Getting around safely in winter

There is clearly a responsibility on every one of us to drive with care, especially during winter weather.

You may be travelling on a road that is not part of a main gritting route or you may be on a road before it has been treated. If this is the case, slow down.

Salt spreading does not make roads completely safe; a common misconception is that rock salt will immediately disperse ice and snow and that the roads are then safe to use normally. This is not the case and traffic flows are needed to work the salt into the road surface for it to be effective. This takes time to achieve.

The Met Office issues regular forecasts and each night on TV and radio, warnings may be given of likely adverse road conditions – pay attention to any warnings and set your alarm earlier to allow more time for your journey. If the weather is forecast to be really severe think about whether your journey is really necessary.

Watch out for tell tale signs, like frost on the car and icy puddles they mean that the roads may be slippery. Watch out for shady places or areas beneath overhanging trees as sudden changes in surface condition can easily occur.

Wait for your windscreen to clear before driving off; an icy screen is no better than driving in thick fog!  Accelerate and brake more gently when in wet or icy conditions and brake before reaching a bend, not on it.

If we’re in the grip of some very cold weather, there are some essential actions that everyone can take, which can help reduce risks whilst travelling.

Driving safely on an icy surface

  • Turn on your headlights to increase visibility to other road users. Decrease your speed
  • Always be aware of warnings and road signs and take note of the information it contains
  • Braking reduces control so try to reduce your speed using acceleration sense and lower gears
  • Bridges, high level car parks and less travelled roads will freeze first, so be especially careful on these surfaces
  • Give priority for snow clearance and salt-spreading vehicles

Preparing to travel using a motor vehicle

  • Ensure that you are able to see out of your vehicle – clear all the glass, lights and number plates
  • Ensure your mobile phone is charged
  • In case of breakdown carry two high carb snacks
  • Take a bottle of drinking water with you
  • Always have a plan in the event of accident, breakdown or road blockage, so ensure you carry an overcoat, gloves and suitable footwear

If you get stuck

  • Consider what warning you will need to give to other road users,  if you are in a dangerous position or obstructing the road
  • If you are driving into work, call and update your manager
  • Call for breakdown assistance and give them your precise location
  • As an interim measure steer the front wheels from side to side to gently push snow out of the way
  • At the same time gently and lightly accelerate forward to free the vehicle
  • If this has been unsuccessful, try this again in reverse gear
  • If you do attempt to push a vehicle, make sure that you are wearing footwear that will protect your feet and gloves to protect your hands
  • If you can free the vehicle cancel the breakdown service

As a pedestrian

  • You must keep warm – particularly your feet and hands and it is recommended you wear something reflective or bright so you can be seen
  • Remember that drivers may have difficulty stopping, so never walk in the roadway until vehicles have stopped moving
  • Slips, trips and falls increase dramatically in bad weather – particularly on exterior steps or staircases. so please be aware of slippery, icy or unsound surfaces and if in doubt use an alternative route
  • Exercise caution when exiting a vehicle after parking up – ensure that the surface you are stepping on to is sound and be careful if you are collecting items from the boot or the back seat of your car

Safe cycling

  • Cycling should be safe to be enjoyed so in poor weather you should weigh up the benefits and the risks
  • Ensure you are wearing protective clothing, footwear and gloves that will keep you adequately protected and warm – always wear something bright or reflective on your upper body
  • Illuminate your front and rear lights during the day, if the weather closes in you want to be seen at all times
  • Check your bike before moving off to ensure the safety of your wheels, tyres and brakes

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