IAIN ROBERTSON

Our unofficial ‘Care Campaign’, with winter weighing-in all over the UK, means that we have some pertinent advice for all motorists, highlights Iain Robertson, that is not intended to preach but more to help you to make progress most of the time.

While snow has already hit the high ground, it is abundantly clear that its slippery effects may ground us over coming weeks. If there is one rule of thumb about winter driving that we should all contemplate it is DON’T DRIVE UNLESS YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO!

For the rest of the time, be aware that lower road surface temperatures, which can be lower than the air temperature read-outs on cars fitted with thermometers, can equate to seriously reduced grip, even without snow and ice being present. Less grip means that stopping distances, especially in emergency situations, can be doubled at very least. It may help a little, if your car is fitted with grippier winter tyres, but even the most sophisticated electronic traction control system has to comply with the Laws of Physics. So remember: WHEN GRIP IS LESS, SLIP IS GREATER!

Keeping a safe distance, within which you are able to stop, if necessary, is vital, as is being highly observant of other drivers and road-users, who might not be thinking as clearly as you are. Be gentle on your vehicle’s controls. Plan as far ahead as you can but also mirror-check what is happening in your wake. Bear in mind that the phenomenon known as ‘black ice’ is also highly prevalent at this time of the year. While not ‘invisible’, it can be difficult to spot it, so take care.

Personally, I love it, when the skies are blue, the sun is bright and it is frosty out. However, those ‘ideal’ conditions also create less welcome situations both first time in the morning and later in the evening, although fog can last all-day, when the sun cannot burn it away.

As a dense wet mist that either rolls in from the sea, or radiates upwards from the ground, fog forms when the temperature reduces to the point at which air becomes saturated and forms suspended water droplets. It is seldom consistent, which insists that you need to compensate. Your car will have foglamps fitted to it, if not at the front, then certainly at the rear. While the object is not just to see as much as you can, but also to be seen, use dipped headlights and DON’T FORGET TO SWITCH-OFF THE FOGLAMPS, WHEN VISIBILITY IMPROVES!

There is nothing you can do to reduce fogginess. Use your wipers and keep the car’s screens clear of condensation inside and mist outside. Keep your speed down. Keep your distance from the vehicle in front. Time is never more important than you and your passengers’ safety, so don’t rush. Avoid following slavishly the tail-lights of the vehicle ahead and try, as much as road markings will allow, to pick out the edge of the road as your guide.

If you are travelling any distance around the festive period, if you can contact people at your destination, let them know you are en-route. If you have a sat-nav system, it will provide you with an expected time of arrival. Keep your mobile-phone fully-charged. Also ensure that traffic reports are enabled on your vehicle’s radio, just in case roads are blocked, but be conscious that your sat-nav is unaware of weather conditions and, if it offers an alternative route, it may not be the best option!

Keeping safe must be your priority in any seasonal weather conditions. We have a simple, five-point set of useful instructions:

  1. Keep your distance
  2. Be sensitive with the controls
  3. Use your lights and wipers properly
  4. Maximise visibility where possible
  5. BE AWARE!

Conclusion:     If you are already a regular reader, we want to keep it that way! We are not telling you how to drive but we are suggesting some aspects that are too easily forgotten in today’s safe and cosseting new cars.