SEASONAL DRIVING ADVICE
If you want to avoid the constant ‘push-push’ of both print and other media advertising, then read the following information posited by Iain Robertson, which is based on more than forty years professional motoring and an advanced skillset.
Governing by fear is something with which we have all become familiar in the UK. If you listen to any government minister’s comments in relation to the pandemic, ‘Brexit’, or the state of the economy, you can be sure of two things: 1. It is our fault; and 2. It will be deadly, terminal, or tragically downhill.
As tends to be the case, advertisers follow suit, as they assess their market’s mood but, then, try to sell it something. Buying into brand integrity is the consumer’s choice. If you prefer Andrex, with its references to cuddly puppies, over Izal, the school’s favourite that has the absorbency quality of greaseproof paper, then it is your right to opt for one, or t’other.
When the issue in question is one of safety, major brands that invest heavily in a testing and proving regime are always going to be preferable to those less renowned. Road safety is not ‘all about me’, because the actions, or reactions you take may have a major impact on other road users, which is a point worth bearing in mind. At this time of the year, even though we no longer have the delineated seasonal changes that we may remember from our childhoods, temperatures still fluctuate and are the most significant conditional aspects that will affect our motoring safety. Bear in mind that four-wheel drive can be useful but it will not save you from irresponsible behaviour.
Firstly, I mention the round black things that lurk within the wheel arches of our vehicles, because they are the only connection that exists between vehicle and roadway. It is very easy to preach about swapping from summer to winter grade tyres but the replacement costs, even though they can be amortised over three, or four years, may be as little as £250 for a set of four (plus fitting fees, of up to £80) but up to £2,000, if your vehicle has wide, low-profile covers as standard. You may decide to buy an additional set of wheels upon which to mount the ‘winter’ tyres, which will add to the costs but mean that you can swap them over in the domestic driveway.
I do recommend winter grade tyres, as they possess more rigid sidewalls, a tread design that will clear any slush/snow build-up but, most importantly, a more compliant rubber compound that operates more efficiently in lower temperatures (below 10-degreesC), to provide significant additional grip in adverse conditions. If you cannot afford them, ensure that the normal tyre pressures are okay (you will find the seasonal details in your vehicle’s handbook) but adjust your normal speed accordingly, to accommodate for more slippery roads.
As it is illegal to drive with impaired vision (not yours but the car’s), if there has been a heavy frost, use an ice-scraper and a de-icing spray to clean ALL exterior glass, before you move off. Do not make a ‘letterbox slot’ that will both draw unwelcome attention and harm your safety seriously. Ice-scrapers cost less than a £1.00 but de-icing spray is more costly. Much of the following information is applicable, when your vehicle is not garaged.
If your vehicle is covered in snow, use a long-handled soft brush and sweep it off the roof, bonnet and bootlid/tailgate. Leave unattended snow on the roof and the first time you brake may allow it to slide forwards and obliterate your vision.
Ensure that your vehicle’s washer fluid container has an appropriately diluted supply of winter screenwash. It is illegal for the container to be empty. It is always useful to have small pin handy (I keep one in the driver’s sun visor), to clear frozen washer jets. Try not to use your vehicle’s wiper blades as a means to clear denser ice/frost from the screen, as the extra wear will play havoc with the rubber.
If your vehicle has an air recycle function (usually a two-way switch in the bank of heating/ventilation controls), make sure that it is set to allow fresh air into the system, as recycled air will take ages to clear the inside of the windows. It is very important not to leave your car unattended, with the engine running, when waiting for the windows to demist, as, even on a private driveway, it is illegal to do so.
The odds are that you may drive when it is dark. Ensure that ALL exterior lighting is in good order and that there are no blown bulbs, or lighting units, as they can incur penalty points on your Driver’s Licence. Do not use either front, or rear-guard foglamps in conditions that are not adverse and, should you have used them appropriately, ensure that they are switched off, when conditions become clearer, to avoid blinding, or confusing drivers in front, or behind your car. The object is to be seen.
If you have available space in the boot of your car, it can be advantageous to place a small box in it, which would contain seasonal provisions. My personal list of those items includes: a small ex-Army folding shovel (useful in snowdrifts), a wool blanket (for warmth, in the event of a breakdown, or traffic holdup), a pair of wellies, a pair of rolled-up winter socks and a large bar of Cadbury’s chocolate (a most useful emergency snack; other brands are available).
Ensure that your mobile telephone is fully charged and that a recharging cable is kept in the car. Regardless of journey length, either by time or mileage, notify your location of your intended time of arrival and ensure that it has your contact details. Ensure that, if you are a member of any of the vehicle emergency services (AA, RAC, Green Flag etc.) that your membership card is handy and up-to-date. If you have planned a trip, make certain that your vehicle is fully serviced and in good order.
Conclusion: Maintaining your safety at all times is of paramount importance. The above guide is not an enticement to spend money needlessly but, rather, to ensure that your winter driving is as problem-free as it can be. Safe motoring!