Winter driving

Five Ways to Drive Safely During Winter

With the colder, winter season now upon us it goes without saying that colder temperatures bring about ever more challenging weather conditions, which for freight drivers can be a nightmare! At Freightlink we always stress the importance of staying safe whilst on the road.

It pays to be organised and to plan in advance.

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” couldn’t be more appropriate.

Lets look at some of the key things to consider when driving during harsh weather conditions and some of the subtle differences between driving in the UK versus driving on the Continent. Some are relatively straightforward, whilst others could result in expensive fines or worse.

Braking Distances

Rain, fog, hail, sleet, or snow all have a dramatic effect on not only the time it takes to stop your vehicle, but also the distances at which you should be from the vehicle in front. Each weather condition demands a slightly different response and you should be aware of this. Be aware also that wet brakes also mean an increased chance of skidding or delay in the brakes being applied when trying to stop. It is far better to ensure that your brakes are working correctly before setting off on a journey, than to have to use them quickly in an emergency situation and find that they are faulty and risk a collision or injury.

Lights & Visibility

During the winter time it gets darker outside much more quickly. With this in mind ensure that all lights on your vehicle are working correctly. These include:

  • Headlights
  • brake lights
  • sidelights
  • fog lights
  • hazard lights

Furthermore, you should ensure that these are clear and free from any obstructions that could hamper visibility from a distance. Remember, severe weather conditions can also lead to poor errors in judgement; it’s better to leave bigger gaps between traffic than to be too close, underestimate the distance between you and the vehicle in front and then cause a collision.

Also be aware that some countries such as Poland, Latvia, and many of the Scandinavian countries require you to drive with dipped headlights on, even during the day. You should also ensure that you carry a spare set of bulbs with you, as in many countries it is a legal requirement, and failure to do so could result in hefty fines being imposed.

Vital Equipment & Tools

No one wants their vehicle to break down and this is especially true when the weather conditions are poor. However, if it does happen it’s better to have a fully stocked vehicle than to be stranded without a spare set of light bulbs or spare tyre.It is also important to make sure you have adequate breakdown cover in case of an emergency. Should you be stranded in the snow it is a good idea to carry a warm blanket, a torch, a high visibility jacket, a spare mobile phone battery charger, some emergency snacks and water, as well as a thermos flask of hot tea or coffee. Consider also carrying a spade with you.In addition to this it is recommended that you have the number for your breakdown service stored on your phone in case of emergency. Remember it’s better to carry these items with you and not have to use them than to be in the situation where you need them and forgot to pack them. In most countries it is compulsory to carry at least one warning triangle (in some countries it is two!), a high-visibility vests for all occupants in the vehicle, first aid kits and a fire extinguisher (not compulsory but advisable). For further information on what should be carried in your vehicle for individual countries that you may be driving in, please see our country guides section.

Snow Tyres & Snow Chains

In mainland Europe many countries require the fitting and use of snow chains, particularly around ski resorts or mountainous areas. Drivers can be fined where traffic obstructions or delays are caused by drivers not having the correct equipment for their vehicles.Snow chains should only be used on roads which have a layer of snow on them or packed ice. They should never be used on tarmac as this can damage the road surface, the chains themselves and the tyres of the vehicle they are fitted to. In the Netherlands and UK for example, the use of snow chains is neither compulsory nor forbidden.Winter tyres are also advisable in countries where extremes of temperature are likely such as the Scandinavian countries and Baltic states.

Driving Speeds

Harsher weather conditions have a massive impact on the recommended speed limits which are imposed on many country roads, dual carriageways and motorways. Often these speeds tend to be higher than UK averages. With this in mind it is beneficial to do your research, and plan ahead in order to be aware of the maximum permissible speeds for various countries in which you plan to travel to. If nothing else this will be exacerbated by not being used to driving on the wrong side of the road. Also if poor weather has to be factored into the equation then it is easy to see why an inexperienced truck driver could easily become disorientated or overwhelmed.

30 January 2018

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