Tag Archive | "winter driving"

Motor Blogger Says – Drive For The Season

Well, we – in the UK at least – have been lucky with the weather so far this winter. Certainly it’s been a bit chilly but otherwise – like the man said who fell from a skyscraper every time he passed a window, ‘so far so good’. But, like that man’s ultimate outcome, things can swiftly change for the worse as the fickle finger of Mother Nature gets a bit of a strop on. If your used car is your pride and joy or if you are buying a new car, it’s time to take care.

At any time we could suddenly see the first snow flurry of this dark and dismal season; some northerly parts of the country have already had a first taste of this year’s winter worst feature and temperatures could drop significantly anytime now. With that in mind, now’s the time for Motor Blogger to remind you of the tips for driving on snow and ice.

Keep to the main roads as they’re more likely to be salted. Also bear in mind that after the frost has gone, ice can remain in areas which are shaded by trees and buildings – and it forms there first, so be careful in the evening as the temperature drops.

It may seem obvious yet every year people do forget, so ensure you have de-icer and a scraper. And don’t be one of those people – and despite all the warnings they are still out there – who only scrape a small area and drive looking through a miniscule clear patch that quickly mists over. Clear the whole screen to be able to see properly and don‘t set off until you‘re satisfied.

If the road is slippery when you start off, try it in second gear, releasing the clutch and accelerating gently, absolutely avoiding high revs – this will help prevent wheel spin. Wheel-spin could cause the car to slew around. As you drive, stay in higher gears to help avoid that same wheel-spin. In an automatic be gentle with your feet, and use whatever gearbox features that the car handbook says will help in slippery conditions. There may be a suitable setting.

It seems obvious, but cars go in ditches every winter because drivers haven’t taken icy roads seriously enough. If it’s cold outside treat wet looking patches with great care – they could be ice, not water. Stopping distances are increased by up to 10 times in icy conditions, so leave plenty of distance between your car and the car in front – plan so that you’re not relying on your brakes to stop – on ice they may not do that for you. If it is really slippery slow down early and use the gears to do it.

If the worst happens and your car loses grip and starts to slide sideways, take your foot off the accelerator, and point the front wheels where you want to go. These are just a few pointers to get you thinking and preparing. Being mentally prepared as well as having the right equipment is vital, so think about any past winter problems and what you need to do to avoid them or overcome them if they recur this year. Take a leaf out of the Boy Scout manual – be prepared.

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Staying Safe At Night

As usual, the pointless exercise when we put the clocks back means that the colder months are officially rolling in. And while this may have given us all an extra hour in bed – for one night only – it also means the evenings are becoming much darker, much earlier. So what does this mean for drivers? For most, the five o’clock commute home will be reminiscent of night time with very low visibility, automatically putting us in a much more dangerous environment than during the peak of summer.

To ensure the safety of all drivers and cyclists (given the recent news from London) during this time, we’ve compiled some useful tips for drivers this winter. For example, plan your journey. In Gloucestershire there is a notorious roundabout where accidents often occur. Regular drivers using this route have developed a way to avoid it by planning ahead.

If you have a long night time drive build in extra breaks into your journey and check all car lights before setting off. Check that the indicators, rear lights, brake lights, sidelights, headlights and main beams are all working properly. Regularly clean your lights and windows. You don’t need any other restraints on your visibility! Get in the habit of giving your lights a regular wipe.

Operate your own dazzle policy. If you find you’re being blinded by someone else’s full beam, slow down (if it’s safe to do so) or even stop until they’ve gone. Don’t match it with your own full beam – that‘s heading for road-rage territory. Increase gaps between yourself and the vehicle in front. Make sure you build in extra time and space between yourself and the car in front as you won’t be able to see hazards as easily as you can in daylight. In other words, keep alert.

Make an extra effort to look out for other road users. Pedestrians on country lanes without pavements; cyclists, tottering revellers, they’re all much harder to see at night, even if they’re wearing fluorescent jackets or luminous bunny ears.

