Sunday, 13 January 2013

Snow is on it's way



The weather forecast for tomorrow in Kent is for Snow. At the MidKent Group of Advanced Motorist we thought it wise to add our own suggests and tips for preparation and driving in tomorrow's snow.

The first thing to consider is 'is the journey essential?' Last year the group had its schedule Sunday morning training, and due to the snow, it was deemed non-essential to be out on the road. The event was postponed. Therefore consider whether your appointment can be rescheduled.

Check that your vehicle is ready for winter. The highways agency suggest using the POWDERY checklist as a good reminder:

PETROL (or diesel). Have you got enough? Do you know where to fill up?
OIL - check levels once a month
WATER - check radiator and screenwash regularly
DAMAGE - check wipers, lights etc for signs of wear and tear or damage, and make sure windscreens, windows and lights are clear of ice and snow.
ELECTRICS - check lights, indicators and controls are working properly
RUBBER TYRES - are they well inflated, legal, with good tread and free from damage?
YOU - are you fit to drive? Have you slept well? Are you taking any medication(s) that could make it unsafe for you to drive?

The Mid-Kent group recommends POWER, Petrol, Oil, Water, Electrics and Rubber. (We recommend this before every motorway or long distance drive)

Importantly and obviously good tyres should be fitted. As the snow arrives, many people decided to check their tyres or pop to the local tyre fitting garage for a check. Do this before the snow arrives. Do it today! Some people even have snow or winter tyres fitted. (See this blog) Worth considering.

Carry some essential supplies in the car. Like high sugar drink and chocolate bars. If your caught out by the weather or your journey is taking a lot longer then normal, eating high sugar content or drinking a can of fizzy drink can give you an energy boost. Of course, if tiredness sets in - pull over for a break or consider continuing no further. Consider Stowing some tea, coffee, sugar making facilities or even some cup-a-soups with you. If conditions get extremely difficult and you have to abandon vehicle for overnight shelter, their's a possibility a kettle maybe on hand. If you have a long journey to make, it may even be worth considering packing a couple of light camping items - if you have them at hand.

Keep your mobile phone charge topped up. peculiarly if you have to travel later in the day. Consider purchasing a 12v adaptor to charge from the vehicles power supply. Remember however, charge it while the engine is running or you might flatten your vehicles battery. It's important that full concentration is needed on the roads, more so in the predicted conditions. Pull over to use your mobile, not while your driving.  

A shovel or snow shovel should be stowed in the boot too. Some great folder-away ones are available in many stores. It maybe worth carrying a small tub of salt or grit. This may help if you get stuck on small patches of snow or ice.

If you've not had winter tyres fitted, consider purchasing snow socks. These can be fitted when the going gets tough. However, these are often manufacture specific - so sourcing these the day before a predicted snow fall may result in disappointment. Some shops and garages have on sale small strips of plastic tracks. These can be placed in front (or behind) the tyre that is stuck or spinning to help gain extra grip.

Think about your arrangements or schedule for the day. it may be worth considering calling your destination before hand and warn of the conditions and the possibility of being late. Removing the need to 'be their on time' means you can concentrate on the driving in hand and not then need to drive faster to catch up with time. Consider a 'plan B' just in case your journey takes much longer then you anticipated. One of the groups observers was caught in awful traffic conditions due to the snow last year. His 1 hour 15 minute journey home from work took him 10 hours! Even if the roads are passable, the traffic build up will almost certainly delay your journey.

Keep to gritted or treated roads were possible. Park your vehicle near a treated road if you wish to avoid getting stuck in your driveway or cul-de-sac. But don't obstruct the road. You will simply be adding to the chaos if the gritters can not past badly parked vehicles.

While on the road, keep claim. Don't let others rush you and drive appropriately to the conditions. Slow down, add extra braking distance. For example the braking distance in normal dry conditions is two seconds. Double this in the wet, and in ice and snow, times this by 10. Ease application to accelerator and brakes. Heavy application of acceleration will result in wheel spinning. While it may seem fun, you have essentially lost control of your vehicle which could result in an accident or at best your simply burning rubber - and tyres are not cheap. Heavy and hard braking must be avoided. Keeping your distance and thinking well ahead will help. Use engine over run (known by some as engine braking) to help reduce speed - Although we don't advocate engine braking on normal everyday driving. If you do get into a skid, try to maintain steering. Antilock brakes will help so no need to pump the brakes. Try not to panic and if impact is inevitable, use a horn to warn of your presents. Your speeds should be relatively low, so hopefully it will only be minor damage.

If you brake down, don't panic. Get you vehicle in a safe place if possible. Call your breakdown service. If on the motorway call from a motorway phone. Look at the nearest marker post. This will tell you which direction the nearest roadside phone is. Buy using these it will help the highways agency pin point your location.

And the last advice is to take extra clothing, thinker coat. But don't wear this while driving. Wear thin layers in the car so you don't restrict your movement. Keep the heat in the vehicle to reasonable temperature inside and if the going gets tough - stop in a safe place and consider whether its worth going on.

The IAM has a winter driving advice website here.

Stay safe, and drive carefully.


Whats in your boot?  

The Mid-Kent group is interested to know what people carry in their boots when the snow is predicted. Let us know, share your knowledge.

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