Winter Driving

There are plenty of vehicles out there without any cover over night and in many cases these vehicles will be driven the next morning. There are a few things to consider during these colder periods.

Sunstrike

Sunstrike is when the sun shines at such an angle that it blinds you. It happens mostly early in the morning and late afternoon, but it can occur other times too. The danger of that it makes anything in front or behind a vehicle disappear in the brightness. Many of us then drive on luck! Things that could help:

  • Clean windows (inside and outside)
  • Good sunglasses to reduce the glare
  • Sun visor
  • Headlights on dim

Windows and mirrors

Windows in a vehicle are transparent (clear) for a reason – to enable a driver to see clearly through it. It is scary to see so many peep hole drivers in the mornings – that is just an crash waiting to happen! Wash the windows and mirrors regularly. Use a good quality chamois and lukewarm water. Be careful that you don’t use hot water on the cold glass, as it may crack. Domestic chemicals such as washing liquids are not recommend because it makes grime build up over time. There are other cleaning detergents on the market for this purpose, but clean water works just as well and its basically free.

Head lights

One of the best things a driver can do is to make themselves more visible to other road users. Put the lights on dim and never drive with only the park lights on.

Park Lights

Park lights are for  a parked (read stationary) vehicle in the dark where there is not sufficient street lighting to make the parked vehicle visible to approaching road users.

Fatigue

When it gets colder, people are more at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel - especially if the temperature in the vehicle is high. It has also to do with the reduced oxygen levels in the vehicle because most of use shift the air intake lever to recycle to keep the cold out.

Another thing to consider is that in winter many of us put on extra layers of clothes to keep us warm and it may reduce body movement a bit.

Hoodies

There are many drivers who wear hoodies when driving. It is great to keep you warm if that is why they are doing it, but the fact is that in many cases those hoodies eliminate their peripheral vision, putting themselves and others at risk of a crash.

Fog

Fog lights are for driving in mist or smog. If the visibility becomes so limited that it is hard to see ahead, slow down immediately, pull over very carefully and if it is possible, wait for the weather to improve. Remember there will always be some idiot driving with no lights or only park lights on!

Black ice

On cold days, water on the road can freeze quickly and form ice. Black ice forms where direct sunlight does not shine on the road, it cannot be seen and is therefore very dangerous. Be careful if you see shady areas, because you could expect black ice there. When you see tall trees next to the road, expect black ice there.

Some areas are well known for slippery conditions due to ice or water and are therefore marked by warning signs. It would be wise to take heed of the warnings. Slow down so you don’t have to brake suddenly.

Driving on ice or snow

The best defence for most traffic risks is to SLOW DOWN. Drive very smoothly as any harsh driving could cause the vehicle to lose traction and skid out of control.

  • No hard braking!
  • Smooth accelerating
  • Smooth turning
  • Increase your following distance

Emergency kit

Having a well stocked emergency kit in your car can help to save your life and make you more comfortable during breakdowns, accidents and long waits. Your kit should include:

  • Battery jumper cables
  • First aid kit
  • Shovel
  • Basic tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver and knife)
  • Blankets
  • Extra clothing (hats, socks, boots, mittens)
  • Torch
  • Bag of sand
  • Cellular phone or two way radio

Vehicle

There are a few things to check to reduce the risk of getting stuck in the cold in the middle of nowhere. If you service your vehicle regularly, you should not expect problems, but just in case.

Battery -  check the battery water levels if applicable. Go to professional car battery dealers and ask them to check your vehicle’s battery. They would usually check it for free.

Tyres – make sure your vehicle’s tyres are all of the same threat pattern and tread depth.

Engine – check the oil-, brake fluid and water levels. You should use antifreeze in the cooling system to prevent it from freezing up. Check with your car dealer.

Other Road users

In the cold most people would dress appropriately. That means if they are out walking and cycling in the cold, their ears would probably be covered. Never assume they know you are there.

SLOW DOWN – it’s the only way to minimize crash risks.