Your ability to avoid accidents in bad weather conditions really depends on what you consider to be bad weather.
For most of us it would be high winds, heavy rain, fog, snow, frost and most other winter weather. But for some, particularly hay fever sufferers, the spring and summer is arguably worse. High pollen counts can mean long sneezing fits, which can be a huge hazard if you are driving at the time. The summer sun can be pretty dangerous too; sometimes the sun temporarily blinds drivers and causes them to crash. These two situations in particular there precious little you can do to avoid. Let’s take a look at some other winter problems and see how you can avoid accidents in bad weather conditions.
Is it necessary?
Firstly, consider if your journey is really necessary and only proceed if it is. Wherever possible stay off the roads or use alternative travel methods.
Check the weather forecast
See what the weathermen have to say, make sure it is not going to get much worse and if it is, try to delay your journey until it improves.
Look at your route
Consider your route carefully, make sure wherever possible you are driving on main roads. Avoid steep country lanes in icy conditions and be aware of roads that are more susceptible to flooding or high winds.
Take an emergency kit
If you get stuck in ice and snow miles from anywhere, it could take ages for help to reach you. In these instances your emergency kit could be vital and it should include:
- De-icer and ice scraper
- High-visibility vest
- Warning triangle
- First aid kit
- Blanket, warm clothes and boots
- Old carpet and spade if driving in snow
- Mobile phone, only to use while parked
- Food and drink
Much of this, apart from the food and drink, could be left in your boot for use as and when you need it.
Make sure you car is up to it
You should make sure you car is well maintained and the tyres and brakes are in good condition. The odds of an accident are increased if your tyres are bald, particularly on icy roads. Make sure all your lights and wipers are in proper working order. Clean all your windows and mirrors making sure they are totally free of snow and ice. All too often, as the number one accident claims helpline, we are contacted by motorists who have ventured out into conditions their cars are unequipped to handle.
Make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you expect to arrive there. Allow extra time for possible traffic jams and holdups, which are far more likely in bad weather conditions.
Turn your lights on
Have your lights on at all times in bad conditions. This will make you more visible to other drivers. Don’t forget your fog lights in foggy weather, but never tailgate someone else’s. This will give a false sense of security and if they run into a major accident, so will you. Remember that fog can be patchy as well, so after coming out of it, leave it a little while before turning off the fogs lights, you may need them again sooner than you think.
Watch your speed
This is more important than ever in bad weather conditions. It is far better to travel at a lower speed but arrive at your destination 5 minutes later. Speeding puts you at much more risk of an accident, and just ask yourself, what would you do with the five minutes you saved by putting your life at risk? Take corners and islands very slowly, steering gently rather than in jerking movements. As the no. 1 accident claims helpline, we are contacted by hundreds motorists every winter who have been involved in a collision with a vehicle which was travelling too quickly for the conditions.
Avoid the water
Don’t attempt to drive across a flooded road if you do not know how deep the water is – only cross if you can see the road through the water. Just a few inches of water can damage many vehicles and there are some that will float in as little as 2 feet.
Lightly on the gas and brakes
On snow or ice particularly, you need to be very light on the fuel pedal and the brakes. In fact you need to drive your car as smoothly as you can. A sudden jolt forward or the sudden slamming on of your brakes will far more likely cause an accident than if you coast along and put your brakes on in plenty of time. Never brake if the vehicle skids, instead you should ease off the accelerator and steer lightly into the direction of the skid, until you regain control.
Leave lots of space
Leave extra space between you and the car in front. You want to be sure that if they have to slam on their brakes, you can stop before hitting him. Remember, it will take nearly ten times the distance to stop on ice than on a dry road. In strong winds you should leave extra space for motorbikes and high sided vehicles, both of which are much more of a danger to themselves and you, in gales. If you need to overtake another vehicle, make sure you leave plenty of space between the cars and don’t attempt the maneuver unless you have the space and time to do so.
Don’t worry about the idiots
It doesn’t matter what the weather, you will always get drivers who pay a total disregard to the road conditions and drive however they wish. They sail past everyone else, cut others cars up and quite often generally upset other drivers. If one of them cuts you up, keep calm and just tell yourself how stupid they are- keep your eyes open and you might just see their car wrapped round a tree further on.
If there’s anything more you’d like to know about how to avoid accidents in bad weather conditions, contact Accident Advice Helpline, the number 1 accident claims helpline. Our experienced advisers will be more than happy to help.