As the nights grow longer, many of us will spend more time driving in darker and potentially wintry conditions. We will avoid statistics, but it is safe to say that the number of accidents usually increases at this time of year.
While you may be storing certain cars away for the winter months, those that you keep on the road will need additional care to ensure safety in harsher conditions.
Tips for driving safely during the winter
- Keep your vision clear – it's important to check your wiper blades and windscreen washer fluid, replacing or topping up where necessary
- Become enlightened – check that your lights are all working correctly and keep spares in the vehicle. Surprisingly, many modern cars need to have some bulbs changed at a garage, particularly those with LED or Xenon lights
- Tyresome but vital – we would advise investing in a tyre tread depth gauge and checking the condition of your tyres regularly – this will help you navigate the increased levels of debris on the roads during the winter months
- Trekking to base camp – while it might feel excessive to fill your boot with enough essentials to attempt Everest, it is certainly a good idea to keep a few key items in case you become stranded. We suggest the following:
- Warm coat
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable food
- Torch and spare batteries
- Spare footwear suitable for wet or icy conditions
- See through the fog – the combination of colder, damp conditions and wet clothing – as well as pets and children – can easily create moisture and condensation. It is worth using a dehumidifying product such as a pad which can absorb excess water, or applying an anti-fogging spray to the inside of your window screen
- Scraping the barrel – one of the most common sounds on a winter morning is the scraping of windows as people prepare to start their day. With the efficiency of modern automotive heating systems, it is tempting to simply leave the car running and let it defrost itself. We would recommend absolutely avoiding this, as it increases the risk of opportunistic theft even with keyless systems
Many garages offer winter checks on your vehicle, so if you are not confident in checking your own vehicles, it is always advisable to consult a professional.
It would be patronising of us to tell you how to drive when conditions are less than optimum, but anticipating the unexpected, leaving a bit more time for your journey and driving to the road and weather conditions are all sensible strategies to adopt.
We will finish with eyesight. The DVLA recently issued a warning to drivers to make sure their eyesight meets the minimum legal requirement, especially given the darker driving conditions during winter. DVLA standards state that drivers must be able to see a number plate at least 20 metres ahead of them in order to be considered road-safe. This law has been in place since September 2001.
The DVLA also highlighted that drivers must meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving. This means having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) (measured using the Snellen scale with glasses or contact lenses if necessary). This is also using both eyes together, and if you have sight on only one eye, using that eye.
Reduced eyesight falls within the DVLA's defined list of medical conditions and failure to declare such a condition may result in prosecution, a fine or loss of licence.
We would advise getting your sight checked regularly by a trained optician to ensure that any corrective measures can be implemented. You can find out more about general medical conditions and their impact on driving here.