With the thickness of the fog that seems to be drifting across the roads currently, we thought it was a good time to review our safety tips for driving in winter!
Driving in winter conditions can be challenging, with hazards ranging from snow and ice to frozen windscreen fluid. Whilst there will always be an element of luck when it comes to avoiding accidents (you can't stop other people from driving badly, unfortunately), there are some precautions you can take to try and avoid issues, and be ready if you happen to experience a problem.
For disabled drivers and those with mobility issues, there is the added risk of getting to and from the car, which can be difficult when the ground is slippery or covered in snow. Remember that wheelchairs handle better when pushed in snow and on ice, rather than being wheeled so, where possible, a second pair of hands can come in useful. If you’re really concerned about getting around then you can upgrade the treads on your wheelchair wheels to those that are better suited to dealing with snow, ice and rain.
Top Tips for Winter Driving
Prepare a ‘weather kit’ in case your journey doesn’t go as planned. Make sure you pack warm blankets, cosy clothes and food and drink to keep you going. Be sure to include any medication that you might need and a thermos of something hot is a great way to keep spirits up in the cold.
Prepare your car – and yourself - for winter driving. It’s a good idea to get your car checked and serviced before winter really sets in, everything from the brakes to the tyres. If you’re nervous about driving in winter conditions then learn how best to handle a skid on ice, tackling a snowy road, or driving through sleet. Make sure that you carry a can of de-icer, an ice scraper, and a spare tyre and changing kit as a minimum.
Maintain communications. If you do get into a sticky situation in snow or ice then being able to call for help will be key. Make sure your phone is charged before you leave the house or take an emergency portable battery just in case. Avoid plugging your phone into the car to charge unless absolutely necessary, as this will wear down the car’s battery.
Weather-proof your equipment. This could be anything that makes using the car easier but that you may not find on the average vehicle, including wheelchair hoists, ramps and tail lifts, all of which can be affected by cold weather. Check for any frozen joints, icy ramps and stuck mechanisms before you try to use them to avoid accidents.
Invest in breakdown assistance. For disabled drivers, knowing that you will have help when you need it can bring real peace of mind. If you’re making a long journey that is out of the ordinary for you then it can be a good idea to let someone know where you’re going, and check-in with them during your journey where possible (safely, of course).
If you are driving an automatic vehicle then bear in mind that they tend to handle less well than a manual car in extreme conditions such as snow, so if the weather is really bad it may be a better idea to travel with someone else.
Don't rush - always wait until your windscreen is completely clear of mist or condensation before you move off, and make sure you can see all of your mirrors and through all windows. It's not worth risking driving in difficult conditions when your visibility is impaired.
These tips are a great way to stay safe on the roads this winter. However, the best tip of all is don’t travel if you don’t need to. Unnecessary journeys in treacherous weather are not a good idea, particularly if you are not used to driving in snowy or icy conditions. Unless you absolutely have to get behind the wheel of that car, consider whether it might be better to stay at home and make the journey another day.