How to deal with dangerous conditions
Driving in dangerous weather is never a good idea, so avoid it whenever possible. But sometimes you have to venture out, or you get caught up in bad conditions during your journey. Here's how to handle these hazards safely.
Snow and ice
Sub-zero temperatures are some of the most dangerous to drive in.
- Start by packing an emergency kit. You'll need a cosy blanket and some snacks if you get stranded. And pop a snow shovel in the boot while you’re at it.
- Plan your route so you're driving on main roads and motorways. They're more likely to have been cleared.
- Turn off the music. Your ears give you the biggest clue when it comes to slippery roads. When the crunching of snow stops, it's likely that you're in the icy zone.
- It takes ten times longer to stop on icy roads, so keep 20 seconds between you and the car in front.
- Keep your movements smooth, gentle and slow. Sudden braking or accelerating can make your tyres lose their grip on the road, sending you into a skid.
- If you do skid, braking can actually prolong it. Take your feet off the pedals and let the car slow down by itself. If you start to spin, steer into it and let the car straighten up.
Heavy rain and floods
Torrential downpours reduce visibility and make slipping more likely.
- First things first, replace your windscreen wipers whenever they're worn down, and you'll be in the best position for handling wet weather.
- Keep your lights on so other cars can see you.
- Double your stopping distance so you have more time to brake.
- If you notice your steering is less responsive, gently move your foot off the accelerator until you slow down.
- Don't drive through fast moving water – your car could be swept away. Turn around and find a new route.
- Don't drive fast through standing water. It’s inconsiderate to pedestrians, but it can also cause expensive damage to your car. If you really need to do it, go slow to avoid aquaplaning (when your tyres lose contact with the road's surface).
Fog makes driving really difficult, but there are a few tips you should know.
- Because your sight is reduced, you'll need to rely on your other senses. Turn off the radio and roll down your windows at junctions so you can hear what's going on.
- Avoid using full beam – the bright light can be reflected back by the fog, making it even harder to see.
- Only use your fog lamps if the visibility is less than 100m. Otherwise, just stick to dipped headlights. Remember to turn them off when it clears, or you could be dazzling other drivers.
- Keep your demisters on. Fog can cause condensation inside the car, and you might not even notice until you stop.
- Remember that fog makes the road damp. Double your stopping distance and drive more slowly than you usually would.
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