With winter now firmly upon us, adverse weather and longer periods of darkness can make driving more hazardous than any other time of year.
Here at The Floow our team of telematics analysts can clearly see through the data captured by thousands of journeys a year that people’s driving behaviour changes dramatically at this time – predominantly the result of a lack of experience when it comes to tackling extreme weather conditions.
This is particularly prominent in young drivers – a demographic with hardly any experience on the roads full stop, let alone when it is raining, snowy and blustery.
According to the Department of Transport in 2014, road traffic collisions account for approximately 15 % of deaths for young adults aged between 15 and 25 and over a fifth of deaths with people aged between 15 and 19. According to the AA bad weather is also a factor in 15% of drivers’ first crashes.
Our telematics technology allows us understand the behaviour of a driver, as well as analysing the speed, acceleration, speed at which the driver brakes and location alongside a whole host other analytics which can help us suggest how to drive safer in the conditions. This can educate the driver, therefore reducing risk and accident potential. It also makes the driver think harder about how they’re driving, driving below or meeting the speed limit in proportion to the weather conditions, and how this will reflect on their telematics feedback as well as safety.
As members of the Royal society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), we’re sharing their vital guide to ensure, even without telematics technology, you are driving safe this winter.
Prepare the vehicle
Get it fully serviced or if not, check:
• Good supply of antifreeze and washer bottle fluid
• Lights are clean and working
• Battery is fully charged
• Windscreen, wiper blades and other windows
• Tyre condition, tread depth and pressure (including the spare)
• Brakes are working well
Be prepared for your journey, big or small:
Keep an emergency it in your car, you never know.
• Tow rope
• Wellington boots
• Hazard warning triangle
• De-icing equipment
• First aid kit
• Working torch
• Car blanket
• Warm clothes
• Emergency rations (hot drink in a flask, simply food supplies)
• Mobile phone (fully charged)
When setting off in bad driving conditions, if you have to, think about the following:
• Let someone know where you are going and what time you hope to arrive, so that they can raise the alarm if you get into difficulties
• Plan alternative routes in case your main choice(s) becomes impassable
• Keep your fuel tank near to full Make sure you have a fully charged mobile phone, so you can call for help or alert someone if you’re delayed
• If you don’t have an emergency kit in your vehicle at least take extra warm clothes, boots and a torch. Consider keeping a couple of long-life energy bars in the glove box.
• Clear your windows and mirrors completely of snow and ice before you set off (make sure the heater is blowing warm air before setting off – it will keep your windscreen clear.)
Driving in snow or ice
• Reduce your speed (smoothly). The chances of skidding are much greater and your stopping distance will increase massively.
• Only travel at a speed at which you can stop within a distance you can see to be clear. Speed limits are the maximum in ideal conditions; in difficult conditions, they can often be too fast.
• Avoid harsh braking and acceleration, or sharp steering.
• To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use your brakes gently.
• Increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front. You may need up to ten times the normal distance for braking.
• Keep your vehicle well-ventilated. The car heater turned up full can quickly make you drowsy.
• In snow, stop frequently to clean the windows, wheel arches, lights and number plates.
• Visibility will probably be reduced, so use dipped headlights.
If you get stuck in snow
• Don’t rev your engine and try to power out of the rut. Instead, move your vehicle slowly backwards and forwards out of the rum using the highest gear you can.
• If this doesn’t work, you may have to ask a friendly passerby for a push, or get your shovel out.
If you get caught in a snow drift
• Don’t leave your vehicle
• Call your breakdown service or the emergency services and let help come to you
• Don’t run the engine to keep warm
Rain reduces your ability to see and greatly increases the distance required to slow down and stop. You will need twice your normal braking distance.
Aquaplaning is caused by driving too fast into surface water. When the tyre treat cannot channel away enough water, the tyre(s) lose contact with the road and your car will float on a wedge of water. It can be avoided by reducing speed in wet conditions alongside having correct tyre pressure and tread depth.
If it happens, ease off the accelerator and brakes until your speed drops sufficiently for the car tyres to make contact with the road again.
• Avoid the deepest water – which is usually near the kerb.
• Don’t attempt to cross if the water seems too deep.
• If you are not sure of the water’s depth, look for an alternative route.
• If you decide to risk it, drive slowly in first gear but keep the engine speed high by slipping the clutch – this will stop you from stalling.
• Be aware of the bow wave from approaching vehicles – operate an informal ‘give way’ with approaching vehicles. Remember to test your brakes when you are through the flood
Avoid driving in fog unless your journey is absolutely necessary. Fog is one of the most dangerous weather conditions. An accident involving one vehicle can quickly involve many others, especially if they are driving too close to one another.
If you must drive:
• Follow weather forecasts and general advice to drivers in the local and national media
• Allow plenty of extra time for your journey
• Check your car before you set off. Make sure everything is in good working order, especially the lights.
• Reduce your speed and keep it down
• Switch on headlights and fog lamps if visibility is reduced
• If you can see the vehicles to your rear, the drivers behind can see you – switch off your rear fog lamps to avoid dazzling them
• Use the demister and windscreen wipers
• Do not ‘hang on’ to the rear lights of the car in front as you will be too close to be able to brake safely
• Switch off distracting noises and open the window slightly so that you can listen for other traffic, especially at crossroads and junctions
• Beware of speeding up immediately visibility improves slightly. In patchy fog you could find yourself ‘driving blind’ again only moments later
• If you break down, inform the police and get the vehicle off the road as soon as possible. Never park on the road in fog and never leave it without warning lights of some kind if it is on the wrong side of the road
• Hold on tight
• Avoid bridges
• If driving a high sided vehicle … don’t.
Ironically, having talked about all these poor winter weather conditions, winter suns can also cause difficulties.
In winter, the angle of the sun in the sky will frequently be too low for your visor to help. If blinded by glare:
• Reduce your speed
• Reduce the effect of glare by keeping both the inside and outside of your windscreen clean and grease free.
• If you wear sunglasses (with prescription lenses if necessary) take them off whenever the sun goes in. They should not be worn in duller weather or at night as they seriously reduce the ability to see.
If you get stranded
Don’t panic. Stay with your vehicle and call the Emergency services on your mobile phone.
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