Brian Douglas: Winter driving in snow extra dangers; be aware!
The first very cold snowy morning appears, not such a shock as was advertised on local TV last evening. I greet the guy next door as we step outside our dwellings and start brushing the snow off my car, he I notice simply brushes off the windscreen and in a flash is into his car, engine started and moving away. Stop I shout as see his car is covered in snow all apart from the windscreen, which is still iced up to appoint where one cant see properly. He winds the side window down and says the screen will clear; I have the heater blower on and is away down the road.
Goodness knows how many other drivers set off like this in a morning so full of ice and snow as they simply think only of being to work on time, forgetting personal safety and that of other road users and pedestrians alike.
Now let’s look at the correct and sensible way to address early morning snow conditions before and after driving off down the road.
If snow is advertised for your area it may be only light snow, but may not be and in either case this can be accompanied by ice, including unseen black ice on roads. It is therefore essential to be prepared in good time. Have winter tires on your car and with good tire tread also as are useless if are well used after several years of winter driving. Check the tires for tread and also tire pressure, a job that should be done periodic all year round anyway, but essential at the start of winter snow and ice.
Make certain you have antifreeze in the car and that the battery is fully charged, plus that the windscreen wipers and washer solution bottle is full including with solution that will work in minus temperatures! Check all lights are working and if you have a fair amount of distance to travel, have a snow shovel and like me a blanket in the car also as will help keep you warm if the road is blocked ahead for any amount of time until you can pass in safety again. I also keep a flask of hot water in my car in the cold season so can make a hot drink too!! Having a scraper to clear ice off the car windows is essential and also a good idea to have lock de-icer in case the car locks are frozen, but remember not to leave this in the car when locked at night!! Always have a tow rope that is accredited for times of breakdowns and also a first aid kit and fire extinguisher. You may never need them, but they are an essential part of your car kit to have at all times
All of the above can be put down to preparation before the snow arrives allowing you to be prepared as will help on that first icy cold, snowy morning.
If you saw on the news media that its going to snow the night before, then be prepared to set off to work earlier to allow for any delays caused by road conditions. On arrival at your car brush the snow off the car first all of it, then open the door and start the engine and turn on the de-ice heater. Now while that starts to work you can scrape ice off the windows, all of them and off the lights as well. Now the car de ice blower will be working and your screens will be clear, so you can see in safety ahead and you can now leave for work.
Keep the speed well down and never use the brakes or you will simply find your car out of your control. With your speed reduced to a safe level, including at a safe distance from the vehicle in front you will also be able at junctions and in traffic to stop in time without hitting the vehicle in front. If the road is blocked ahead put the hazard lights on to allow other road users to see the danger ahead too. Be extra vigilant of other road users including traction driven horses and carts if in a Country where they still use them daily as in Romania.
When travelling downhill use a low gear to keep the car speed stable which will allow you to stop on time. Likewise when travelling uphill leave plenty of space in front so you can keep your speed and drive the hill without changing gear. If you do get into a skid steer into it. For instance if your vehicle back end is sliding to the left you also must steer to the left and don’t leave your hands from the steering wheel or apply the brakes or you will crash the vehicle.
Finally in built up areas keep well below the speed limits and be aware of extra dangers like children crossing roads on their way to school. It is estimated that it takes 10 times longer to stop on icy roads than on dry asphalt ones and speed is a major cause of Road traffic accidents in such conditions.
About Author :
Brian Douglas is a British humanitarian working many years in collaboration with Suceava County Police Inspectorate in Romania.