IAIN ROBERTSON

Winter roads

It is unusual these days for the UK to be blighted with little more than leaves-on-the-lines, or light (if unsettling) snow flurries, writes Iain Robertson, but a prolonged Arctic spell has led to more than minor worries for some people.

Believing in the ‘weather forecast’ may have led us into a state of mild complacency in seasons past. After all, it has been a few years since the BBC’s Michael Fish made his 1987 weather announcement that led to the Kent town of Sevenoaks becoming One Oak.

Kent was among the first locations hit hardest recently by ‘The Beast from the East’, a Siberian winter storm that closed schools and roads and stranded many motorists. It has spread, like a creeping white cancer, across the rest of the landscape. In some quarters, it is suggested that we react in a far too alarmist manner to these situations. Yet, in a largely maritime climate, our topography does treat severe conditions somewhat differently to our northern European neighbours.

Winter Tyres

To be safe in adverse wintry conditions, we urge ALL motorists to follow a strategic plan:

  1. Only drive when you absolutely have to
  2. Ensure that you dress appropriately
  3. Ensure that your mobile phone battery is fully-charged
  4. Ensure that you have emergency numbers saved in your phone
  5. Clear ALL snow from your vehicle’s bodywork before driving.

Sometimes, driving is essential, despite the state of the weather, and we recommend that you drive with extreme care:

  • Avoid harsh acceleration that spins the wheels
  • Avoid sudden braking that locks-up the wheels
  • Use higher gears to reduce skid risk
  • Avoid jagged steering movements to maintain your car’s balance
  • Plan as far ahead as you possibly can.

Even when the roads might appear to be cleared of snow (and the winds of Storm Emma are whisking up some monumental drifts) there is still a high risk of ice forming and black ice is all but impossible to spot, especially at night-time. Therefore, it is vital that you maintain a safe amount of space around your vehicle and keep your speed down.

Winter-Tyres-Stopping-Distances

While I am sure to be accused of having OCD, I always place a plastic box in the boot of my car during the winter months that contains some important items. Just as ‘preventative maintenance is better than cure’, to avoid the impact of adverse weather warnings, received from the Meteorological Office, we should pack in it a warm blanket, a folding shovel, some warm gloves, a dry pair of boots and a good coat. It does not do any harm to include a large bar of chocolate (for energy, should you become stranded) and something non-alcoholic to drink.

Naturally, if you were particularly wise, you may have partaken of various ‘Pre-Winter Services’ offered by many dealerships, garages and fast-fit centres that will have checked the condition and integrity of your vehicle’s battery and alternator, the condition of the wiper blades and the tread depth and air pressures of the tyres. All fluid levels would have been topped-up, all lamps checked and the washer bottle and coolant system would have been inspected for their resistance to freezing.

Just because the weather is foul does not mean that we have to become victims of its onslaught. Proper planning and preparation is the key to survival in the trickiest of conditions. Finally, make sure that whomever is waiting at your destination knows that you are on-route and on-time. Your safe motoring is our permanent desire.

 

About Iain P W Robertson

Frequently being told to 'go forth and multiply', Iain P W Robertson's automotive wisdom is based on almost forty years in the business, across all aspects from sport to production, at the highest levels. He likes dogs and drives a Suzuki (not related).