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'Tips for driving safely in Bad Weather'

As the year moves into Autumn and Winter, it is good to be aware of how the accompanying weather can affect your driving and your safety. Clear visibility for you and your car, and improving road grip, will go a long way in keeping you safe.

In high winds, the car will feel lighter, and those cross-winds can potentially buffet or get underneath and 'lift' your car. Open stretches of road with minimal hedges or trees, and even overpasses on bridges, can be particularly hazardous here. Simply slowing your speed will essentially make the car heavier once more, and improve grip on the tarmac. Be aware that high winds will blow debris on to the road, and this could even include rubbish bins and food caddies on refuse collection days !

If the low sun - or bright full beam, or high or mis-aligned dipped, lights - is dazzling you from behind, don't forget the anti-dazzle setting of your interior mirror. Many people seem unaware of this function of the mirror, and by flicking the little 'trigger' at the base of the mirror frame (some modern cars can do this automatically !) the view behind becomes a dulled reflected image bounced off the ceiling of the car. Rather than drive with a distractingly bright glare in the top left of your vision, a simple thing to adjust your mirror could in fact save your life !

When the rain is lashing against the windscreen, not only is it essential to increase the speed of your wiper blades, but consider turning on your dipped lights : it probably won't improve your forward visibility much, but it will certainly make you more visible to the traffic around you ! If they can see you - and you them - then everyone has an early warning to react in time. Easing back on your speed will reduce the danger of aqua-planing and skidding.

Where there has been a local flood or standing water, ideally arrange for alternate cars to go through : never tailgate someone, always let the wash from the previous vehicle subside before you proceed so it doesn’t splash back into the engine compartment, and, as you keep your speed low, try to hold the clutch halfway and rev the engine so as to prevent any water flooding the exhaust. If in doubt, turn around and seek an alternative route !

Likewise, if fog prevents you from seeing more than 100 metres - about 25 car lengths or 5 buses - then you are required to turn on your fog lights. Slow down, be aware that fog can be patchy, so keep your fog lights on when you leave a fog bank in case it closes in again. However, once you know you are clear of the fog, it is imperative that you turn off your fog lights : the rear fog lights are a bright red - ask yourself what other rear light is a bright red, and how that could be perceived by following traffic.

In snow and ice conditions, the law requires you, BEFORE you set off, to clear window/mirror glass, vehicle lights, and any packed snow that could suddenly fall off and become a danger. Driving in this weather is discouraged unless you really have to undertake a journey, and in this case, it is vital that you keep plenty of 'buffer' distance between you and the vehicles around you, that you keep your speed low and you hardly touch either the accelerator or brake pedals, and steering is gentle and minimal. Look and plan ahead, and where there is a bend, slow down gently and earlier than usual ; go down the gears to control your speed with engine-braking, rather than the footbrake. Be aware that kerbs and road markings will be hidden. It is very easy to lose control, and there may be old ice underneath the powder snow. You may think that you drive well in these conditions, but it only takes a second for the other car to slide into you, and for both to slide into the pedestrians on the pavement !

And, of course, don't forget to top up your coolant and windscreen wash with suitable low temperature fluids, and check your tyres for good tread depth for road grip ; if you intend travelling in snow and ice, be prepared with items such as blankets, snacks, drinks, and even a shovel if possible !

I hope these suggestions will inspire you !

Nathaniel Reed, of

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