The holiday season often involves visiting lots of friends and family, especially those who you don’t get to see the rest of the year. This usually means a lot of driving late at night, in hazardous conditions and in places you are not familiar with. Because of this you are at an increased risk of having an accident whilst driving and should take extra care to ensure a happy, safe holiday. Here are a few tips and guidelines you should follow when driving in the winter.

Check your Vehicle

The best way to ensure a safe journey is to have a safe car. Perform the following checks regularly throughout the winter and before every long journey.

  • Make sure you have some anti-freeze – Check that your radiator has sufficient anti-freeze and make sure you have a spare bottle just in case. Having a good quality scraper for your windscreen will also ensure you have full visibility.
  • Make sure your battery is charged – Most batteries last for between two and four years so if yours is due for a replacement make sure you do it sooner rather than later.
  • Check your lights – With the nights drawing in and things like fog and sleet reducing visibility further it is important that your lights are in full working order. Make sure that the bulbs are working and that the covers are clean.
  • Look at your tyre tread – With the increased risk of water or ice on the road it is even more important that your tyres are in top condition. Use a pressure reader to make sure they are at the optimum pressure specified by the manufacturer and that the tread is at least 3mm deep.
  • Check your windscreen wipers – If your windscreen wipers are starting to disintegrate now is the time to replace them. With the extra spray, ice and rain in the winter it is important that you can see clearly so wiping all of your windows before a journey will ensure a much safer trip.

Take an Emergency Kit

Make sure you have all of these items and keep them in your boot just in case.

  • Ice scraper and de-icer
  • Torch
  • Warm clothes and a blanket
  • Outdoor shoes
  • Medical kit
  • Jump leads and a length of rope
  • A map
  • A shovel
  • Long-lasting foods such vacuum pack biscuits, cereals and chocolate bars

Drive Safely

When driving in wintery conditions it is even more important that you drive carefully. You should also change the way you drive to match the change in conditions.

  • Leave Extra Stopping Distance – When the roads are wet or icy it will take a lot longer to stop; sometimes as much as ten times as long. Reduce your speed in these conditions and be extra aware of what is coming up ahead of you.
  • If you start to Skid – If you hit a patch of ice it can be a very scary experience but you must not panic. Depress the clutch (do not break!) and steer into the direction of the skid until you straighten up. Once you are clear find a safe place to stop and give yourself five minutes to relax.
  • Driving in Fog – When you enter a patch of fog remember to keep your headlights dipped so that you don’t dazzle other drivers. If the fog become very bad and you cannot see further than 100 metres then turn on your fog lights, but only for the patches of very bad fog as they will distract other drivers.

Breaking Down

If the worst does happen and you break down; remember not to panic. Having break down cover is advisable and can be bought for less than £30 a year, ring your break down agency and tell them where you are as precisely as possible. Whilst waiting for them to arrive you should also call your friends or family who you may be visiting to let them know what has happened so they don’t start to worry. Once the mechanics arrive you will probably be able to get a lift to your destination so you can enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.