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Our top 12 winter driving tips!

Our accurate weather forecasts help our partners to keep the roads both gritted and safe.

Together with our partners Highways England and RAC, we have created these top tips to help you stay safe on the roads this Christmas.

(Transport for Scotland and Department for Infrastructure Roads (Northern Ireland) have also produced advice. View the advice for Scotland, and Northern Ireland).

1. Check the Met Office forecast for your route

Weather can change rapidly, especially in winter:

Stay ahead of the weather by keeping up to date with the latest forecasts, so that you can plan and adapt your journey accordingly. For the most reliable updates on weather forecast, head to www.metoffice.gov.uk or check the Met Office app.

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2. Make DIY car checks part of your routine

As well as having your car professionally serviced regularly, there are simple checks you can do yourself before long journeys to keep your car in good working order. Get in the habit of checking your oil and coolant levels, as well as checking wiper blades for wear and tear and that your screen wash is topped up and effective down to at least -15 degrees centigrade.

3. Check your fog lights before every journey

Fog can be very localised and tricky to predict. Because of this, even if it looks clear when you set off, you should check your lights are working properly ahead of every journey. Remember that you should use your headlights when visibility is less than 100 meters – about the length of a football pitch.  Only use your rear fog lights when visibility is significantly reduced and remember to turn them off as soon as it improves. If visibility is really limited, wind down your windows at junctions to allow you to listen out for approaching traffic.

4. Don’t rely on your smartphone

In the event of a breakdown on the side of a country road at night, a phone light won’t give you enough visibility, and you might not have enough service to accurately pinpoint your location. Instead, keep a torch and a paper road atlas in your car, so you can preserve your phone for making emergency calls.

5. Keep a winter kit in the car at all times

Make sure you’re prepared for the worst by keeping warm clothes, a blanket, food and water in the car. A long wait in the cold for a breakdown pick-up will be all the more comfortable with these at hand.

6. Leave enough time to de-ice your car before work

Set aside some time to thoroughly de-ice your car. Driving with snow or ice may potentially be a criminal offence if driving under reduced visibility – so make sure you leave enough time before work to properly de-ice every window in your car.

7. Don’t underestimate winter sun

Low sun levels in winter can be dangerous, seriously affecting your visibility. Keep a pair of sunglasses to hand to stop yourself being dazzled by glare.

8. Keep your battery healthy

Failing car batteries are a major reason for breakdown call-outs at this time of year, so make sure yours is regularly maintained, charged and in good health. Keep a set of jump start cables or jump leads in the car, and make sure you know how to use them!

9. Know how to react when a storm hits

It’s safest to avoid travelling until a storm has cleared, but if you do find yourself on the road, stick to main roads if possible where you are less likely to encounter fallen branches and flooding. Grip your steering wheel tightly to keep control of your vehicle through gusts of wind, and keep an eye out for gaps between trees or buildings, where you are more likely to encounter side winds.

10. If in doubt, don’t risk driving through flood water

If you’re unsure how deep an area of flooding is, don’t enter it. If you do have to drive through a flooded road, stick to the highest section of the road and drive slowly without stopping. Once clear of the water, check your brakes and dry them out as much as possible – a light touch of the brakes while moving should be enough.

11. When snow hits, take it slow

When driving in snow, accelerate gently, using low revs. To avoid skidding, try pulling away in second gear, and avoid braking suddenly, which could lock up your wheels. As well as taking it slow, give yourself more space on the road – you may need 10 times the normal gap between you and the car in front.

12. Keep your tyres in check

In icy and rainy conditions, it’s even more important to have tyres with enough grip. Check the condition of your tyres (including the spare) for the correct pressure, as well as for their tread depth – which should, by law, be at least 1.6mm for cars but it may be worth considering replacing them before they get to this depth.

 

Best and worst days to travel this Christmas

According to the RAC, the busiest days on the roads this Christmas will be Friday 22 December, Sunday 24 December and Tuesday 26 December.

The RAC predict there will be 11, 300 breakdowns on the 2 January - the first day back to work for many.