Get a grip: 5 winter driving tips to stay safe on the road

By admin
12 June 2013

Most South Africans have been able to drive without the worry of heavy rainfall, hail or snow recently. But as the climate changes, we’ve had to adjust our lifestyles due to worsening weather conditions. And our driving is just another aspect of life we have to make adjustments to in this icy, cold weather.

For the most part, we’re fortunate enough to have favourable weather. And with this luxury comes the threat of many drivers being ill-prepared for the winter period and the recent spate of extreme weather conditions we’ve been experiencing.

We need a game plan to mentally prepare ourselves for these adverse conditions when they do occur.

Here are some winter driving basics to keep in mind:

1.    Take things slowly. Slowly, slowly is the best answer when driving in rainy/snowy/hail conditions. Accept you won’t be getting anywhere fast and drive as slowly as you’re able to without losing momentum. If you do lose momentum, it will take greater effort for your car to regain it and greater skill not to slide the vehicle in the process.

2.    Drive in a lower gear. This improves traction. Don’t speed up for hills – doing so will set your wheels spinning in snow or on ice.

3.    A safer following distance. Keep at least three times your usual following distance to allow sufficient distance for braking. When you brake, do it gently and release the brake if your wheels start spinning. Then, if your car doesn’t have ABS, gently pump or tap the brake to slow the car down. With ABS brakes you should apply gentle but firm and constant pressure; you’ll feel a light shuddering that is perfectly normal.

4.    If you slide – steer to the same direction. If your vehicle slides on the ice or snow don’t overcorrect by steering in the opposite direction to the slide; this will put your vehicle in a spin. Should your rear wheels slide to the left, steer to the left until you regain traction, before gently and slowly correcting the steering in the direction you want to go.

5.    Cautionary note. Even if ice or snow don’t make the forecast this winter, all motorists should ensure their driving safety by keeping tyres inflated to the correct pressure and making sure they have at least the 1-mm minimum legal tread depth.

-Faiza Mallick

Sources: Tiger Wheel & Tyre, SecureTech

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