The lead-into and over the busy Christmas period is generally a time when Irish roads are significantly busier as motorists prepare for the festive season and travel to visit family and friends. The colder winter months can make driving more dangerous as temperatures fall and motorists may be faced with more challenging driving conditions. Whether you are driving through heavy rain, a storm or on slippery roads, it is important to be prepared for all eventualities when behind the wheel.
Alan Behan, Motor Product Manager, Aviva Insurance Ireland DAC (Aviva) has put together some essential tips to keep you, your family and other road users safe on our roads over the busy Christmas period:
- Always plan your journey when driving long distances in winter – check weather forecasts and traffic updates so you know what to expect.
- Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged and that you have an emergency kit in the car if required.
- Check your tyres regularly as cold weather can cause tyre pressure to decrease, which affect traction and makes driving conditions more dangerous.
- Use a screen scraper or de-icer to clear your windscreen ensuring full visibility. Do not use boiling water on your windscreen as you risk cracking the glass. Check your wipers are functioning fully and filled with screen wash.
- If the weather is very cold, check your car’s coolant, or antifreeze levels. This ensures that your engine does not freeze or overheat.
- Make sure all lights are working and clean them to optimise their performance.
- It is a good idea to keep plenty of fuel in the tank or don’t let the battery run low if driving an electric car as you may have to re-route due to bad road conditions from fallen trees, flooding, ice, or snow.
Driving in heavy rain
- Slow down as stopping your car will take twice the time that it usually would on a dry road.
- Excess speed can lead to aquaplaning – which occurs when a layer of water builds up between the surface of a wet road and the vehicle tyres. The tyres then lose their grip, resulting in the driver not being able to control steering, braking, or accelerating.
- Switch off cruise control when driving in the rain, wet or slippery conditions as it can significantly increase the likelihood of aquaplaning.
Driving in snow/icy conditions
- Always choose a route using main roads where possible as the surface is often better as they are more likely to be gritted.
- Keep clear of secondary roads and high ground, as they are more exposed to weather conditions.
- If there is ice on your windows, be sure to remove all of it and not just small areas for you to look through. Snow should also be cleared from the roof of the car as it can become dislodged when driving and can obscure your visibility.
- Front-wheel drive cars handle ice and snow better than rear-wheel drives, because the engine weight is sitting over the front wheels, giving them more grip. Rear-wheel drive cars can skid and slide more easily and, to alleviate this, you could carry some weight in your boot as it will increase the weight on the back tyres, giving better grip on the road.
Alan Behan added: “Motorists should also be aware if their insurer provides free breakdown assistance cover with their car insurance policy, and if so, have the contact number keyed into their mobile phone if assistance is needed. And, most important of all, drive safely.”