As winter approaches and the weather turns more unfriendly, we could all do with an update on safe driving practices.
1. Stop hydroplaning
Hydroplaning can occur when a layer of water comes between the road and your car’s tires, and causes the car to lose traction. The chances of your car hydroplaning are affected by car speed, tire wear, tire inflation and the depth of water on the road. If your car is hydroplaning, do not accelerate or brake. The most important thing to do is not panic, and keep looking and steering in the direction you want to go.
2. Deal with skids on ice and snow
Take your foot off the accelerator and keep looking and steering in the direction you want to go. If you must use the brakes, apply steady pressure, but don’t pump them or allow them to lock. Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and stability control don’t make you invincible in these potentially dangerous situations. In fact, ABS brakes may increase braking distances on snow and ice, so take care when you’re driving on ice and snow and use properly fitted snow chains.
3. Don’t get hurt by an airbag
Airbags provide enhanced occupant safety in the event of a significant impact, but they can inflict injury on those who sit too close to the wheel. Leave at least 10 inches between you and the steering wheel and always wear a seatbelt. Front airbags can injure young children, who risk being struck in the face or neck. Keep young children in the back and use an approved and properly fitted car seat.
4. Minimize the impact
What action should you take if another vehicle is coming towards you? The other driver may be distracted or, worse, asleep at the wheel. So flash your headlights and/or sound your horn in a bid to get the other person’s attention (flashed headlights are only ever meant to be used as a warning). Drive as close to the right side of your lane as you can, so that you’re as far away from oncoming traffic as possible. If the car is in your lane and not moving, slow down to minimize the force of any impact. As long as there are no pedestrians around, try to veer off the road to the right, away from approaching traffic.
5. Don’t swerve for animals
In physical terms, some animals are, clearly, potentially more damaging than others. On dark country roads, use of high beam headlights will illuminate an animal’s eyes and make it easier to spot. It’s always better to keep a straight course. Swerving increases the risk of loss of control and might lead you to collide with something more damaging than a deer – a wall or a telephone pole, perhaps.
6. Stay calm if you get stranded
If you do get stuck somewhere in difficult conditions limit your exposure to the elements and conserve your energy. If you’ve broken down in a remote area for instance, stay with your car to improve your chances of being rescued. Don’t venture out unless help is clearly visible within about 300 feet. Turn on your hazard warning lights or, in daylight, tie a brightly colored cloth to the roof to make your car more visible. When temperatures drop overnight, run the engine for about 10 minutes every hour to provide heat, making sure that the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with dirt or debris, and slightly open a window on the side away from the wind. Wrap up in a blanket, if you have one, but don’t fall asleep, or, if there’s more than one person in the car, take turns at sleeping. It’s always wise to take blankets, energy bars and plenty of water on any car journey in remote places, and tell a friend where you’re going and when you expect to return.