Winter

How drivers can stay safe as the ‘Beast from the East’ blasts Britain

How drivers can stay safe as the 'Beast from the East' blasts Britain with Arctic winter

The ‘Beast from the East’. Snowpocalypse. Snowmageddon. Snowzilla. Call it what you will, the Siberian winter weather that has blasted across Europe is playing havoc with Britain’s roads and wider transport network.

On Tuesday, parts of of the UK awoke to find that up to six inches of snow had fallen. And blizzard-like conditions meant gritters and snow ploughs were having little effect. Quite simply, the snow was settling faster than they could clear it.

In Kent, multiple lanes of the M20 and M2 motorways had to be closed. The result saw thousands of drivers stranded on the gateways to east London and the M25.

Many train operators had to cancel services. Heathrow and Gatwick airports also cancelled flights. And thousands of school children were pleased to find they were being treated to a ‘snow day’.

Is there more snow on the way?

Continue reading

Black ice: avoid a white-knuckle ride with this expert’s driving tips

Black ice: avoid a white-knuckle ride with this expert’s driving tips

Black ice is the most dangerous natural hazard drivers face on the road. Speak to anyone that’s encountered it and they will tell you it sends a shiver down their spine just thinking about it.

Many parts of Britain are currently experiencing harsh winter weather. However, with some sensible precautions, driving on black ice doesn’t have to be a white-knuckle ride.

We asked Paul Ripley to explain how drivers can safely tackle the often-invisible danger. One of Britain’s most respected advanced driving instructors, Ripley has coached police forces, vehicle engineers and thousands of drivers looking to improve their skills behind the wheel. Little wonder he has earned the nickname ‘God’s chauffeur’. These are his tips for driving on black ice.

What is black ice?

Continue reading

Why are modern car headlights so bright? How to prevent dazzle

Why are modern cars’ headlights so bright? We explain what’s causing more drivers to be dazzled at night and how to prevent it

Are car headlights getting brighter? Ask around, and you’ll find it’s a common grumble among anyone that drives, especially those that frequently take to the road first thing in the morning or at night.

They’ll tell you that on an unlit road, especially one with crests or undulations, oncoming traffic can leave them feeling as if they can’t see.

During the winter months, the problem is exacerbated. Fewer daylight hours mean cars spend more time with their lights on. And the latest technology on modern cars has introduced superior lighting power to even the average family car.

While that’s great for any driver of a car with powerful lights, it’s not so safe for drivers of oncoming vehicles. They can find themselves blinded by the brilliant light from the latest systems.

Is there anything dazzled drivers can do? And will headlights continue to get brighter?

Continue reading

Expert advice: why fuel flooding is a problem for drivers

Fuel flooding

If a car starts, then refuses to start again almost immediately afterwards, it could be flooded with fuel

How do you start your car in the morning? Many of us have the same routine. And for some drivers, that could be the cause of a potentially inconvenient breakdown.

I love cars but my job as vehicle and customer data insight manager is all about figures and statistics. It involves analysing numbers and seeing how people – our customers ‑ use their vehicles on a daily basis. The results can be fascinating. Read on to see how the way you start your motor could leave you stranded at the roadside.

The mystery breakdown

Continue reading

Christmas gift guide for drivers 2017

Whether you know someone that drives for a living, potters about with cars at the weekend or is a young, enthusiastic petrolhead hooked on repeats of Top Gear and video games, Christmas is the time to treat them to a gift that will get their motor revving.

Our suggestions range from practical presents to neat gadgets. So get in the festive spirit and let these ideas serve as a short cut to inspiration for treating that special someone. Wrapping paper not included!

Continue reading

Expert advice: How to drive in strong winds

Expert driving advice for stormy weather and high winds

We rarely need reminding that the UK is an island. And one of the consequences of not being part of a larger continent is we’re frequently buffeted by strong winds. And that means whenever the Met Office issues weather warnings drivers in particular should pay attention.

Car owners frequently think rain and snow present the most challenging driving conditions. But wind is up there with the worst of them. Short of staying at home, lighting the fire and pouring a cuppa, what practical steps can drivers (along with bikers and cyclists) take to stay safe when they need to get from A to B in strong winds?

Continue reading

The best driving courses for mastering winter weather

The best driving courses for mastering winter weather

Winter weather isn’t only dangerous for drivers when ice lies around a bend or snow is falling from the sky. The limited daylight hours, low sun, wet leaves, standing water and submerged potholes all make for particularly difficult driving conditions.

Drivers who don’t always feel confident when faced with such challenges – and many don’t – would benefit from taking a driving course specifically aimed at dealing with winter weather.

