Winter is coming! Or is it? Whatever the weather throws at us, our driving habits should adapt accordingly

The seasons seem to be taking almost as big a shift as Christmas. Where Christmas hits the shops earlier and earlier each year, only to be packed up and put away as close to Boxing Day as possible (as our exhaustion from the stretched-out season and hangovers allow), our winters seem to be arriving later.

The local car garages near me have had their winter warnings out for months. Make those winter checks: de-icer, anti-freeze, screen wash and more. Get your winter tyres on. Be ready for the changes the weather will bring. And so you should be.

The message is clear. Be prepared.

January (so far) has been as mild as patterns from the previous years suggested it would be.

However, it could snow over the next 2 weeks, according to the Met Office. January and February are our most likely months for snowfall. Even without it, we should all pay thorough attention to the differences in driving through winter and summer.

December 2019 was the hottest on record with temperatures hitting 18.7°C. You’d be forgiven for checking your air-con over your snow tyres in those kinds of conditions.

So far so ‘warm’, as we break into 2020 without the dangerous winter weather … well, at least not yet

We’re still averaging over 23 days of snow and sleet each year in the UK, but whether that will fall in our towns and cities (and in your area) is still anyone’s guess. And if you’re in Scotland, that figure jumps to 38 days. But that’s no surprise to anyone. Least of all, it’s residents.

The golden rule—be ready

Of course, if you know the driving conditions are going to take a dive, you’ll make sensible precautions. But, given we don’t always suffer a severe shift in the weather, do we always make the accommodations we should?

My guess is that the typical driver is winging it. I’d be less than surprised if most were crossing their fingers and hoping they’ll get away with it for another year. We’d all like to avoid those unnecessary extra purchases or services after all. And what they’d cost us.

We’re more likely to see an abundance of further rain than snow. And as much as we believe we’re accustomed to the rain (but not as much as the Scottish), are we taking the necessary precautions to stay safe?

We’re not going to go over the winter checks you should be making to your car. You can read them for yourself here.

Essential winter driving tips

It really should be common sense, but many of us still overlook the basics.

Consider this a gentle reminder. It’s our way to make sure you don’t forget how easy it is to slip into bad habits or a collision.

1. Slow Down

We do it automatically (or we should) when it snows. But are we as attentive when it’s pouring with rain, and there’s a river running across the road?

Aquaplaning (or hydroplaning) can provide just as poor a surface on occasions as blanket snow.

When temperatures drop in the evening, especially if it’s been wet during the day, there could be areas of ice that we aren’t expecting. So do yourself a favour, be careful, slow down, and arrive at your destination in one piece.

2. Keep things clean and clear

If you’re not able to see clearly through your windscreen, you’re breaking the law. Setting off with the windscreen steamed up, or coated with condensation, will earn you a fine and points on your licence if you get caught. It could also be the cause of an accident.

As much as we want you to use the local car repair garages we’re here to provide, we’d prefer if it wasn’t for incidents that could have been avoided.

We’d prefer your local car mechanic be there for wear and tear repairs and services, rather than those brought about by uncalled for collisions.

3. Utilise your car’s technology, but don’t let it make you complacent

As intelligent as your car is, and there are many now that will read the conditions and watch the road ahead for you, it’s no substitute for staying in the moment.

Concentrate. Look out for possible problems before they happen. Anti-lock brakes are excellent, so is all-wheel-drive and independent breaking, but they’re assistance—not a remedy—to poor conditions.

4. Bigger doesn’t always mean better

We see more SUVs on the road than ever—and without wonder. They offer advantages to both driving and protection. They’re bigger, sturdier and seemingly stronger.

The true off-roaders will provide advanced driving control, but that shouldn’t give you a licence to drive as though nothing’s changed.

You’re still at risk. Always. Show respect to those around you. There are instances where a smaller, lighter vehicle could out-perform a car that looks built for troublesome or diverse conditions.

Driving tips for different driving conditions

Tips for driving on ice

You won’t always see the ice on the road. It’s the stealthiest of hidden dangers. What might look like a puddle, or a wet patch could have you sliding out of control before you’ve even considered it a problem.

  • Always allow extra time. Rushing means poorer concentration and performance.
  • Slow down. Stopping in the wet will be harder and take longer.
  • Increase your stopping distances significantly.
  • Drive using lower gears.
  • Utilise your gears instead of heavy braking.
  • Make sure hills are clear before trying to climb to the top on possibly slippery roads.

Tips for driving in snow

  • Again, utilise lower gears.
  • Consider setting off in 2nd gear to avoid wheels spinning.
  • If you skid, release the brakes. Guide your car out of danger and try again—slowly.
  • Brake softly—and well in advance.
  • Use lower gears travelling downhill, and drive as slowly as possible.
  • Drive smoothly and steadily.

Driving in strong wind

High-sided vehicles are the most affected, so even if you don’t think your super-compact city-car is likely to be affected, it still pays to be aware of the traffic around you when the gales are building.

If you’re planning on overtaking a lorry or a truck, be sure there’s plenty of room. Pay extra attention in exposed areas, such as travelling over bridges or raised roads.

Driving in the rain

Apart from being incredibly annoying, the rain affects the road surfaces and your vision. So whether the rain is heavy or not, it still pays to offer plenty of added attention. Especially at night, when visibility is even less.

Make sure your wipers are in good condition and working correctly. If you’re not sure, Fixter can supply a local car repair service to come and sort those things for you.

So many accidents are avoidable with a little common sense

The local car mechanic shop near me carries out the most accident repairs throughout winter.

The busiest months for road accidents are November and March, unsurprisingly, the entrance and exit to the trickier winter months.

The other statistic nobody will be surprised by: most accidents happen in rush hour. So plan ahead and take your time. Be prepared, stay alert, concentrate and limit the panic that induces carelessness.

That way, you’ll drive smarter, more efficiently, and ultimately, much safer when you need to.