With temperatures expected to plunge next week, how can you make sure you stay safe on the roads?

De-Ice car

De-Ice car - Credit: Archant

Mark Lopez from Essex-based winter gritting and risk management business, De-ice, offers some tips on keeping safe this winter.

As the nights get colder and darker, the faster we want to hurry home from school and work.

Whilst there is no avoiding the fact that during cold or treacherous weather, journeys will take longer, preparation and knowledge of how to best deal with snow and ice can save some time. Most crucially however, is that the right planning and awareness can help people remain calm and reduce the winter stress, which can lead to careless, and sometimes dangerous, decisions being made - potentially causing accidents.

Black ice

As black ice blends in with the road, and is almost impossible to spot whilst driving, the best way to prepare for one of the most hazardous parts of winter driving is to use your instincts and knowledge to adjust your driving and take proper care.

Watch out for rural, shaded and quiet roads especially.

Adjust your driving to suit the conditions - stopping distances are 10 times longer during ice and snow.

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Black ice tends to develop in the late evening as that is when temperatures are lowest, so even if you when you left in the morning the weather was above zero, always check the temperature before leaving.

The RAC’s recommendation is that if you hit a patch of black ice, don’t panic. Keep the steering wheel straight and maintain your speed – don’t hit the brakes. Use the gears to slow down if necessary, but avoid any sudden movements that could de-stabilise the car.*

Listen to travel and weather warnings

Unless you’re a winter gritting company or meteorologist the weather forecast might not be the most gripping entertainment, but during winter it’s best to check regularly for travel or weather warnings. The weather is notoriously hard to predict and conditions can change quickly so taking the time to be aware of any conditions which might affect your plans will reduce last-minute stress.

Get weather alerts on your phone, or watch the weather forecast the night before any journeys so you can make sure to have time to de-ice your vehicle properly.

Have an appreciation for the forecast and advice on whether travel should be avoided in your area or not.

Invest in winter tyres

Winter tyres use a different type of rubber to summer tyres to maintain flexibility in very cold temperatures, which helps with handling and braking, says the AA**.

They usually have deeper, or different shaped treads to improve grip and traction. However, it isn’t a cheap or easy decision to make and it may not be for everyone, but you should seriously consider fitting winter tyres if:

You need, or are choosing to use your car during periods of ice and snow.

You live in a remote area, or anywhere where the roads are not gritted or treated.

Think of them as an insurance, you may not need them every week, or even every winter, but when the snow and ice comes, you’ll be grateful for the improvement in safety and easier driving they facilitate.

If you decide not to get winter tyres, make sure to check that your normal tyres are in good condition, have enough tread (at least 3mm) and don’t drop the tyre pressure - it will change your car’s handling and reduce grip!

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