Winter weather in Northern Ireland is unpredictable – from high winds and heavy rain to driving in snow or on icy roads. One of the most dangerous winter driving hazards is to skid. Follow our winter driving tips to reduce skid risk.
Accidents and insurance claims are common in winter therefore drivers need to be extra cautious. Try to avoid driving on icy roads or in poor driving conditions, however, we realise that this isn’t always possible. If you do skid at a high speed the result can be deadly, but most skids can be avoided by adjusting to driving conditions and knowing how to recover from a skid. Take note of the following advice:
Skids are most likely to occur on curves and turns, so slow down ahead of time to prepare for them. When in the curve, accelerate slowly and steer steadily with no abrupt change in direction. Avoid abrupt braking. Driving smoothly can help prevent skids.
If you go into a skid, avoid using the brakes or steering against the skid. Instead, immediately take your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction the vehicle is sliding until you feel recovery of traction, then slowly straighten the wheels until you recover complete control. If the back of your vehicle is fishtailing to the right, turn the wheel gently in that direction until your car recovers.
If braking is necessary before traction is recovered, apply the brake pedal cautiously to avoid locking the wheels and intensifying the skid. You will also have better brake control in a skid situation if your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes.
Be alert and on the lookout for areas that might induce skidding such as unexpected ice patches or piles of wet leaves which tend to be found in shady areas or on flyovers.
Keep in mind that wet ice, warmed by the sun, is twice as dangerous as completely frozen ice therefore be cautious whenever cold weather is accompanied by any kind of precipitation.
On busy roads such as motorways, lane changes can present risks to less skilled drivers in any weather, but in rain, icy or snowy conditions the risks are greater. When changing lanes, always check your rear-view mirror and your blind spots, and signal your intentions to traffic behind you before making a move in a lane of traffic. Move over in a long, gradual line with the smallest possible steering change and a light foot on the accelerator.
With practise driving in slippery conditions, you will be better prepared and feel more comfortable.
When you drive into deep snow, stepping on the accelerator may cause the wheels to spin, with little if any forward movement. In such cases, avoid over-accelerating. A light foot on the accelerator and a high gear is most effective.
A safe stop on icy or snow-packed roads is a tricky manoeuvre that requires skill and good judgement. Anticipate stops by slowing down gradually, well ahead of junctions and allow for more than enough time to stop safely.
Sometimes snow tyres, and even chains, may be best to help keep your vehicle under control during dangerous winter conditions.
The following tips are best practice for safe winter driving, whatever the weather:
Whatever the weather, be sure your vehicle is properly equipped. Check that your brakes are functioning correctly, and your tyres are properly inflated with a good tread surface. Also make sure that you have an up-to-date insurance policy in place to minimise the costs to yourself (or your business) if you (or any employee) are involved in an accident.