Winter driving: darkness spells danger
Winter is upon us. The clocks have gone forward, and that means drivers need to be more careful now the days are so much shorter.
Many chauffeurs have found out over the past couple of winters just how tough driving can be when you’re at the wheel of a big, heavy rear-wheel drive saloon. A recent survey suggested that one in 10 drivers had crashed into another road user during the snowy and icy weather – so no matter how polished your driving skills may be, you need to take every action to minimise your risks.
The change back to GMT doesn’t help – Government statistics support this. Darkness during the evening rush hour, coupled with bad weather, means a sharp rise in road casualties usually follows the time change. According to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) this is exactly what happened in November 2011.
IAM says the number of pedestrians killed or seriously injured was 14% higher than the monthly average. The number of cyclists in accidents involving other vehicles was 5% higher, and the rate of motorcycle casualties per vehicle mile was a staggering 28% higher.
The IAM is calling for changes to British Summer Time to extend daylight hours into the evening, instead of shortening them – a move we wholeheartedly support at Professional Driver. Bringing the UK’s time zone forward an hour rather than putting it back would mean lighter evenings and the IAM estimates that this could prevent as many as 80 deaths and 200 serious injuries on our roads every year.
IAM chief executive Simon Best says: “Making evenings lighter would save lives. While an extra hour of daylight would help to make the commute home much safer for all road users, children, cyclists and motorcyclists would benefit most.
“We want to see a three-year trial of the new daylight system. If the trial period proves the new daylight hours have a positive effect on road safety, it is clear that it is the system we should keep. With convincing evidence of the potential benefits, it is only right that we pilot a new system.”
But for now, we’re stuck with the misery of GMT. So it’s best to be prepared. Road safety organisation and breakdown cover company GEM Motoring Assist has launched a winter driving campaign to increase awareness of the potential dangers on the roads, particularly as temperatures start to drop and conditions worsen.
According to GEM, it is never too early to get your vehicle fully prepared for the wintery weather and the company is continuing to offer practical advice with a free winter driving leaflet. Packed full of advice and checklists, the leaflet is a useful resource for motorists and aims to help prevent drivers from being a victim of a serious accident or hazardous breakdown situation during the winter period.
Last year, the company also launched a winter driving video, providing easy online access to its winter driving advice. Featuring visual scenes on winter driving, the four-minute video highlights how dramatically driving dynamics change as the conditions worsen. The video demonstrates how much more time and space should be allowed when driving in wintery conditions, as stopping distances increase tenfold and the slightest over-steering or braking can cause complete loss of control.
GEM Chief Executive David Williams says: “Each year, we work hard to provide crucial information and advice to keep drivers safe on the roads. Carrying out the necessary checks ahead of the winter weather, and being properly prepared, could make all the difference between a safe journey and one that could potentially end in disaster.
“Not only is it important for drivers to be ready for winter but they must also be aware of the changes in driving dynamics, which is why we created the online winter driving video. We hope that the combination of the leaflet and video will give motorists all the advice they need for a safe winter on the roads,” he adds.
GEM’s winter driving checklist:
1 Check that your vehicle is properly maintained and fully serviced
2 Ensure tyres have plenty of tread depth, are in good condition, and correctly inflated (don’t forget the spare)
3 Radiators must contain anti-freeze and also check that the cooling system is free from leaks
4 Batteries must be in good condition (many garages/ battery suppliers will carry out this check free-of-charge)
5 Ensure windscreen wipers and washers are working effectively
6 Washer bottles must be full and contain anti-freezing/ cleaning additive
7 Clean all lights and check they are all working properly
8 All windows and mirrors must be clean and clear from snow and ice before driving
9 Keep fluorescent/ high visibility jackets in the car, in case of a breakdown situation
10 Store extra clothes or blankets in the vehicle, in case of a breakdown