Road Safety in hazardous conditions
Is Your Vehicle Winter-Ready?
You should get your car serviced before winter sets in to make sure it is ready for the conditions which will undoubtedly arrive when least ex- pected! There are some things you can do yourself:
- Lights - Make sure all your indicators and headlamps are clean and working
- Liquids - Make sure the water reservoir is up to the maximum mark and correctly mixed with anti-freeze. You may also need to top up your coolant and screen wash
- Oil - Check your dipstick and top up the oil if necessary. Look for signs of leakages on the ground under the car
- Electrics - Check your dashboard before and after starting the engine. Listen for a weak battery and replace if necessary
- Windscreen wipers - you should clean them regularly and replace them every 12 months
- Tyres - Check your tyre treads and pressure, including the spare. While the minimum legal limit is 1.6mm, a minimum tread of 3mm is advised for winter driving
- Safety Assist - Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual and find out if it has any safety assist technology e.g. ABS
Be Prepared - Emergency equipment to have in your car
- High Visibility Vest
- A hazard warning triangle
- A torch with batteries - check it monthly
- Tow rope
- A shovel
- Jump Leads
- A Fuel Canister
- Spare fuses and bulbs
- De-icing equipment (Both for glass and door locks)
- First aid kit
- A Map or GPS (Charged)
- Appropriate clothing and footwear in case you have to leave your vehicle
- Have a charged mobile phone
- Some simple supplies to sustain yourself (drink and food)
Planning a journey in winter
Do you really have to travel by car? You could:
- Consider delaying your trip until the weather and road conditions improve
- Use public transport where available
If you really have to travel by road, be prepared for severe conditions
- Ensure your vehicle has a more than adequate supply of fuel for the journey. If possible keep your fuel tank full in winter.
- Check your emergency equipment.
- Allow extra time and drive with caution. Let someone know your route and when you expect to arrive.
- Check to see if there are any problems on your intended route be- fore you leave. Information is available from Transport Infrastructure Ireland, website www.tiitraffic.ie and you can follow them on Twitter @TIITraffic.
- You could also check the AA Roadwatch website www.aaroadwatch.ie or follow them on Twitter @aaroadwatch. Listen to TV or radio bulletins and check the weather forecast. Re- member that the best road conditions are likely to occur between 10am and 4pm.
- If you do not know your route, and are using SatNav/GPS, be sure it does not bring you over a dangerous route, such as across mountain- ous terrain or along narrow back-roads, which may be hazardous due to snow and ice. e.g. Sally Gap, Co Wicklow or Barnesmore Gap, Co Donegal. Do not rely totally on a SatNav/GPS, look at your route on a map.
- More detailed advice on using the roads in Severe Weather can be found on the Road Safety Authority website www.rsa.ie/Road-Safety/
Driving in hazardous conditions
Remember the following serious hazards:
- Snow and ice will always be worse in mountainous areas and higher ground – try to route around such places. There is information about road conditions and road temperatures on www.tiitraffic.ie/weather/
- Beware of high sided vehicles in strong winds, particularly when over- taking. If you are driving a high sided vehicle try to anticipate exposed sections of roadway where winds will be stronger
- Beware of fallen trees or other debris
- Leaving your vehicle is dangerous, wear a high visibility jacket and use your hazard lights to enable other traffic to avoid collision with your vehicle. However, on a motorway, it is safer to get out of your car and stand behind the safety barrier. Call for assistance immediately
During your journey remember the following:
- It takes longer to stop a vehicle in snow or on icy roads so slow down and allow extra distance between you and the vehicle in front.
- Keep a sharp lookout for pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
- Keep your windows clear of snow during your journey.
- Manoeuvre gently; avoid harsh braking, acceleration or steering as these can induce a skid.
- Use the highest gear possible to reduce the engine revs as this will help avoid wheel spin.
- When travelling downhill, especially through a series of bends, select a low gear as early as possible and allow your speed to reduce using the brake pedal gently.
- If your vehicle begins to skid you should:
- Identify the cause – it is either, too much Braking, too much Steering, too much Acceleration or a combination of these.
- Remove the cause – GENTLY and SMOOTHLY.
- If your car has ABS (most modern cars have) it will NOT skid under braking. If ABS is activated, KEEP your foot on the brake and STEER around whatever caused you to brake.
- If you car does not have ABS and starts to skid on the brakes, firstly take your foot off the brakes then re-apply the brakes gently – if the car continues to slide pump the brake pedal as fast as you can (Cadence Braking) and steer around whatever caused you to brake.
- If under acceleration, braking or steering, your vehicle skids and slews sideways - turn the steering wheel in the same direction as the rear wheels are skidding (if rear wheels drifting left turn steering wheel to left) until car comes back in line while at the same time easing off the accelerator/brakes.
- Avoid over correction with too much steering, be ready for a secondary skid in the opposite direction.
- Heavy snowfall will reduce visibility. Use dipped headlights and fog lights if fitted.
- At low air temperatures watch out for black ice, especially in sheltered/shaded areas on roads, under trees and adjacent to high walls.
- Tune in to your local radio station regularly to keep up to date with information on weather/road conditions, road closures etc.
Motoring Tips – Adverse Weather Conditions – Wind and severe flooding
In addition to the above when there are high winds and or heavy rain drivers should:
- Slow down and increase the distance from the vehicle in front.
- If driving a high sided vehicle be prepared, when approaching exposed sections of roadway, for the impact of the wind on the steering dynamics of the vehicle.
- Avoid overtaking manoeuvres on such exposed sections.
- When passing motorcyclists, cyclists or pedestrians, be prepared for the possibility of the wind blowing them into your path.
- Be alert to the possibility of flying debris.
- Do not drive at speed into floodwater – there may be a pothole or debris concealed in the water.
- Before you drive through deep floodwater ascertain how deep the water is to ensure your vehicle can get through safely.
- Remember if you travel at speed into floodwater your vehicle may aquaplane leading to loss of control.
- Slow down when in the vicinity of pedestrians or cyclists -avoid spraying them.
- In driving rain when visibility is poor drivers should use dipped headlights and keep a sharp lookout for pedestrians, cyclists etc.
Motoring Tips – Adverse Weather Conditions – Fog
In foggy conditions drivers should:
- Slow down and increase the distance from the vehicle in front.
- Use dipped headlights and front and rear fog lights, if fitted. Remember to switch off fog lights when visibility improves.
- Keep a sharp lookout for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
- If you have to stop for any reason use your hazard warning lights to warn other drivers.
- Do not blindly follow the vehicle in front – it may leave the road for whatever reason.
Advice to Pedestrians
- If a journey cannot be avoided be extremely careful as snow and ice can make walking on footpaths very dangerous. Wear sturdy footwear with good gripping soles
- Take an extra look before you cross the road and do not attempt to cross the road if there are vehicles around – remember snow and ice increase the distance that cars need to stop.
- Visibility is reduced in snowy condition so wear high visibility clothing or carry a torch.
Advice to Motorcyclists / Cyclists
- Motorcyclists/Cyclists should consider their safety before using their motorcycles / bicycles in icy/snow conditions. Controlling two wheeled vehicles in snow or icy conditions is extremely difficult and there is an increased danger of a collision with a vehicle that is out of control.
- Consider taking alternative transport or walking.