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How to drive in winter conditions

An icy twisty road from above

How to drive in winter?

Wondering how to drive in winter conditions, now that the temperature has dipped? Maybe you need a refresher on how to drive without winter tires? 

The best advice when bad winter weather is forecast is to not drive at all. But if you are forced to go out, follow these simple winter driving tips and you’ll help reduce the risk of having an accident.

Keep your distance

The most basic problem is lack of anticipation. You can be driving along peacefully but hit a patch of ice and be done in a few seconds.

A lot of accidents could also be avoided if there was always enough distance maintained between cars. Too many people follow the guy in front as though the roads are still OK.

Keeping a greater than normal distance between you and the next car gives you more time to consider alternatives in case the car in front of you runs into trouble.

You can start to slow down sooner and more slowly, even if your car has ABS brakes, or you may be forced to pull off the road.

Driving up hills

One of the more frustrating things about driving in snow is how most people deliberately slow down when they approach going up a hill.

It doesn’t make it any safer to slow down in this situation because you need all the momentum you can get to go up some hills in winter.

Giving yourself extra space between you and the car in front allows you to at least maintain momentum, and if the car in front gets stuck you may still be able to drive around it.

Once over the brow of the hill and heading down the other side, take things dead slow, keeping in as low a gear as possible. Avoid heavy braking and steer into bends earlier than usual to give the front wheels plenty of time to find traction and take you where you need to go. That way you'll be able to bring things to a controlled halt before you get to the edge of the road. 

Use your local knowledge

If you are driving over the same route, go over in your mind where the upcoming shoulders are and where the normally grassy, flat spots on the side of the road lie. Notice where water usually collects because these will probably be bad spots.

Remember how the road tilts and how it curves - it's all part of anticipating. Also be ready to do the opposite of what you'd normally do.

If a car is coming at you, out of control, concentrate on avoiding it by using whatever part of the road is available - and that may even mean speeding up. Just braking hard will probably get you in trouble.

Overconfidence affects some people. Just because they are driving a four-wheel-drive SUV with ABS is absolutely no guarantee they won't get stuck.

Too many Jeeps and Land Rovers and the like get stuck off the road - most likely because the drivers were going too fast.

Most people forget that four-wheel drive works only when you are accelerating. When you're off the accelerator, you're just like everybody else.

Keep the screen wash topped up!

Finally, make sure you've got plenty of washer fluid in the reservoir – and ensure it's concentrated enough to stay liquid when temperatures dip down to -10C or lower.

Also ensure your wipers are in good shape (change them annually) and fill up the fuel tank before you embark on a long journey – if you're on a motorway that's closed because of a jackknifed truck you'll probably have to spend the night in the car and will need to run the engine periodically to use the heater.