Brrrr….winter is well and truly here. Sub-zero temperatures are continuing to strike around Ireland, and snow and ice are presenting road hazards each day. It’s important in conditions like these to alter your driving style to keep you and other road users as safe as possible. Here are our top tips for safe driving in freezing conditions:
1 – Check your van before you leave
Make sure your tyres have the correct thread depth – at least 1.6mm, and ideally 3mm or more. Also check that wipers are not excessively worn. And make sure you’re carrying equipment that could be useful in the event of an accident or breakdown – e.g. a warning triangle, high-vis vest, tow rope, torch and batteries, first aid kit. Bring a spare charger for your phone too, to be sure you’ll be able to make any necessary calls.
2 – Clear snow and ice from your van’s roof
People always take great care to clear their windscreen…but clearing the roof is equally important. That’s because snow or larger chunks of ice on the roof can begin to melt and then fall onto the windscreen as you drive along. Prevent this from happening by taking just a minute longer to prepare your van before you leave.
3 – Be safe…Be seen
Clear snow or frost from your headlights too, and use dipped headlights as you drive. In freezing fog, use your fog lights too. Remember to turn them off again afterwards.
4 – While driving…drive more slowly!
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s the most important advice we can give. Drive only as fast as conditions allow. Remember that in ice or snow, stopping distances can be up to ten times longer than usual.
5 – Gently brake and accelerate
Braking too quickly can cause a skid. Accelerating too quickly can cause your tyres to lose their grip on the road too. Generally speaking, slow everything down and drive more gently in wintry conditions. It’s safer all round.
6 – Stay in the highest gears possible
As you drive, use the highest gear possible for the weather and road conditions you’re in. Then, as you gently brake, move down in gears too, to come to a gradual halt.
7 – For automatic gearboxes…Select ‘2’
If your van has an automatic gearbox, put the gearstick at ‘2’ instead of ‘Drive’ if you’re in slippery or snowy conditions. This limits the gear changes and means you don’t need to brake as frequently. Some newer vans also have a specialist ‘Winter’ setting – check your owner manual.
8 – If you break down…stay safe
The Road Safety Authority says that in the event of a breakdown, Drivers need to ensure their van is well in off the road so as not to obstruct othes. The driver should also put on their hazard warning lights. If the van breaks down on the motorway pull in as far as you can, alerting traffic behind you with hazard lights. The driver should leave their van, get behind the barrier (on the embankment) and call the Gardaí, on their mobile phone or roadside telephone.
We hope our tips for safe driving in freezing conditions help to keep you safe throughout the winter. But remember, if an accident does occur, your van insurance is there to protect you – and we are the leading providers of van insurance in Ireland.
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