Here are 10 top tips to keep you safer out on the roads this winter
Our Road Safety Authority expert urges care and caution and warns about becoming complacent
After experiencing the full force of ex-hurricane Ophelia it seems that winter has thrown its worst at us already. Surely there is nothing we can't cope with now this winter?
While we certainly may not get anything on the scale of Ophelia again this year and certainly not a national red weather warning, which is extremely rare, we can still become victims of complacency.
Thinking we are over the worst could lull us all into a false sense of security.
With that in mind here are 10 top tips for safe motoring on the road this winter.
1. Don't get caught out when extreme weather strikes. Just because we've all been through hurricane conditions this year doesn't mean we are immune to any future risk, as a skid on the smallest patch of black ice can have drastic consequences.
2. The golden rule in extreme weather conditions is to ask yourself, 'Is my journey really necessary?'
Last year the emergency services were diverted from real emergencies to rescue stranded motorists who should have known better and avoided driving through flooded roads.
3. It's staggering when I see people driving at high speed in wet road conditions, oblivious to the fact they won't be able to stop the car safely in an emergency.
In heavy rain, visibility is reduced and stopping distances increase dramatically, so slow down and allow extra distance between you and whatever vehicle is in front.
4. There is a saying in road safety circles: brakes stop your wheels, but tyres stop the car. There are as many as 14 deaths a year due to defective tyres, so you need to make sure that yours are fit for purpose. Replace them before they get to the legal limit of 1.6mm. Check the tyre pressure regularly and watch out for any damage like bulges or cuts.
5. Fog poses several challenges, especially for nervous and inexperienced drivers. The rule is to always use your fog lights when visibility drops below 100m.
Fog affects your judgment of speed and you can easily find yourself speeding up without realising it. Don't follow on the tail-lights of the car in front as it could end up being a case of the blind leading the blind.
The most important thing to do is slow down - and gently does it. Open the window at junctions so you can hear any oncoming traffic.
6. Carry a pair of sunglasses in the glove box as the low winter sun can be intense this time of the year. Sun glare can blind you and make it impossible to see. This really is a serious issue and does results in a number of deaths each year.
Make sure your windows are cleaned regularly and free of any grease. If not it will make the effect of the sun glare on the windscreen much worse.
7. When temperatures start to drop towards zero you do need to watch out for black ice on the road. Black ice usually forms on shaded areas, under trees and near high walls. It arises when rain freezes as it hits the road, forming a thin sheet of ice that is extremely dangerous. Again the trick is to slow down.
8. If you skid on ice, do not brake. Take your foot off the accelerator and your car should regain traction. Use every control delicately.
9. If you don't have daytime running lights you should use your dipped headlights at all times, even during the day. Road crashes lessen when drivers light up in daylight. So lights on in the daytime. It's the bright way to go.
10. The last tip to make sure you breeze through winter is to get your car serviced by a mechanic who will make sure your car is roadworthy for the challenges of winter driving.
And don't forget to regularly check on oil, wipers, lights and tyres etc throughout the winter.
Deal with any problems you find straight away because an issue ignored is a crisis ensured. I mean, try clearing your windscreen with defective wipers in freezing fog when you're driving along on a motorway.
Do whatever is needed now to keep your car in its most roadworthy condition.