Many motorists find night driving a challenge at the best of times but in winter weather even the most competent drivers will encounter additional hazards. Making simple changes to your driving techniques could make all the difference to both your own and other road-users safety during the dark winter months. We might be preaching to the choir but it never hurts to be reminded about road safety.

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Let There Be Light

An estimated 2.6 million cars are being driven illegally on the roads with defective lights, a survey has found. Over one in ten vehicles checked by the authorities across ten major UK cities was found to have a failed headlight, sidelight, rear or brake-light which would significantly increase the risk of an accident.

The scale of the problem is also reflected in MOT failure rates with 1.16 million cars tested in 2012 falling short of required standards because of the condition of their lights.

The survey coincides with trade reminders for drivers to prepare their cars for winter weather and darker driving conditions. It’s a simple enough job – and inexpensive – to fix these things and if you really can’t do it yourself well, there are plenty of professionals to do it for you.

Glasgow fared worst in the study, with just under one in eight of vehicles having defective lights. Newcastle was a close second with more than thirteen percent of cars observed with blown bulbs.

London proved to have the best maintained vehicles with just under seven percent revealed with faulty lights, but even this would mean thousands of drivers in the capital were breaking the law and potentially causing a danger on the road.

Latest figures from the Department of Transport, compiled from police records, show that in 2010, 357 accidents were blamed on vehicles not displaying lights at night or in poor visibility. Over 25,000 accidents were the result of drivers misjudging other vehicles’ speed, often as a result of failing to slow down.

During the survey, researchers monitored cars over a set period of time at busy junctions in the early evening rush hour and recorded the number of cars with faulty lights. The penalty for the offence is £60 and three points.

Missing or non-working brake lights, which can leave drivers unable to judge when the car in front is slowing, showed up as the biggest problem followed by non-functioning headlights.

Owners don’t know when a light has gone out so regular checking is essential, especially in these increased hours of darkness and often more difficult and hazardous autumn and winter conditions. It is an easy job to wander around the car checking these thing out. If in doubt get a family member or friend to help.

In these difficult financial days motorists are delaying essential repairs and waiting for the dreaded MOT but this is a false economy and, frankly, a danger to all. Get them fixed before it’s your life lights that go out or you see the image above in your rear view mirror!

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Winter Draws On. Again.

Yes folks, it’s that time of year again. As Autumn drags us kicking and screaming into the dark, dank days of Winter it is time for our annual reminder to look to your car. Breaking down is never nice but when it’s freezing cold or pouring with rain it is much, much worse.

Your trusty motor has given you good service over the Summer months. It has taken you for seaside daytrips and on away days to theme parks and to see dull relatives. It may have taken you on holiday at home or abroad and throughout this it has never complained.

Nevertheless, by now it will need some TLC. In the same way that a meat pie satisfies when we’re hungry and cold so a bit of lubrication and a coat of wax will rejuvenate your car and make it ready for the extremes of Winter.

Check that anti-freeze for a start. Is the coolant up to snuff? When we get a cold we take a paracetemol. For a car a freeze-up can cause a lot more damage. This is why the oil should be checked and even changed and the other vital fluids topped up as appropriate. Same goes for the battery – they can die on you suddenly; often at the worst time.

Your tyres should have 3mm of tread at a very bare minimum to gain any kind of traction, especially if you’re not going to buy an all-weather or winter set. Check the pressures to make sure they are adequate at least every two weeks. Maybe some temporary tyre snow socks in the boot wouldn’t hurt for emergencies along with a blanket and some other emergency aids?

Give the car a very good clean and apply a decent coat of wax or polish. There’s some good stuff on the market these days so a session now and another on a half-way decent day mid-Winter should do the trick.

There is not really any excuse. If in doubt many garages offer free Winter health checks for your car. Obviously they want to get some business out of it but if it really is not possible to get some good DIY action going then at least you can be sure the car is safe. That’s the important thing.

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A Bright Day On Dark Roads.