There is a wide variety of training available, tackling everything from aquaplaning to driving on ice. Prices range from affordable refresher courses to once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Here’s how you can stay safer, and feel more confident, when driving in the most tricky of all the seasons. Continue reading

Expert advice: Defrosting cars – all you need to know

Defrosting cars

Iced up car windows are all too familiar at this time of year

Defrosting cars is something we all have to do at some point in the year. Although it sounds simple and should be relatively straightforward there are still some dos and don’ts. Here are my top tips to ensure you defrost your car and get going, even in the toughest conditions.

How to defrost your car

Continue reading

Icy roads: What to look out for and how to drive on them

Icy roads

If the verge is frosty it’s quite likely the road will be icy too

Icy roads probably aren’t something we think about much. Yet for many of us driving on ice is a regular occurrence during the coldest months of the year. If you have to scrape the ice off your car in the morning, or even perhaps when you leave work in the late afternoon, there may be ice on the road. We explain how to figure out whether the road is likely to be icy and how to drive if it is.

How to spot icy roads

Continue reading

Expert advice: Driving in snow – All you need to know for this winter

Driving in snow

Snow frequently causes chaos on the roads. Read on to find how to prepare

The best thing to do if there’s heavy snow is to avoid going out altogether. However, driving in snow can’t always be helped. If you do have to take to the road in snowy conditions there are some simple steps to ensure you arrive at your destination safely. And if for whatever reason you do get stuck, taking the precautions we recommend will at least help you to stay safe and comfortable.

How should you prepare for driving in snow?

You need to know which the driven wheels on your car are. Front-wheel drive is usually better than rear-wheel drive in snow; four-wheel drive offers the best solution. However, in snow, a heavy four-wheel drive SUV is still likely to struggle if it doesn’t have winter tyres on. When you head out in snow, the best advice is to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. Plan your route around main roads. These are the most likely to have been gritted and weight of traffic stands a good chance of melting all but the heaviest snow falls on carriageways.

How do you prepare your car for snow?

You need to have a car that is in the best possible shape to face up to the tough conditions. See how to conduct your own winter checks here. You don’t know if you’re going to get stuck and if you do, how long you’re going to be immobile for. Make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel: if you need to spend the night in the car, it’s good to have the option to run the engine every now and again to warm yourself up (ensure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow first). And make sure you’ve got a full reservoir of screen wash, diluted so that it won’t freeze in sub-zero temperatures.

What kit should you carry in the car?

Most importantly make sure you’ve got a mobile phone with plenty of battery life in it. You should also have a blanket or warm clothes, a bottle of water and some snacks in case you get stuck in the car. Depending on where and how far you’re driving, you should be carrying a warm coat and some sturdy walking boots.

As far as kit for the car goes, a reflective jacket will ensure you’re visible and hopefully make it safer if you have to dig your car out or work on it at the roadside. A shovel is a handy thing to have for digging a car out of the snow. If it’s really freezing, a de-icer spray will help clear hard ice that may have formed beneath the layer of snow on your windows. A tow rope is simple to carry and could be indispensable in an emergency. And jump leads could be useful if your battery dies or you have to help another driver with a flat battery.

Kit check list

  • Mobile phone plus charger
  • Blanket and warm clothes
  • Water and snacks
  • Sturdy boots and a warm coat
  • Reflective jacket
  • Shovel
  • Tow rope
  • Jump leads
  • De-icer spray and scraper

What must you do before driving in snow?

Visibility is key. Clear snow off all the windows and lights. You should also clear snow off the bonnet as it’ll blow back at the windscreen when you drive. And brush snow off the roof. This could either fall over the windscreen and temporarily blind you when you brake, or fly off into the windscreen of the car behind if you accelerate hard. Ensure the windows inside are free from condensation before driving.

How do you set off on snow?

Whatever manoeuvre you’re trying in the snow, less is more. If you’re trying to pull away, ramping up the revs will simply cause the wheels to spin and the car to dig in deeper. Put the car in first, or if it’s got a big engine second, use a normal amount of revs and feed in the clutch gently, slipping it so that the driving wheels take their power slowly and progressively.

How do you slow down on snow?

Remember that even a small car like a Ford Fiesta weighs around a tonne. And the heavier something is, the more distance it takes to stop. If you’re driving on snow or an icy road, anticipation is the name of the game; the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) says it takes 30m to stop from 30mph in snow, compared to 12m in normal conditions. Look as far ahead as possible and if you think you’ll have to slow down, for another car or a corner, start applying the brakes very gently as you shift down through the gears.

What happens if you get into a skid?

If you go into a corner too quickly, your car might start to skid. If the car refuses to turn with the wheels (understeer), don’t brake or accelerate. Change down and wait for the front wheels to grip. If the rear swings round (oversteer), again don’t brake or accelerate but turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid. This should prevent the car from spinning round. But ideally, you won’t be piling into a corner quickly enough for either of these things to happen. As I said before, when you’re driving in snow, less really is more, especially when it comes to safety.

Breakdown causesNeil Wilson is Green Flag’s head of rescue claims and motor claims response