Be Prepared: Essential Tips for Safe Driving in Poor Conditions

by : Adam Singleton

As the year draws to a close, many will remember the serious floods which affected many parts of England and Wales during the summer. With the possibility of more adverse weather to come, there are many preparations which may help make periods of bad weather less unpleasant and reduce the risks to you and your property; but with Christmas and other concerns at the forefront of most people's minds, these often go overlooked.

A recent study by the Highways Agency found that over half of drivers would choose to go ahead with car journeys regardless of severe weather warnings, with a third admitting that they would not check their vehicle or route before setting out. Failure to take the weather into account in this way can have disastrous consequences, and there are plenty of simple precautions which can save you strife later on.

Before setting out, you should always be sure that your car has been recently serviced and the MOT is up to date at the beginning of winter, in good time bearing in mind that service centres and shops will be closed over the holiday period. Check that all lights, including fog lights, are clean and working, top up levels of oil, water and screenwash and add antifreeze to the radiator. The battery and tyres should also be checked at this stage - it's especially important to have a good tyre tread depth in wet or snowy conditions.

When planning a journey, remember that it's likely to take longer than usual in bad weather. Apart from the possibility of icy or snowy roads or accidents causing delays, stopping distances are greatly increased even in the rain and the roads may be busier than usual. Where visibility is poor due to darkness or fog it's sensible to drive slower and be very aware of your surroundings; and during school holidays watch out carefully for children, who may run or cycle into the road. Never drive tired - delayed reactions can be extremely dangerous. Remember that if you run into seriously bad fog, snow or flooding, it's possible to get stuck for longer than you planned along your route, so it makes sense to be prepared by packing spare warm clothes and boots in the car along with the spare tyre, and even some snacks, water and money.

Finally, it's important to be prepared for eventualities such as black ice and skidding, and this is particularly essential for younger and less experienced drivers or if you've recently got a new vehicle. If you're not confident about driving with low visibility or about knowing what to do in emergencies, think about getting advice or training from a more experienced driver and don't drive if you don't have to: 'better safe than sorry' is the watchword here.

You may also want to consider taking a Pass Plus course, aimed at new drivers, which can take just six hours and includes modules on driving at night and in all weathers. Apart from boosting your confidence and driving skills, Pass Plus can give you a good discount on car insurance - which, of course, should be one of the first things you make sure is up to date before you drive, regardless of the conditions.