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Driving safely

Driving In Inclement Weather

The recent onset of inclement weather should be reminding UK drivers of the need for extra caution when driving in poor conditions. It should also be reminding all drivers, especially young drivers of the need for good car insurance cover. Being involved in a road traffic accident can be very costly, whether you’re at fault or not. Although most drivers have the attitude that accidents can’t happen to them, the fact remains that every driver is just as vulnerable as anyone else using the road. All drivers, especially young and novice drivers must take extra care if they wish to avoid car crashes.

During 2007, in the UK alone there were 369 people killed, 3,910 people seriously injured, and 24,771 people slightly injured due to car crashes involving inclement weather. There have been at least 11 more people killed in December, 2010, due to accidents caused by this last bit of inclement weather. Statistics show that 90%-95% of all auto accidents are due to driver error and aggressive driving in even the best of driving conditions. Therefore, inclement weather warrants using extreme caution.

Inclement weather hazards

There are numerous hazardous conditions during inclement weather. Some may be very obvious, while others are less apparent. Here’s a list of hazards to be alert for:

Ø Limited visibility: Remember if you can’t see well due to the weather or road conditions, then it’s very likely other drivers probably can’t see very well either. Make sure you and your vehicle are visible to others.

Ø Slippery roads: Remember roads can become very slippery when wet, especially when it first begins to rain, sleet, or snow because the oil on the road becomes slicker.

Ø Snow, ice, and slush on roads: Remember that not all ice is visible to the human eye, especially after dark. Not only can there be ice and snow on the road from the natural snow or ice storm, it can be there from dropping off of vehicles travelling on the road, or be blown on to the road from snow drifts along side the road. In 2007 UK, 515 accidents during daylight hours and 311 more accidents during darkness were due to snow combined with driver error.
Ø Windscreen dazzle/snow glare: In Autumn, the sun can hang low enough to blind drivers. In winter, the snow can cause a glare that blinds drivers. It’s a good idea to keep a high-quality pair of sunglasses in your vehicle, within easy reach of the driver.

Ø Fog: Fog can be dangerous whether it’s just patchy or thick as pea soup. Fog creates limited visibility hazards. In 2007, there were 452 crashes in fog in darkness and 405 in fog in daylight in the UK alone.
Ø Rain and flooding: Remember that rain can make the roads slippery. It can also cause flooding, which is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous to drivers and their passengers than slippery roads are. Don’t drive on a road that has 2 or more inches of water on it. There were 9,722 crashes in rain in darkness and 16,072 in rain in daylight in the UK during 2007.
Ø Strong winds: Wind is one of the hazards that may not be as easily recognised as a dangerous driving hazard. However, it definitely is a safety risk factor. Strong winds, cross currents, and wind turbulence can all cause a car to be swept off the road, be turned over, or can cause the driver to unexpectedly lose control of the car.

Some other less obvious risks during inclement weather are road rage, more aggressive driving, and other drivers failing to adjust their driving to the poor driving conditions. However, there are certain things you can do to avoid accidents and arrive to your destination safely despite how other drivers are behaving.

Safety tips:

  1. Don't drive in inclement weather unless absolutely necessary.

  2. Winterise your vehicle: Put snow tyres on all four wheels, and make sure they are properly inflated and have the correct amount of tread. Add anti-freeze and other winter additive fluids, and make sure your car is in proper working condition, especially the brakes, lights, and the heater/defroster. Also ensure that the vehicle has adequate petrol. Additionally, make sure the windscreen wipers are working and that the windows, mirrors, and windscreen are clean and completely cleared of ice, snow, and steam.

  3. Check weather and road conditions ahead of time, and plan for any alternate routes you may need to take. Also remember that certain roads can be extremely dangerous during specific types of inclement weather. Some roads may be more susceptible to ice, strong cross winds, or flooding than other roads are.

  4. Allow extra time (at least two hours extra) and plan for hold-ups. Also keep a map handy in case you must change routes.

  5. Always ensure that someone knows where you are going and what time you expect to arrive so they can notify authorities or call for emergency help if you don’t show up within a reasonable time.

  6. Always carry an emergency kit with you, and be sure it’s stocked with essential items such as: torch, ice-scraper and de-icer fluid, extra clothes, cloths, a high-visibility vest, warning triangle, flares, blankets, boots, food and drink for several days, first-aid kit, a map, and a spade or shovel.

  7. Ensure you’re fit to drive before attempting to drive in poor driving conditions. Especially don’t drive while impaired by drugs, alcohol, medications, stress, or tiredness.

  8. Eliminate any unnecessary distractions, both inside and outside the car. Turn off your mobile phone while driving, keep the noise level to a minimum, avoid activities that require removing your hands from the steering wheel, and stay focused on your driving.

  9. Slow down to a low speed suited to the road and weather conditions. Leave extra space between you and the vehicles around you, especially the one in front of you. Avoid braking quickly and sharply, and be prepared for sudden stops.

  10. Be extra aware of other road users, especially pedestrians, cyclists, motorbikes, and horses. They are much harder to see and are more likely to act unpredictably during inclement weather.

  11. Use your lights properly, and keep them on during gloomy weather. Use both, front and rear fog lights in a dense fog.

The best way to avoid accidents during inclement weather is to simply not drive. However, if you live in an area where poor driving conditions frequently occur, then you should try to obtain extra driver education that specifically covers those types of weather and road conditions. You should also ensure that you have adequate or even extra auto liability insurance during the inclement weather months. Car crashes can be vey expensive in numerous ways, and you will want to be sure you, your family, and your property are completely protected in case an accident does occur.

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