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Seven winter driving top tips that could save your life – especially if you're a learner


By Hector MacKenzie

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Learners in particular can benefit for a lifetime by picking up the good habits while learning the basics.
Learners in particular can benefit for a lifetime by picking up the good habits while learning the basics.

THE thought of driving in challenging weather conditions can be daunting, especially for learner drivers. Although winter is an exciting time for festivities and celebrating with loved ones, it also comes with harsh weather. When the roads become icy, the temperature becomes colder, and rainfall (or snow) increases, making driving more difficult.

This comes as Highland drivers have been put on alert over another cold, icy snap.

But what many people don’t know are the benefits of learning how to drive in these conditions. Louise Bruchez from PassMeFast, has offered insight into why harsh weather conditions can make a learner more skilled and tips on driving in snow and ice.

“Driving in the winter requires additional focus and skill. With temperatures dropping below zero, learners need to comprehend how to handle their vehicles when the roads become icy.

“There are a number of benefits for drivers that are learning in winter conditions like snow and ice on the ground. It increases safety awareness, enables them to understand winter driving techniques, and allows them to build confidence in adverse driving situations.

‘Learners can practise gentle braking, maintaining a safe gap between the cars in front and behind, and developing an awareness of potential hazards. Addressing these challenges head-on can teach valuable lessons in tackling new obstacles, bolstering their readiness for their driving test and ensuring they can navigate safely in diverse weather conditions.

“Learning to drive in these different weather conditions is also used when carrying out the driving theory test, as learners are expected to know how different conditions can affect the braking and performance of the vehicle as part of the safety margins theory test category.”

If you are a new driver, you also need to be aware of what not to do when the winter weather arrives. Here are seven tips you need to know before driving home for Christmas (or at any time in winter):

1. Check your tyre pressure

Checking tyre pressure for winter driving is a must, say the experts, with a number of benefits.
Checking tyre pressure for winter driving is a must, say the experts, with a number of benefits.

You should always check your tyre pressure when preparing to drive in adverse weather conditions. You should also check the pressure when your tyres are cold, as the readings can be inaccurate if they are warm, for instance, after driving for a long period of time.

If your tyres are underinflated, it can negatively impact your control over the car and can result in lower gas mileage. When the roads are icy, you should have full control of your vehicle to avoid drifting and potentially causing harm to other drivers and yourself.

2. Watch your speed

Speed checks on NC500.
Speed checks on NC500.

It’s obvious, but when the weather becomes particularly challenging throughout winter, you should be driving at a slower speed in general. A big part of being a skilled driver is being able to adapt to particular weather conditions. If it is snowing, raining, or roads become slippery due to ice, reducing your speed will help increase your reaction time.

This kind of weather can also increase your chances of sliding, therefore, a longer break time is needed. You should always drive at a speed where you have enough time to break before colliding with the car in front, or before stopping.

3. Refill your screen cleaner

A wiper washer is the fluid used for cleaning your windscreen while driving. The solution clears grime, smooths wiper blade action and prevents the fluid from freezing in sub-zero temperatures.

If you don’t check your screen cleaner before setting off, it could freeze and you could find yourself unable to clear your windscreen while driving. This can result in reduced visibility during dangerous icy conditions.

During winter, it gets dark much earlier and there is an increased chance of snow. Both of these factors can impact visibility when driving. Therefore, at this time of year, doing everything you can to ensure you have a clear view of the road, and ensuring nothing on the windscreen can block your vision, is important when driving.

4. Defrost your windows

Everyone seems to have a tip of defrosting cars in icy weather. Some are better than others – and some best avoided altogether.
Everyone seems to have a tip of defrosting cars in icy weather. Some are better than others – and some best avoided altogether.

Always set aside ten extra minutes before driving to defrost all your windows. This is vital, as you need to have access to all mirrors and windows to be fully aware of your surroundings and other drivers.

When defrosting your windows, make sure you do it properly to avoid damaging the windshield. Do not pour hot water over your windows, as this can crack them. Equally, you shouldn't scrape aggressively, as this can scratch the glass and increase the risk of cracking your windows later on down the line.

You should turn on your car’s defroster and allow it to slowly melt the ice, using your windshield wipers to wipe away ice as it slowly melts away.

5. Check the tread in your tyres is sufficient

Driving in icy conditions is tough enough without inadequate tyre tread say the experts.
Driving in icy conditions is tough enough without inadequate tyre tread say the experts.

After a long period of time, the tread on your tyres can be worn down. If this does occur, your tyres lose the ability to grip frosty roads. Checking to see if the tread in your tyres is sufficient is especially important so that the tyres displace water.

This enables the car and the road to maintain contact so you don’t drift in adverse weather conditions. To ensure driving safety, always check your tyre tread to see if it needs to be replaced

6. Ensure your windscreen wipers aren't frozen

The windscreen wipers can be the unsung heroes of your car – taken for granted but boy would you miss them if they're not there or working properly.
The windscreen wipers can be the unsung heroes of your car – taken for granted but boy would you miss them if they're not there or working properly.

Cold weather can stiffen and damage your wiper blades, making them more brittle. Always check they aren’t frozen before driving, as they are necessary for removing any snow, ice or rain away from your windshield. This is vital in ensuring your vision isn't apprehended when driving.

7. Get familiar with your car’s brakes

You might not have in-depth mechanical knowledge but knowing how your own car's brakes work and respond is important.
You might not have in-depth mechanical knowledge but knowing how your own car's brakes work and respond is important.

Whether you are learning to drive in your instructor’s or parent’s car, you should try to familiarise yourself with the vehicle’s braking system. If you know the way the car works, you can prepare for potential hazards.

How do the breaks in your car operate - are they sensitive or does it take significantly longer for your car to stop? Understanding this will allow you to have a better reaction time when stopping in winter weather conditions. If your brakes take slightly longer to halt the car, it is important to allow enough space in between cars, so you can stop without causing a collision.

If these tips are applied, you can ensure that driving in winter weather conditions over the festive season is stress-free and productive.


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