At the time of writing this it is warm, sunny, a pleasant breeze is blowing and your Editor is wearing shorts. You probably didn‘t want to know that. The reason it is mentioned at all is that it seems a bit callous to start making reference to the forthcoming misery and dark roads of Winter, but, hey! don’t shoot the messenger, right?

As the clocks go back onto Winter time the road safety charity Brake is calling on all employers to support their ‘Bright Day’ initiative to promote safer roads for cyclists and pedestrians. It seems that two pedestrians and cyclists are killed and 25 are seriously injured every day in the UK.

The ‘Bright Day’ campaign is to raise awareness of this and thus, hopefully, help to reduce these tragic events and raise funds for use with road safety and to support the injured or bereaved.

The idea is – and some of you low-profile types are not going to like this – that ‘Bright Days’ are dress-down days with a difference. Employees are to be encouraged to wear their absolutely very brightest clothes – whatever they like – in return for stumping up a small donation. The thinking is that this will raise awareness amongst drivers to be keeping a look-out of the more vulnerable road users, especially as the nights draw in.

The clocks go back on Sunday 27 October, and employers are urged to plan their Bright Day to coincide with this time of year when it gets darker earlier and there’s a heightened risk to people on foot and bike. This is a fun and simple way for businesses and organisations to get behind the message. Employees (and the boss) get to dress in high-viz gear and walkers and cyclists are encouraged to do the same but with the real thing and not the comedy outifts. It could also help promote the business by alerting the community and local media to the event day.

Last year over eighteen thousand pounds was raised as companies around the country got involved with the scheme. So dig out your neon tutu and flourescent leg-warmers (the ladies might like to do this as well) or your high-viz dayglo pyjamas and run a fun dress-down day in support of the ‘Bright Day’ campaign. Raising awareness might help to save lives in future and that life could be yours. Check out the Brake website for details.

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Don’t Panic – It Might Snow.

At the time of writing this it is early January 2013. The weather in England has been relatively mild and benign (Scotland haven’t fared quite so well but, hey, they wanted independence). Unfortunately for us, we are told – and by the time you read this you may already know – that the weather is going to become much colder and there is a chance of…snow!

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that in a mixed climate like ours we’d be used to bad weather. Sadly this never seems to be the case. As soon as that attractive blonde lady on TV mentions the dreaded S word, the floodgates of doom open and a torrent of dire warnings is spread across all media. That which cannot be named causes national anxiety just at its mention.

In 21st Century Britain, it takes only a few centimetres of s**w to bring everything to a grinding halt. Trains are frozen to the lines and passengers have to route march down the side of the track; shops run out of stock, the Prime Minister flies to Chamonix for a little light skiing, cars freeze up for want of servicing and the rest of us manage as best we can.

Meanwhile, again at the time of writing, whilst we are all looking fearfully out of the window at the sky, some 20,000 people have driven through s**w to a remote ski-jumping location in Zakopane, Poland for an event that always turns into a party. Scandinavians – who have a penchant for running naked into the white stuff and beating themselves with birch twigs – laugh in the face of ten foot drifts and, although they also suffer disruption, cope better with the problems than we do.

This is primarily because, like boy scouts, they are better prepared. We have a history in this country of not being prepared, well, for anything really because preparedness costs money. Everything in the UK comes down to a cost benefit analysis. This is probably because our weather is never that bad, but things can change as the many people who have been flooded in the last six months will be pleased to tell you.

So if nothing is to be done and you are basically on your own then it’s time for a bit of self-reliance. Many European countries (but not Belgium who are as bad as we are) now require drivers to fit winter tyres from a given date. This is a cost to drivers unquestionably, but these tyres have a proven benefit when the white precipitation comes. At the very least motorists should carry s**w chains or the cheaper s**w boots for emergency use. It is also essential to ensure that the coolant is correctly topped up to avoid freezing. Some people go as far as to carry a safety kit in case they become stranded. It’s a thought, especially if kids are involved.

So when the weather forecasters predict the worst and the more excitable newspapers tell us about the impending disaster that’s about to unfold remember the words of the immortal Corporal Jones – ‘Don’t panic!’

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