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Expert advice: How to drive in strong winds

Expert driving advice for stormy weather and high winds

As storm Doris approaches Britain, bringing snow and strong winds approaching 80mph, drivers face disruption and additional hazards on the roads. At the time of writing, the Met Office had issued an amber, weather warning for northern England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, which means people should prepare for the storm conditions, and a yellow warning for other parts of the UK.

This means there are likely to be 80mph gusts of winds, waves of up to 60ft impacting coastal areas, possible damage to trees and structures, interruption of power supplies and disruption to travel.

Such severe weather makes for challenging driving conditions, but short of staying at home, lighting a fire and pouring a cuppa, what practical steps can drivers take to stay safe when they need to get from A to B in strong winds?

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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

Black ice: How to keep control on the hazard you can’t see

Black ice

Black ice looks like the road surface has been freshly painted. From a car it’s frequently invisible until it’s too late

The current freezing but largely dry weather conditions pose a unique threat to motorists: black ice, a hazard that is all the more dangerous because it’s impossible to see. The first you know about black ice is usually when you lose control of the car. However, there are some steps you can take to be prepared. Peter Rodger from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) said: “We all need to respect that the weather changes and make adjustments to deal with it. Being mentally prepared as well as having the right equipment is vital, so think about last year, any problems it caused you, and what you need to do to overcome them if they recur.” Here are our expert tips for coping with the threat of black ice.

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Top 5 winter emergencies drivers face – and how to deal with them

 

Winter driving emergencies and how drivers can deal with them

Aquaplaning is the most common hazard drivers face in winter (Picture © Porsche)

When we’re on the road, the firefly twinkle of Christmas lights and warm glow of a roaring fire is just something to look forward to when we get home. The rest of the time it’s mostly cold, damp and dark – in other words, the most difficult driving conditions of the year.

Sprinkle a fresh and fluffy layer of snow on the roads, add a touch of black ice for good measure, and it gets downright treacherous. While it’s a good idea to invest in tuition at an advanced driving course, not everyone has the time or money to spare. So these invaluable tips from Peter Rodger, a former chief examiner at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, should benefit all drivers this winter.

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Driving courses that could prevent another young driver tragedy

With distressing video footage released from a young driver crash, the importance of driving courses for novices was once again highlighted.

The film was released when the parents of two young drivers killed in a drug-driving accident gave police their permission. It was salvaged from 21 year-old Michael Owen’s smartphone after his Renault Clio was crashed by friend Kyle Careford, 20. The pair from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, veered off the road and crashed through a church wall. They were under the influence of drugs and had been driving at speeds of up 90mph along narrow lanes near Crowborough, Sussex.

Owen’s mother Kat said: “If all this stops one person from making the same mistake, then some good has come from showing this video.” Young or inexperienced drivers can also put themselves forward for additional driving courses that can help make them safer, more observant drivers. Here are four courses that should do the job.
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Young drivers: Experts say new laws needed to help cut casualties

Young drivers

One government idea is for drivers to have a minimum 20 hours of driving at night before they can take their driving test


The number of people killed on Britain’s roads increased in 2014 and young drivers are still the most dangerous category of vehicle user. It’s prompted experts to call for a review of driver training. Road safety experts say figures show one in five young drivers aged 17 to 24 crashes within six months of passing their test. And road accidents are the biggest killer of young people in the UK, higher than both alcohol and drugs. We investigate plans to reverse that trend.

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‘Woefully poor’ motorway service areas slammed

Motorway service areas

The motorway may be fine; its services could let it down (Picture © BMW)

Britain’s motorway service areas have been condemned as being ‘woefully poor’. As drivers prepare for trips to visit friends and family over the long Easter weekend, the motorway service stations many will have to stop at have been called ‘inadequate’, ‘filthy’ and ‘ill-maintained’.  Continue reading

Company drivers urged to ensure they are properly trained

Ford Kuga rear-view parking camera

Ensuring company cars have the latest safety aids such as a reversing camera and object detection helps those who drive for work (Picture © Ford)

Do you drive for your employer? Have you had the correct training or, indeed, any training at all? If the answer is no, then it’s time to take action: at least 24% of road deaths and serious injuries in this country involve a vehicle that is being driven for work.  Continue reading