charge point or not. Recovery services offer EV-specific assistance, however their roadside charging time is very long. Avoid the wait and aim to stay as fully charged on your journeys as possible.
  2. Pre-condition the car batteries - Modern electric vehicles have a pre-conditioning setting for the batteries. What that means is starting the car and letting it warm up for about half an hour before you depart. If you do this while plugged in at home, you won’t lose any battery charge either! Battery preconditioning gives you more driveable range too.
  3. Make sure your tyres are up to pressure - Research seen by the Green Car Guide states that electric vehicles can lose between 3% and 7% of their battery range, simply by having tyres that are too low. Extra rolling resistance on the road causes the motors to work harder, meaning you use up more electricity from your battery. Be sure the tyre pressures are up to manufacturer requirements.
  4. Reduce the use of in-car heaters - Turning off electricity-powered heating devices such as seat heaters or the warmed steering wheel also helps to boost range on a long trip. If you’re plugging in at home every night and don’t make long journeys, the battery difference to your electric vehicle will be negligible. However, if you have a long trip scheduled, be mindful of how much power you use to heat the cabin. Bear in mind though, using the seat heater is a lot more energy-efficient than warming the whole cabin!
  5. Know all the public fast charger locations - The joy of having a car is the flexibility it offers you, to take short or long trips at the drop of a hat. However, if you are undertaking a lengthy drive in your electric vehicle, scan ahead on your route to see the fast charger locations. Cold EV batteries take longer to charge than warm batteries, so stopping at a faster 240V charger means you spend a lot less time waiting around for the battery to be brimmed.

Safe winter driving techniques

  • Stick to main roads as much as possible. The chances of them being gritted are significantly higher. Even if they haven’t been gritted, the volume of traffic on a main road will help in keeping the driving surface clear.
  • Share journeys with friends and family, via tracking features seen on apps ranging from WhatsApp to Waze. That way, they know where you are at all times and can assist if you get into difficulty!
  • Schedule ten extra minutes into your journey time, for before you leave. This way, you can de-ice the windscreen, check all the lights are working and de-mist the interior too!
  • As the roads can get mucky, be sure to wipe your registration plates clean. Police take a dim view of concealed plates and may issue you a fine if the plate does not comply with the law.

What to do if you’ve been involved in an accident

  1. Primarily, seek medical attention if required. Ambulance callouts in the UK peaked in January 2022, with a call coming to 999 nationally every 33 seconds. Utilise the first aid kit in the back of your car, and address yourself if possible, or get a passenger to assist. If your injuries require further care, call for the emergency services. Seeking medical attention also helps to add significant evidence to your potential insurance claim.
  2. If possible, take pictures at the scene of the incident. Take down your version of events, date and times, and potentially details of whomever is involved. Be sure to save your dashcam footage if you have one fitted to your vehicle.
  3. Finally, get in touch with your insurance company! Lodge a claim at your earliest convenience, and they’ll help you to get back on the road.

Sasha Quail, business development manager at Claims.co.uk, had this to say about automotive safety tips: “Driving in the winter can cause stress and concern at the wheel. Visibility can be poor, your car may interact differently with the road surface, and you may well feel less assured about your driving ability. These tips are the perfect way to prepare your car for winter, and can get you out on the road with renewed confidence. Remember the basics: check your tyre tread, fully clean your windscreen, plan your journey, and drive only as fast as you feel safe to do so.”

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